Downey Jr. while making one last movie with his dad in ‘Sr.

NEW YORK (AP) — Robert Downey Jr. set out to paint a thematic portrait, a tribute to his father, independent filmmaker Robert Downey Sr. had other plans.

“The whole point of this is when he says, ‘Well, I think we should split into two camps: the movie (expletive) and the movie I’m going to make,’” Downey Jr. recalls with a laugh. “I just go, man, hats off to you, Pops.”

“SR.,” Directed by Chris Smith, it is a more harmonious work of father and son than Downey Sr. might suggest to assert the independence of filmmaking. It’s kind of a home movie, mostly made by Downey Jr. but with his dad’s own entries sprinkled throughout. It’s a son’s loving reckoning with his iconoclastic father, a free-spirited cult film director whose experimental films gave Downey Jr. his entry into the film industry, and his outsized personality did much to inform his son, for better and for worse. As Downey Jr. said, “My dad and I are very flawed men.”

“It was a way to put something between us in our relationship and close us. I didn’t know it would be the quickest way to get to the heart of things,” Downey Jr. said in a recent phone interview from Los Angeles alongside his wife and producing partner Susan Downey, alongside his wife and producer Susan Downey. Small pull it out, you know. And it ends up dragging you down a rabbit hole that you needed to go down in order to process and absorb the entirety of our relationship.”

Downey Sr. passed away last year at the age of 85 After suffering from Parkinson’s disease. This is part of the movie. Downey Sr. wanted it to be. The movie “Sr,” out on Netflix Friday, was made with the intention of capturing his final days: a final stab at gaining some understanding of him, wrestling with their shared demons, and, once again, making a movie together. Almost 50 years ago, Downey Jr. first appeared in his father’s 1970 comedy, “Pound,” at the age of 5.

“I have a very good reminder of being fully reincarnated, for better or for worse,” says Downey Jr., 57. “Those movies and projects, I have very clear memories of that. I can still see the Mounds tape that was handed to me. It was the first prop I ever had.” .

Years before he was nominated for an Academy Award for a Chaplin actor or an Iron Man star, Downey Jr. was, as he says in the movie, “just Bob Downey’s kid for a long time.” Spontaneous, absurd films like 1971’s Putney Swope and “Palace of Grease” in 1972 The elder Downey made a pivotal countercultural agitator who defined himself outside the mainstream.

In “Father,” it’s easy to see Downey Jr.’s respect for his father, as well as their mutual affection for each other. But this does not mean that the old man was always kind to his famous son. In every movie Downey Jr. has ever made, he’s asked, “What would the father think?” Every 15 years or so he’ll get a thumbs up.

I hate to say it, but it was a little smug. Susan and I had made a couple of Sherlock movies. I get it.’ I’m gone, Hm. Awesome. Alright,” says Downey Jr. “I remember he thought ‘Less Than Zero’ was good. He thought ‘Chaplin’ was too casual. And he really liked that German song I sang when I was 15”

Taking his father’s direction again, Downey Jr. masterfully sings that song in the movie. Although it’s easy, as a viewer, to see how similar they are, Downey Jr. is more reluctant to say what he inherited from his father.

“I didn’t get his intense curiosity and constant optimism,” he says. “I would never marvel at the fact that a duckling had little ducks and those ducks got big.”

Susan Downey disagrees. “You definitely have your own observation of the world. You are very aware of what is going on around you and comment on it, like I did Daddy.” “And I think you deal with anything uncomfortable through humor. That’s a secret power you guys have. There are great things that come with that, and then there are probably avoidance patterns that are maintained because of that.”

In those ’70s films, Downey Sr.’s cocaine use was rampant, an environment that certainly had an influence on Downey Jr.’s later struggles with drug addiction. It’s a point Downey Jr. makes in the movie: “We would be remiss if we didn’t discuss the effect it had on me,” Downey Jr. told his father. He replies, “I’m sure I’ll miss this discussion.”

But “The Father” is in many ways a portrait of how Downey recovered, settled down, and found peace through family. Downey Jr. attributes a transformation in his father to his second wife, Laura Ernst, who died in 1994, and his third wife, Rosemary Rogers.

“I can relate to that too, even this current administration, Susan Downey’s never ending empire,” says Downey Jr.

When Downey Sr.’s health diminished, they moved the film editing suite to his bedroom. Susan Downey also lost her father in 2020 due to Parkinson’s disease. “He was a saint compared to us Downey boys,” says Downey Jr. The movies were how they relate to each other. The last movie Downey Jr. and his father saw together was Walk Hard. They laughed on their heads.

Since the premiere of “Sr.” At the Telluride Film Festival, Downey Jr. noted how the film became a showcase for others’ experiences of losing a parent. Towards the end of the movie, Downey Jr. goes to his father’s room, the camera trailing, to find some final answers. “I would get to the bottom of it once and for all,” he says. Like most sons who seek such identification, Downey Jr., he felt, walked away empty-handed.

But in “Father,” the two movies are finally seamlessly combined into one, suggesting a deeper understanding between Junior and Akbar than either of them would admit. There are also discoveries being made.

After such unorthodox cinematic indoctrination as a child, Downey Jr.’s real live-wire performances certainly owe something to the frantic energy he knew on his father’s sets. “I think I really enjoyed feeling natural before I got into this industrial version of entertainment,” says Downey Jr.

With other directors he often found something comforting and rewarding. He calls Richard Attenborough (“Chaplin”) a “wise and loving grandfather”. Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”) was “like a brother.” Susan Downey says films have been, and still are, “the family business.”

“It’s also very strange, because we’re making this movie with director Park (Chan-wook). It’s now called “The Sympathizer” as I do many different personalities. It is not experimental at all. It’s very good. But it reminds me of The Father Experience,” says Downey Jr. “You get dressed up, you try on a character and we’re going to film it.”

Downey Jr. latched onto this new realization, saying, “We finally got it all in real time! Live from the Southern California Gestalt Therapy Center!”

Then he sighs. “So I still work for my father.”


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