Even 11 Years in MCU Couldn’t Get Robert Downey Jr a Record He Achieved With The Sympathizer

Robert Downey Jr plays four characters in The Sympathizer

Robert Downey Jr in The Sympathizer


  • Robert Downey Jr. had to push himself a lot when he was playing the role of Tony Stark in the MCU.
  • In the 11 years that he was in the franchise, he learnt a lot and even set some records.
  • However, none of the lessons he learnt there could have prepared him for his roles in The Sympathizer.
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Robert Doweny Jr. has been exposed to many different methods of acting over his lengthy career. From playing envious scientists to egotistical billionaires, he has certainly explored his range as an actor throughout his decades-long career. Despite this, it would seem that his latest work has taught him something that none in the past were able to.

Park Chan-wook collaborated with Robert Downey Jr. on The Sympathizer
Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

The Sympathizer follows a nameless protagonist played by Hoa Xuande named The Captain through seven episodes. In his escape from the Vietnam War to the United States, he encounters an awful lot of American men who look like Tony Stark. It is quite a well-known fact that Downey is playing four different characters in the miniseries. It is safe to say that executing this was not easy.

The Four Faces of Robert Downey Jr.

The Sympathizer sees Robert Downey Jr. in four different skins. At the very beginning, the audience is introduced to Claude, a CIA agent who is a looming, ever-present figure in the life of The Captain and also acts as his handler. He has strawberry-blond hair, sticking-blue eyes, and an interesting sense of style. Hoa Xuande’s character then encounters Professor Hammer. He is a bald, brazen Orientalist graduate school professor who teaches the protagonist.

Robert Downey Jr. in a still from The Sympathizer
Robert Downey Jr. in a still from The Sympathizer

Then enters Ned Godwin, who has deep, unfeeling eyes. Much like his soulless eyes, his character is not shown in a very positive light. He is seen as a politician willing to go above and beyond to achieve the approval of his people, the post-war Vietnamese people. The fourth one, Nico Damianos, is a filmmaker working on a movie about the Vietnam War.

Each and every one of these roles is poles apart from the other. In a short span, Downey was able to express the range he has in acting, performances much expected from an Oscar winner. He gave each face his everything, making sure that no part of him got the worst of the lot.

Robert Downey Jr. Was Very Busy

It would be safe to assume that switching between the four characters was not easy for Robert Downey Jr., regardless of how talented he is. However, the task was not much easier for the makeup crew, as was revealed by Vincent Van Dyke in a recent interview with GoldDerby.

Robert Downey Jr. in a still from The Sympathizer
Robert Downey Jr. in a still from The Sympathizer

“We know that Robert is kind of jumping between characters on occasion. So his time is super valuable. And of course, we can’t have him in the chair for too long. So that was a bit of a leading force here to make sure that what we make isn’t going to take four hours in the chair every day,” Van Dyke said. “That was something that we took into consideration. And then also trying to make these characters unique so that they have individual silhouettes.”

Here, he revealed that the crew had to be very calculated when they were deciding the looks of the four characters. They could not be too particular about their decisions, as they needed to do the actor’s makeup efficiently.

“Luckily we had that earlier meeting because we had to hit the ground running,” Van Dyke told “It was a quick turnaround to start creating and designing these looks, and get them in front of everyone’s eyes.”

Robert Downey Jr. in The Sympathizer
Robert Downey Jr. in The Sympathizer

At the same time, they needed all the characters to have defining traits, as their being compared with each other was inevitable. However, after several meetings, conversations, and a lot of trial and error, they were able to come up with a formula that worked.

It is safe to say that they had a big hand in making the characters more cohesive.


Written by Ananya Godboley

Articles Published: 1143

A poet and art enthusiast, Ananya Godboley is a striving academic who is pursuing a career in Criminal Psychology, currently doing an undergrad degree in Psychology. Passionate about History, Philosophy and Literature, she loves to learn about new and interesting subjects. A writer for FandomWire with over 1000 published articles, she adores all things superhero and Taylor Swift.