Robert Downey Jr. on Life After 'Iron Man'

Tony Stark tests the technology for his Iron Man suit.
Credit: Marvel/Paramount

After fighting his way back to the top of the A-list, Robert Downey Jr. is taking the comeback thing very seriously.

Hot on the heels of the $566 million-grossing Iron Man, the actor will be back in theaters this month with Tropic Thunder, an ensemble comedy co-starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Jay Baruchel, Matthew McConaughey, and Nick Nolte.

In November, Downey will topline The Soloist, a drama about the real-life friendship between an L.A. Times columnist and a homeless musician (Jamie Foxx).

And that's just the tip of the Downey iceberg. In 2010, he'll play the title role in Sherlock Holmes, Guy Ritchie's tribute to the British crime-solver. When that flick wraps, it'll be time for the actor to don the armor again for Iron Man 2.

So, how does it feel for Downey to be back on top after so many years in the wilderness?

"I don't think in those terms," he insists. "Maybe I don't think in those terms for self-preservation…A couple of days ago I was riding in the car with my son [and his friends]. I said, 'Are there enough seat belts? It's weird to put me in this position.'

"My son said, 'Ugh, Dad. I don't think like that anymore. I hate it when you do that.' I was, like, 'I totally understand.' I was still relating to my own super limited perception of what the arc of his last years have been. Unlike my son, I don't have really my own thinking about it, so it's hard to answer a question like that."

Still, Downey will concede that, since Iron Man re-energized his career, he's been known to cause a stir among younger fans.

"There are certain kids that are obsessed with me," says Downey, laughing. "A friend of mine said to me recently, 'My kid is literally playing with your doll right now.' I said, 'Okay.' I went over and said hi and the kid just froze looking at me. I was like 'Oh, now I feel uncomfortable.' "

Downey is jazzed about Iron Man 2 but vague when discussing his goals for a second flight as the Marvel super hero.

"Our goals are to deliver more of the same," he says. "He said he was Iron Man in part one. It's one thing to say it and another to actually evolve to the point where you can live in a heroic fashion.

"The super hero movie needs to always follow an arc. It's, like, 'Who is that guy? Get him out of here.' We want to do what worked for us last time in the way it was [about] a guy who is put in an extraordinary circumstance.

"We looked at the people around him and how he was able to create a sense of family. I like the idea of an Iron Man 2 that you are able to understand various points of view. You are able to touch on some subjects that are a lot more far-reaching while still grounding the movie in entertainment."

Before Iron Man 2 goes into production, Downey will head to the UK to begin work on Sherlock Holmes. Don't expect your grandaddy's mystery solver, though.

"It's not telling one of the stories from one of the books or anything like that," says Downey. "The cool thing about Sherlock Holmes is that he was actually a very skilled Martial Artist. It's not just his deduction - and all that stuff. It's going to be a very action-packed version of that, which, to me, is really exciting."

Before the cameras roll on Sherlock Holmes and "Iron Man 2, Downey is stepping up his training regime to get in fighting form.

"I'm always training," he says. "But we are putting together a team of people for `Sherlock Holmes,' so we can try to do something a little more transcendent and interesting.

"I love the idea of martial arts and bare-knuckle boxing before the rules which came into effect in the 19th century. Back then it was really balls to the wall, brutal type stuff.

"Guy Ritchie is a martial artist and I'm a martial arts student so we are putting a team of people together. We're gong to have to some fun doing this."

If Sherlock Holmes takes off, there's the possibility that Downey will be at the helm of his second franchise. Being a double-barreled crime-fighter has left him feeling a bit conflicted.

"Right now, I have this whole Marvel Universe, which I'm so blessed and excited to be a part of, and then the possibility of another franchise if we do our job correctly with 'Sherlock Holmes,' " he says.

"So, I don't want to be that person…but yeah I do. You know, the person who has a double franchise."

He's considered writing and directing his own movies too but, for now, he's going to make the most of his time in the spotlight while dodging the specter of over-exposure at every turn.

"Directing and writing? Yes, I do want to do that. Sure, I do. But you can only be the guy in front of the camera who is viable as a leading man for so long. You have your 40s and your 50s.

"I'm not saying that I don't want to go see a Rolling Stones concert but I'm saying I've got to get out of the game and switch my shit up sometimes. I don't want people going, 'Wow, Downey is like the guy who stayed too long at the party.'

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