He was making a movie with a director whose own decision to work with his wife had been calamitous, but Robert Downey Jr. was excited about setting up shop for Guy Ritchies movie Sherlock Holmes with his own spouse, producer Susan Downey, and her long-time boss, Joel Silver. In Londons Freemasons Hall, one of the locations for the movie, Downey says it worked out well.
She is fantastic, he says. There was a lot of den-mothering in this process. Sometimes we were having so much fun and a huge stunt was going down and he [Ritchie] would be playing his guitar and I would be saying, Look at Nero over there, fiddling while Rome burns. Susan would be saying, Dont say that. We have to do something.
Susan, who produced films like Gothika and Ghost Ship for Silvers Dark Castle Entertainment under the name Susan Levin, is credited by some in the industry with saving former alcohol and drug abuser Downey from himself. She says it makes sense for them to work together. We have a good time, she says. Making a movie takes so much time out of your life and so much energy, so we try to find a way of doing it together. That is certainly our preference, and I think we have a way of making people comfortable with each other. He is a little nutty, but it keeps things fresh.
The movie, which opens on Friday (December 25), stars Downey as the iconic Holmes and Jude Law as his partner in crime, Dr. Watson. The two manage to track down a serial killer who plays with black magic, and they even watch him hang for his crimes. However, he makes a comeback within days and the hunt is on again. Meanwhile, Watson is ready to leave Holmes behind to get married, and an old flame of Holmess (Rachel McAdams) has reappeared in his life, ready to play havoc with it.
While the traditional Sherlock Holmes productions portray Watson as almost subservient, this version fits in more with the bromance subgenre of buddy films. For it to work, there had to be chemistry between the two lead actors. Downey says he finds it strange to hear himself and Law compared with traditional romantic comedy teams.
I am so used to people saying, You and your costar had such great chemistry on-set, but here they are talking about Jude and I like we should be doing romantic comedies. It is not a comedy, and it is a love affair of sorts. Holmes and Watson are aspects of all of us, and we knew when to yin and yang back and forth. But we were just a good team.
Downey has come a long way in a short time. Its been a little more than 10 years since he was a regular visitor to California jails. However, thanks to box-office and critical success in recent movies like Iron Man and Tropic Thunder, he is now considered one of the worlds biggest movie stars. He says that if there is a secret to his success, it is that he keeps busy.
I dont get scared anymore; I just get busy. I have definitely felt the onus of the fear of the judgment of others, but at a certain point it comes down to will. You meet the standards that people expect of you and you expect of them. In the case of this film, I knew that this was a fresh interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes story, and I have worked with Joel Silver a bunch and I have lived with Susan Downey a bunch, so I knew that I was in good hands. So again, it was a matter of getting down to business.
Downey says that working in Londonone of the locations of 1992s Chaplin, for which he won an Academy Award nominationreminded him that the American way of doing things is not always the best approach. There is something about the work ethic here and the people and the culture. As Americans, Joel and Susan and I have a bit of an abrupt attitude. We got here and said, Lets get down to work. Fuck what you are going through. We will eat later. We were very shortly reminded that there is a much more civilized way of operating. They [the British cast and crew] would say, Lets put out a little cheeseand lets talk and lets be grownups. It has been a huge experience in the proper way of doing things.
So was it a better experience than he had in London with Chaplin? Downey isnt sure. I kind of sucked 20 years ago. Far be it for me to say what was good, when and where, since I barely remember any of it.