Christopher Nolan’s biopic on the Father of the Atomic Bomb Oppenheimer was released earlier this year to phenomenal box office numbers and universal acclaim for its direction and performances. One of the standout performances, apart from Cillian Murphy as the titular Nobel laureate, was Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Admiral Lewis Strauss.
Coming on the heels of his MCU performances, Downey Jr.’s nuanced portrayal of the antagonist of the film was met with positive responses all around, with many predicting an Oscar nomination for the Iron Man star. While the actor has expressed his love for Nolan’s film, he mentioned that the director’s process forced him to do something he had only done years ago during his Iron Man screen test.
Robert Downey Jr.’s Oscar-Worthy Performance In Oppenheimer
Robert Downey Jr. was cast as Lewis Strauss, the man who, according to the film, had a personal vendetta against Robert J Oppenheimer and was responsible for the security clearance hearing on the noted physicist. This was the first film in which Downey Jr. was working with Christopher Nolan and he reportedly mentioned that it was the best film he had ever been in.
Downey Jr. was cast along with Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, and Matt Damon, who all took pay cuts to appear in the film. The performance was on the heels of his final appearance as Iron Man in the MCU, which was in Avengers: Endgame. Downey Jr. had only appeared in Dolittle before this, which was a commercial failure.
The Avengers star’s performance as Admiral Strauss was received positively by critics and audiences alike, with both appreciating his stepping out of his comfort zone of playing Tony Stark. Many considered him to be a frontrunner in the Oscar race next year, with a Best Supporting Actor nomination to be on the horizon.
Downey Jr. was praised recently by his Marvel co-star Mark Ruffalo for his impressive performance in the biopic. The film is one of the biggest hits of the year, earning over $953 million at the box office globally. It is the highest-grossing R-rated biopic of all time, beating out Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper.
Christopher Nolan’s Process Forced Robert Downey Jr. To Learn His Lines
While he is considered to be one of the greatest directors of the generation, Christopher Nolan also has a specific process when he works on a film. Robert Downey Jr. reportedly went to the director’s house to read the script, which was printed in black on red paper, to avoid being copied. The director’s process and meticulousness also prompted the Iron Man star to learn his lines.
Downey Jr. has gained notoriety for improvising his lines on set, with the famous “I am Iron Man” in Iron Man being improvised by the actor. However, Downey Jr. revealed in a recent talk with Mark Ruffalo on Variety’s Actors on Actors that Christopher Nolan’s attention to detail made him move away from his usual process and go back to his theater days, back when he used to learn his lines. He said,
“I remember going, ‘This is a lot of words. And they’re really specific and important.’ So, I just went back to the time I had to do a one-act play…I obsessively went into a mode where I was, name, rank, and serial number, if you woke me up in the middle of the night I would know it. The last time I really did that was for the Iron Man screen test, where there were just three scenes.”
The answer seemed to also shock Mark Ruffalo, whom he has shared screen space with in The Avengers films. Downey Jr. also credited Rober Pattinson’s decision to star in Tenet and Christopher Nolan’s process of being specific in his art and production that prompted the Kiss Kiss Bang Bang star to change his improvisational style of acting.