The Boyfriend of the Week

July 30, 2006

Note: Photo on left by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard University News.

Man, it's taken me forever to get around to featuring Robert Downey, Jr., hasn't it? I've actually been madly in secret love with Bobby since I was in high school, believe it or not. And when I started this web site, he was one of the first guys I thought about featuring. Until. . . yep, you guessed it: the drug bust. Followed by the next drug bust. Followed by the NEXT drug bust. Followed by jail time. JAIL TIME! I can't bring home to momma a Boyfriend whose served time in prison, for pity's sake!

In retrospect, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense that I should hold this against him, seeing as how I'm a substance abuse librarian which ought to mean that I'm extra-sensitive to the tremendous challenges all addicts face when it comes time to get clean. The thing is, I know for a fact I don't have the right personality for dating drug users. They tend to have a lot of issues, first of all, and they tend to not want to FACE those issues, second of all. And damn, does that kind of thing ever get on my nerves. FACE YOUR ISSUES, men! You are driving us women INSANE!

So, the more I read about Bobby's drug problems, the more, deep down inside, my perception of him started to change. From funny, witty, smart, intelligent cute guy to funny, witty, smart, intelligence, cute, and needy guy. And while I would say I probably had the patience to deal with “needy” in my twenties, I've gotten decidedly more practical in my thirties. If someone's going to be needy around here, it better be ME. I simply don't have the time or the energy to deal with anything else.

Annnnd then I saw Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and suddenly I could resist the Downey charm no longer. As they say in France, “Zee crush, eet was beck on like mad” (for you English speakers, I'll translate: That Robert Downey Jr.-- he is haZOT!).

Wait, that wasn't English! That was Snoop Dogg!

Sorry. Where was I?

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang isn't the best movie I've seen all year, however I'm quite happy to concede that it was the best comedy I've seen all year. Because it absolutely cracked me up in the subtle, sarcastic, bon mot way only Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer can do. This movie is ridiculously fun. RIDICULOUSLY fun. And the primary reason for that is the presence of Robert Downey Jr. completely in his element. Playing the goofy romantic lead with a brain.

Well, sort of a brain, anyway.

Anyway, after seeing Kiss Kiss, I started giving the whole Bobby thing another thought. I began renting some of his older movies, and it was after about the third one that I finally had the epiphany I needed to kick-start my Robert Downey Jr. crush. You see, Bobby is essentially the same character in all of his movies -- he's always addicted to something in his movies, often to the point of irrationality. And the more I encountered this character, the more I began to understand him. Because, you know what I figured out was the cause of all this addiction, in movies and in real life? ROBERT DOWNEY JR. JUST WANTS TO BE LOVED!

Okay, okay, now I know what you're all thinking. You're thinking, with no small degree of sarcasm, “Why, Holmes, you astound me!” But check it out, man -- every movie Robert Downey Jr. has made has been about his addiction to something and his desire simply to be loved by someone or something. At least, every movie he's made that I've seen has been. Don't believe me? Oh ho ho, when was the last time I was wrong about one of my far-out film theories? Read on, my doubtful friends:

1. The Pick-Up Artist (1987) -- Bob plays Jack Jericho, a womanizer who finally finds true love. It's a cute little romantic comedy until the story strays into loan shark territory. After that, it kinda lost me.

  Addicted to: Women and bad pick-up lines.
Just wants to be loved by: Molly Ringwald.
2. Less Than Zero (1987) -- Bob plays Julian Wells, a young man with a cocaine problem whose friends try to save him from the ravages of self-pitying yuppie-dom.

Addicted to: Cocaine and ennui.
Just wants to be loved by: Andrew McCarthy (but really, who among us DIDN'T just want to be loved by Andrew McCarthy in 1987?).

3. 1969 (1988) -- This time, Bob plays Ralph Carr, a hippie who is struggling with the thought of being drafted into the Vietnam War.
  Addicted to: Marijuana and tie-dyed tee-shirts, damn hippie.
Just wants to be loved by: Canada.
4. Chances Are (1989) -- In this little romantic comedy, Bobby plays Alex Finch, a young man who falls in love with Mary Stuart Masterson only to realize he's actually the reincarnated husband of her mother, Cybil Shepard.
  Addicted to: White blazers.
Just wants to be loved by: Girls with short blonde hair (YES!).
5. Air America (1990) -- Bobby teams up with Mel Gibson to deliver CIA-approved goods to Laos during the Vietnam War in a helicopter. The net effect? Making us roll our eyes from the lameness at every turn.
  Addicted to: Slipping the surly bonds of earth.
Just wants to be loved by: Mel Gibson, before he got all weird on us.
6. Soapdish (1991) -- This is one of my favorite Kevin Kline movies, and it's right on up there as a favorite Bobby D. Jr. one too. It's a ridiculously funny spoof of the soap opera world. I never tire of it. EVER. Absolutely hilarious.
  Addicted to: BRAIN FEVER!
Just wants to be loved by: Transgendered nurses.
7. Chaplin (1992) -- This is one of the best Robert Downey Jr. movies of all time, and I still can't believe they gave Pacino the Oscar for stupid Scent of a Woman instead of giving it to Bobby for his spot-on portrayal of Charlie Chaplin. Of all his movies, I have to say, this one is the one that convinced me he can do more than just be a cute goofball. The man's got talent, folks.
  Addicted to: Old-school film technology.
Just wants to be loved by: Every woman who walks past him. And J. Edgar Hoover, for good measure.
8. Only You (1994) -- Another extremely adorable romantic comedy, this time about a young woman (Marisa Tomei) who has convinced herself she's destined to marry a man named "Damon Bradley," much to the dismay of a man named "Peter Wright" (our own hunky RDJ).
  Addicted to: Shoes, believe it or not.
Just wants to be loved by: Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.
9. Home for the Holidays (1995) -- Very funny Holly Hunter comedy about a dysfunctional family at Thanksgiving. Pair this one with Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for your holiday film festival, and I will definitely show up at your place for dinner.
  Addicted to: Family melodrama.
Just wants to be loved by: Bobby Donnell from The Practice (though again, I ask you, who doesn't?).
10. Restoration (1995) -- In this one, Robert Downey Jr. plays Robert Merivel, a physician with ridiculous hair who finds himself in service of King Charles II and. . . zzzzzzzzz. . .
  Addicted to: Home perms.
Just wants to be loved by: Roger Ebert, apparently. And surprisingly enough, he succeeded. Then again, the Ebe's pretty easy -- it's one of the reasons I like him so much even when he likes movies as boring as this one. Uh, not that I should be making negative comments about anybody's taste in film, given the fact I've seen Halloween H2O 37,000 times and counting. Ahem.
11. One Night Stand (1997) -- In my opinion, the only thing that makes this movie, about a guy (Wesley Snipes) who cheats on his wife (Ming-Na), at all entertaining is Downey's stellar performance as a gay man dying from AIDS. He's not only phenomenal in the role, but he's utterly gorgeous as well. Aside from that, though, this movie is abysmal.
  Addicted to: Unprotected sex, I'm guessing.
Just wants to be loved by: Hmmm, tricky one. I want to say Wesley Snipes, but somehow, that just doesn't seem right. Don't take it personally, Wes, but I still don't understand what either of the ladies in this film saw in you.
12. U.S. Marshals (1998) -- Who among us didn't love The Fugitive? And who among us who loved The Fugitive was dumb enough to watch THIS movie too? Yep, me too. Even worse -- I watched it TWICE. Nevertheless, it's rare you get to see Robert Downey Jr. play a bad guy, so hey, more power to us all.
  Addicted to: Being a double-crossing butthead.
Just wants to be loved by: A warm gun.
13. In Dreams (1999) -- Am I the only one starting to notice that right about 1998 Bobby's movies began to really suck? Because this one is awful too. It's about a woman who keeps seeing murders in her head and blah blah blah here's another chance for you to see Robert playing a bad guy. Only this time, it's REALLY hard not to laugh at him while he does it. Sorry, Bob.
  Addicted to: Repeating stupid poetry like "My daddy is a dollar / I wrote it on a fence./ My daddy is a dollar / Not worth a hundred cents."
Just wants to be loved by: Annette Bening? No wait, let's go with Paul Guilfoyle instead. And who can blame him for that? Such a cutie on C.S.I.!
14. Gothika (2003) -- And the hits just keep on coming! Orrrrr not. This thriller features Halle Berry, who might be the first Oscar winner in history whose career actually went downhill after she won instead of uphill, as a woman whose husband is murdered. Everybody thinks she did it, so they lock her up in an insane asylum. And somewhere in there is also the ghostly figure of a dead girl. Yeah, I didn't really get it either. Bobby plays one of the asylum doctors and the only reason to watch this movie is because he looks really, really good in that gray suit. Seriously. Damn. He's cute.
  Addicted to: Inanity, as near as I could tell.
Just wants to be loved by: Halle Berry, along with every other male on the planet. Borrrrring!
15. Singing Detective (2003) -- This strange movie, which I confess I had a hard time getting into, is about a writer who is hospitalized for a severe case of psoriasis and who, while bedridden, begins to hallucinate about a detective investigating the murder of a prostitute. Who sings.
  Addicted to: Hallucinating and musical numbers.
Just wants to be loved by: I'm gonna go with Mel Gibson here again, just because I can. God help us all.
16. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) -- Hilarious and quirky comedy about a hoodlum (Downey) who is on the run from the cops when he bursts through a door and stumbles into. . . an audition for a detective show. So, what the hell, he gives it a try and lands the part. The producers team him up with a REAL detective, a gay guy named Gay played by Val Kilmer, and pretty soon, the duo is actually embroiled in a real murder. Whoopsie!
  Addicted to: Snappy one-liners. And thank god for that.
Just wants to be loved by: ME, apparently, because love him for this one I truly, truly do!

Now, before you all email me to tell me about the ones I've missed, let me also mention a few other things of Bob's I've seen, but which I couldn't remember him in and which I didn't have time to rerent: Good Night and Good Luck (incidentally, a film I was very underwhelmed by -- go ahead, hate me if you want to), Wonder Boys (same comment), The Gingerbread Man (hmmm, same comment again -- I sense a trend), and Natural Born Killers. I am extremely sorry to say, however, that I never caught him on Ally McBeal. I hear he was wonderful, but I only lasted as a fan of that show for about the first season and a half. After that, Ally just started to irritate instead of charm me. She pretty much hasn't stopped irritating me since, to be honest. But maybe that's just because I'm jealous that she's dating Harrison Ford instead of me? Wait, that sentence could mean either that I'm jealous she gets to date Harrison Ford and I don't, or that I'm jealous Harrison Ford gets to date HER, and I don't. I'll clarify: I DO NOT WANT TO DATE ALLY MCBEAL.

In any case, my point here remains the same -- Robert Downey Jr. is consistently typecast as an addictive personality who just wants to be loved. And you know what? Ain't nuthin' wrong with that in my book. Why not play what you know? Especially when what you know apparently includes everything from a criminal to a gay guy to a hippie? Whatever he does, he always seems to do it pretty well, and that's really all that counts in my world. Well, that and the fact he's got the cutest little devious grin of all Boyfriends ever. Cheeky, this one is. Very, very cheeky.

Robert John Downey Jr. was born in Greenwich Village, New York City, at 1:10pm on April 4, 1965. His father (yep, you guessed it: Robert Downey Sr.) was an underground filmmaker, and Bob's first role (at age 5) was as as a puppy in his father's film Pound (1970). At the age of 17, Bob dropped out of school to try to become an actor in New York, taking odd jobs in the meantime as a waiter, a shoe salesman, and a "living art" performer at the notorious underground club "Area." When Bob hit the age of 20, he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live for a single season (who knew?), but quickly realized it wasn't what he wanted to do with his career. So, he packed up and headed for parts West. West Hollywood, that is.

In 1987, he landed his first leading role, in The Pickup Artist. That same year, he starred in Less Than Zero, a role that got him widely noticed among all the teenaged girls on the planet, because there's nothing quite as attractive as a complicated, damaged guy when you're about age 17. Thankfully, we tend to grow out of that phase around age 25, which also tends to be about the time guys start to get their crap together. It works out well for all. In 1992, he landed the role he's still famous for -- the title role in Chaplin. He was nominated for an Academy Award for that part the following year.

Unfortunately, it was only four years later that Robert's serious troubles with drugs began. In August 1996, he was stopped for speeding and quickly arrested for drunk driving, possession of heroin, and possession of an unloaded pistol. He was given a suspended sentence of three years, and granted probation with requirements of random drug testing and counseling. Unfortunately, between 1996 and 1999, Downey violated probation three times. After the third time, the judge finally broke down and sentenced Downey to three years in prison, in an effort to save his life. I'm a bit confused on the timeline at this point, but luckily for Bob, I suppose, his lawyers managed to wrangle him out of serving the full sentence.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of his problems, as his drug addiction struggles continued. He was arrested again in 2000 for being under the influence of cocaine and methamphetamines, the arrest that led David E. Kelley to fire him from Ally McBeal. When I heard about this one, I was pretty sure that would mean the end of his career, which was not the greatest news I'd had all day. However, the man just will not give up, people, and though he suddenly found himself being paid mere pittances for each movie role he landed (probably in some degree to offset the fees directors/producers would have to be paying to cover his insurance on the set), Downey continued to get jobs and keep his talents out there for the world to see.

Eventually, he seems to have kicked his addiction, and I recently saw him on Inside the Actor's Studio and was happy to discover he's gotten married, is ecstatically happy, and is looking forward to a long and sober career in film. Yahoo, baby! You go, my brother.

Up next for Bob are four new movies, beginning with a small role in Lucky You, starring Eric Bana as a hotshot poker player trying to win big in Vegas. After that come two I've been hearing a lot of buzz about -- Fur, a fictionalized "fairy tale" biopic about photographer Diane Arbus, famous for her photos of side show freaks; and Zodiac, a movie about the Zodiac killer, a serial murderer who terrorized San Francisco in the 1960's and 70's. This last one stars a bevy of ex-Boyfriends, including Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo.

Annnnd, last but not least, 2007 will bring us Charlie Bartlett, a comedy about a rich kid who becomes the self-appointed psychiatrist for the student body of his new high school. Bob is slated to costar as the school principal, who I'm sure will be addicted to: obnoxious, time-wasting meetings ("None of us is as dumb as ALL of us!"), as most administrators are; and will just want to be loved by: the local school board. Although, you never know when Mel Gibson might show up again and steal his heart. If he's not out drunk driving, cursing at cops, and being a bigoted asshooligan, that is. My heavens, Mel. What would Jesus say?

MacGyver Factor Score: 97.911%. Yes, yes, I've finally come to terms with the fact that I'm crazy about Robert Downey Jr. despite his speckled past. But I still have to deduct some points for it, if only because I don't want to suggest to future Boyfriends of the Week that it's okay with me if they drive around with heroin and guns in their cars. Listen up, future Boyfriends! Just say no!

Points back, though, because Downey also just released a music album and though I had a moment of panic, thinking back to the day when I first discovered William Shatner's record debut (I still have nightmares involving his rendition of "Mr. Tambourine Man"), it's actually pretty good. He sounds a lot like every other male pop singer out there these days, but it could definitely have been much, much worse. And besides, musicians are almost as sexy as actors and journalists. Double-whammy. Delish!

Boyfriend-Related Links

Bobby's IMDb page
Downey Unlimited (fan site)
Downey's Official Sony Music site
Bob's page at Netflix, for easy queue adding
RDJ's mug shot at The Smoking Gun

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