“Tropic Thunder” is remembered as a raucous, politically incorrect comedy that, more than a decade after its release, remains as edgy as ever.
Among the most shocking moments is when the character played by Robert Downey Jr., an Australian method actor with a penchant for fully immersing himself in roles, dons blackface to play an African-American soldier in the movie-within-a-movie.
Downey reminisced about the role during his visit to “The Joe Rogan Experience”, recalling that his mom was not thrilled when she learned about the blackface.
“My mother was horrified… ‘Bobby, I’m telling ya, I have a bad feeling about this.’ I was like, ‘Yeah me too, mom,” Downey told Rogan.
Downey also revealed how he came to take on the role in the Ben Stiller-directed Hollywood parody.
“When Ben called and said, ‘Hey I’m doing this thing’ — you know I think Sean Penn had passed on it or something,” he explained. “Possibly wisely. And I thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that and I’ll do that after ‘Iron Man’.’ Then I started thinking, ‘This is a terrible idea, wait a minute.’ Then I thought, ‘Well hold on dude, get real here, where is your heart? My heart is… I get to ‘be black’ for a summer in my mind, so there’s something in it for me. The other thing is, I get to hold up to nature the insane self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they’re allowed to do on occasion, just my opinion.”
He continued by praising Stiller as “a masterful artist and director, probably the closest thing to Charlie Chaplin that I have experienced in my lifetime,” admitting the chance to work with him was a big lure.
“He knew exactly what the vision for this was, he executed it, it was impossible to not have it be an offensive nightmare of a movie. And 90 per cent of my black friends were like, ‘Dude, that was great,’” Downey continued.
“I can’t disagree with [the other 10 per cent], but I know where my heart lies,” he added. “I think that it’s never an excuse to do something that’s out of place and out of its time, but to me it was a blasting cap on [the issue]… I think having a moral psychology is job one. Sometimes, you just gotta go, ‘Yeah I effed up.’ In my defence, ‘Tropic Thunder’ is about how wrong [blackface] is, so I take exception.”
You can watch the interview in its entirety below: