“When I heard that I just had to be in this movie”: Robert Downey Jr.’s Wife Played a Crucial Role in Making Him Take Up $15M Val Kilmer Movie That Paved the Way for Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr.'s wife played a crucial role in his career decision that eventually paved the way for the iconic MCU character.

Robert Downey Jr. with Susan Downey and Val Kilmer
Credits: Wikimedia Commons/Sgt. Michael Connors


  • Robert Downey Jr. expressed his gratitude to his wife, who was instrumental in his role in Val Kilmer's $15M movie.
  • Learning about Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, from his then-girlfriend now-wife, Downey Jr. was adamant about starring.
  • Working with Black in the 2005 film, eventually paved the way for Downey Jr.’s iconic role in the Iron Man movies.
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Initially rising to fame with his 1992 comedy-drama Chaplin, which even led him to the Academy Awards, Robert Downey Jr. showcased immense talent in the industry. However, venturing a different route due to his addictions, the actor lost his way until 2003, when he finally came out drug-free and industry-ready.

Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer in a still from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer in a still from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang | Warner Bros. Pictures

Thereafter, the actor appeared in a 2005 Val Kilmer movie that changed his career forever. And Robert Downey Jr. only has his wife Susan Levin to credit for it. According to reports, Downey Jr.’s wife was heavily instrumental in his decision to star in Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, who later collaborated with Downey Jr. in an MCU movie.

Robert Downey Jr.’s Wife was Instrumental in His Role in a Val Kilmer Movie

Robert Downey Jr.’s career trajectory was forever changed when he starred alongside Val Kilmer in the 2005 crime comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Returning to Hollywood after his long-drawn battle with substance abuse and serving prison time, Shane Black’s comedy was a big break for Downey Jr.


Surprisingly, the actor only has his wife, then-girlfriend Susan Levin, to thank for the role. According to SlashFilm, after proving to be employable in Hollywood following his return after drug abuse, Robert Downey Jr. was trying to find roles, but he wasn’t in demand. That’s when Levin, who was working as assistant to producer Joel Silver, giggled at a scene in Shane Black’s first completed screenplay.

Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer in the 2005 film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang 
Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer in Shane Black’s 2005 film | Warner Bros. Pictures

It was none other than the script for Val Kilmer‘s 2005 comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Speaking with Ian Winterton, Robert Downey Jr. revealed how he came across the script after his soon-to-be wife’s giggles stole his attention towards the reading material.

She’s reading this script and laughing, and that’s unusual so I ask her what’s so funny and she’s, like, ‘Oh, nothing, just this Johnny Knoxville project.’ She keeps reading and laughing and she tells me, ‘The just had his severed finger that he had on ice stolen by a dog.’ ‘What was his finger doing in an ice bowl?’ ‘His girlfriend cut it off.’ ‘Why didn’t he go to hospital?’ ‘He did but it got pulled off again by these two bad guys called Mr Frying Pan and Mr Fire.’ When I heard that I just had to be in this movie.

Revealing how his wife was instrumental in his decision to star in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which was made on a relatively low budget of $15M and co-starred Val Kilmer, Downey Jr. recalled being impressed by its unique blend of humor and action, urging him to take on the role.


The Movie Paved Way for Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Reunion with Shane Black

Although Kiss Kiss Bang Bang wasn’t a commercial success, earning just $16.8M, which was 1.1 times its production budget, via The Numbers, the movie earned Robert Downey Jr. a Saturn Awards nod in 2006, for best actor. Shane Black had delivered a brilliantly preposterous neo-noir riff with his 2005 film.

Eventually, with his proper blend of action and humor in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Shane Black catapulted his fame, while Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Harry Lockhart, a petty thief who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation, showcased his versatility as an actor and laid the groundwork for his future roles.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang [Credit Warner Bros. Pictures]
A still from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang | Warner Bros. Pictures
According to THR, although Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was a big letdown for Robert Downey Jr., as the movie went in and out of theatres almost undetected, the actor’s performance attracted the attention of director Jon Favreau. As the 2005 film became a modern cult classic, years later, Shane Black’s movie paved the way for Downey Jr. to fit in a certain metal suit. “It ended up being my calling card to Iron Man,” Downey Jr. stated.


Eventually, after Robert Downey Jr. rose to fame through his blockbuster MCU movies, the actor called in Shane Black for a reunion in Iron Man 3, after Jon Favreau’s exit. Asking Black to write and direct the threequel, Downey Jr. sought a collaboration with the filmmaker through a phone call in 2010.

Robert Downey Jr. in a still from Iron Man 2
Robert Downey Jr. as MCU’s Iron Man | Marvel Studios

Black revealed,

It was Robert Downey Jr. He told me, ‘I want you to write and direct an Iron Man picture.’ And everything changed again.

Therefore, in retrospect, it’s clear that Robert Downey Jr.’s wife’s encouragement played a significant role in the actor’s decision to star in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which paved his way into MCU as Iron Man, which later became synonymous with his name.


Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is available on Prime Video. 


Written by Krittika Mukherjee

Articles Published: 1737

Krittika is a News Writer at FandomWire with 2 years of prior experience in lifestyle and web content writing. With her previous works available on HubPages and Medium, she has woven over 1700 stories with us, about fan-favorite actors, movies, and shows. Post-graduate in Journalism and Honors-graduate in English Literature, when this art enthusiast isn't crafting your next favorite article, she finds her escapism in coffee, fiction, and the Wizarding World.