Robert Downey Jr. is hardly the obvious choice to play an iconic crime fighter.
After all, this is the guy who became a poster boy for Hollywood excess, serving a year in prison on drug and alcohol-related charges and checking in and out of rehab like it was the Four Seasons.
But it is exactly that past, says director Jon Favreau (Elf), that makes Downey the only choice to play playboy millionaire and recovering alcoholic Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, the comic-book superhero who hits multiplexes next year.
"We didn't want to just go with a safe choice," Favreau says from the set of the film, due in theaters May 2, 2008. "The best and worst moments of Robert's life have been in the public eye. He had to find an inner balance to overcome obstacles that went far beyond his career. That's Tony Stark. Robert brings a depth that goes beyond a comic-book character who is having trouble in high school, or can't get the girl. Plus, he's simply one of the best actors around."
For his part, Downey is trying to become an iron man. At 42, he lifts weights five days a week and practices martial arts to get in shape to play the hard-bodied Stark, an arms manufacturer who uses his ultimate weapon, a jet-powered, missile-launching suit of armor, to fight evil.
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