Robert Downey Jr. thought doing Tropic Thunder was originally a "terrible" idea. The actor's mother was "horrified" when he revealed what his next role was going to be following Iron Man. The comedy features RDJ in blackface, which is usually pretty controversial. However, the way Ben Stiller presented the story and the way RDJ delivered the lines revealed that there was something deeper going on than just shock value. With that being said, RDJ was originally apprehensive about taking on the role after finishing the first Iron Man movie.
Robert Downey Jr. was recently on Joe Rogan's podcast and was asked about Tropic Thunder and whether or not the comedy could be made today. Before getting into his answer, the actor revealed that his mother was "horrified" by the script and that he initially thought it wasn't such a good idea. He had this to say about taking on the role.
"My mother was horrified... 'Bobby, I'm telling ya, I have a bad feeling about this'. I was like, 'yeah me too, mom.' When Ben [Stiller] called and said, 'Hey, I'm doing this thing' - I think maybe Sean Penn had passed on it or something like that, possibly wisely - and I thought yeah, I'll do that after Iron Man, and then I thought, 'this is a terrible idea.'"
After some more thought, Robert Downey Jr. realized just how special the role was. He prefers not referring to his character in blackface and instead looks at it from the viewpoint of getting to be black, even if it was for a comedy movie. Tropic Thunder is over the top and ridiculous, which is exactly the point, but there is still something very real about the parts played by the actors. RDJ explains.
"And then I thought, 'hold on dude, get real, where is your heart?' And my heart is, A - 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."
The intent behind Tropic Thunder was not to put anyone down or hate on anyone. Robert Downey Jr. knows that the topic is still hotly debated, but his intent was not in the wrong place when wearing blackface. There have been critics of the movie over the years, and RDJ knows this, so he was careful with his words when explaining his motives today.
In short, Robert Downey Jr. believes that Tropic Thunder could be made again today. But, its reception would depend upon the intent behind the script and the actor taking on the role. Wearing blackface for the sake of shock value is what could easily land a movie or actor in some hot water. Taking the role with responsibility is the key, which RDJ did. When only having six lines, the actor would run through them over a thousand times to make sure he nailed what the part was all about. You can check out the interview with RDJ below, thanks to the Joe Rogan Experience YouTube channel.