Robert Downey Jr. interview gets too ‘Diane Sawyer-esque,’ so he walks out
When Robert Downey Jr.'s done, he’s done. And it appears that he’s done answering questions about things that happened years ago.
The “Avengers: Age of Ultron” star simply walked out of an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 on Wednesday after the interviewer’s questions turned personal -- and stayed that way -- about halfway through the promotional sit-down.
“You seem OK, it’s just getting a little Diane Sawyer-esque,” Downey told a sputtering Krishnan Guru-Murthy before tailing a publicist out the door a few minutes before the meet was scheduled to end.
(Sawyer, of course, has what’s expected to be a very personal interview with Bruce Jenner set to air on Friday. Which has nothing to do with the new “Avengers” flick.)
In Downey’s case, the first personal question came after a bunch of routine questions about the upcoming movie, when around the four-minute mark Guru-Murthy went from discussing whether character Tony Stark was becoming a more likable, better man to whether the actor himself was becoming a more likable, better man.
“Uh, sure,” the 50-year-old star said with a giggle, moments before his face fell and he started glancing toward a handler when the interviewer declared, “I don’t want to pry, but ...,” and proceeded to bring up a quote about prison and politics that Downey had given the New York Times back in 2008. He asked the actor to explain what he’d meant.
The quote: “I have a really interesting political point of view, and it’s not always something I say too loud at dinner tables here, but you can’t go from a $2,000-a-night suite at La Mirage to a penitentiary and really understand it and come out a liberal. You can’t. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone else, but it was very, very, very educational for me and has informed my proclivities and politics every since.”
Downey -- who very publicly struggled with substance abuse and related incarceration before getting serious about a comeback around 2003 -- answered by saying what he’d told the NYT probably made sense to him at the time, but that he couldn’t explain now what he’d meant in that moment.
“I couldn’t even really tell you what a liberal is,” he said.
Guru-Murthy probed further, asking, “Does that mean you’re not a liberal, or that you came out of prison not being liberal?”
“Are we promoting a movie? ...,” the celebrity wondered out loud. “I’m certainly not going to backpedal on anything I’ve said. But ... I wouldn’t say I’m a Republican or a liberal or a Democrat. I was talking to the person who was doing the interview that day and that just happened to be my opinion. That’s the nice thing is you can have opinions and they kind of change and flow.”
Next, the interviewer declared his intention to ask more personal questions, telling Downey, “You can answer them if you want and not if you don’t.”
Judging by Iron Man’s attitude and body language at that point, he chose “don’t.” He directly challenged the interviewer: “Your foot’s starting to jump a little bit, you’d better get to your next question.” Lips tight, eyes flickering to someone off camera.
Guru-Murthy then asked about the role Downey’s relationship with his father, filmmaker Robert Downey Sr., had played in the former’s “dark periods ... taking drugs and drinking, all of that,” and wondered if he was “free of all that.”
Somewhat incredulously, the actor said, “I’m sorry, I really don’t -- what are we doing?”
“I’m just asking questions, that’s all,” the interviewer said.
And Robert Downey Jr., well, he was just leaving.
Watch the interview above -- it gets personal around the four-minute mark and then really tense about six minutes in.
If Downey had wanted to spend some time stewing after that, it would have been understandable. But instead, not much later, he went out of his way to give someone a smile.
A mother reached out to the actor on Twitter and asked whether he would mind saying “hi” to her son Aidan, who was having a “rough day.” She included a photo of the boy, who seemed to be sporting a recent facial injury.
The “Iron Man” star responded, “Aidan, what’s up? Tell me everything.”
The boy said he was racing his brother when he took a nasty spill. He added, “You are the best actor. “
Downey gave the young man his two cents.
“I’d say that’s gonna leave a mark but it already did! Ice is our friend @ this point. Nice to meet u, in a soc media sorta way. “
Times staff writer Ryan Parker contributed to this report.
Inside the business of entertainment
The Wide Shot brings you news, analysis and insights on everything from streaming wars to production — and what it all means for the future.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.