Friday, May 1, 2015

Topic Of The Day: Robert Downey, Jr's Views On Independent Films

Hello, Bloggers, welcome to another episode of Topic Of The Day. For today's segment, I figured I'd go into some news that really made me sick to my stomach. Robert Downey,  Jr. recently did an interview for Entertainment Weekly and he had a few choice words about independent films. When asked about why he wouldn't appear in an indie film, he said, and I quote:

“Because they’re exhausting and sometimes they suck and then you just go, ‘What was I thinking?’ But I’m interested in doing all different kinds of movies. Sometimes the little movies are the ones that wind up taking the most out of you because they’re like, ‘Hey, man, we’re just running a couple of days behind. Do you think you can stay through your birthday and then come back on the fourth of July. And, by the way, but, like, the crew—can you pay for the craft services? And, oh, by the way, man, when we go to Sundance, it’s like, can we just sit you in a chair and you can sell this for six days in a row so that we’ll make 180 bucks when it opens in one theater? God, this is so powerful what we’re doing. What do you think of the movie? You saw it last night?’”

“I thought it’s mediocre.”

“Yeah, isn’t it the greatest?! Man, everyone’s an artist here.”

“Actually, most of you are kind of inexperienced and lame.”

Now, I was really appalled by this for quite a few reasons. One is that before he became a big franchise player, he was a bigger critical darling that took part in much smaller films, like Less Than Zero and Short Cuts. He was even an Oscar nominee for Best Actor in Chaplin back in 1993. So to bash the kind of films that he started out in just comes off as him talking down on the path in which he started off his career.

Not only that, but some of his Avengers co-stars are mostly indie darlings. Mark Ruffalo usually focuses on smaller and more intimate films outside of his work as The Hulk and Chris Evans premiered his directorial debut at last year's Toronto International Film Festival (which he also attended, by the way, when he was promoting The Judge). Plus, Scarlett Johansson has been winning critical respect for her work in Her and Under the Skin. So his comments also come off as him not giving respect to the films his buddies do. If I were his frequent co-star and I mostly did smaller indie films, my feelings would be pretty hurt by his remarks.

Also, his remarks about how exhausting the process of making an indie film is is pure poppycock, in my opinion. From what I hear, an independent film takes at most 30 days to film. Compare that to Avengers: Age of Ultron, which started filming in February and wrapped in August. He also mentions the process of promoting a film at a festival like Sundance. That has to be a day at the beach compared to the press tours for films like Iron Man. 

Now, I'm sure that filming an independent film won't give him a nice trailer and it certainly won't give him a bit payday. But just because those types of films have smaller budgets doesn't mean they have poor quality. Look at Night of the Living Dead. That movie was made practically with no money at all and yet it became a cultural phenomenon. Also, Fruitvale Station was made for $900,000 and yet it is one of the most powerful films about race in recent memory. While there are some low budget films with poor quality, most or part of the quality lies on the screenwriting. Like my dad always says, if the script is bad, the movie stinks.

I also think his comment about how a lot of indie directors are "inexperienced and lame" wasn't exactly flattering. There are some directors, like Quentin Tarantino and David Gordon Green, that get lucky on the first try and see their careers flourish afterwards. But others that don't have the strongest debut still try to hone their craft by continuing to direct. It's like riding a bicycle. The more you do it, the better you get.

Now, I hate to be this harsh and it pains me to say these things because I am a fan of RDJ as an actor. But I was just so appalled by his comments, that I feel this had to be said. Sorry, but his remarks just make him come off as an entitled snob who thinks he is above doing smaller films. Independent films may not have a big scale like The Avengers. But what they lack in budget, they make up for in heart and powerful storytelling. Some of these films, like Starred Up and Weekend, fail to gain a larger audience and to kick these kind of films when they are already down is not fair to those involved with the making of those films. I still like RDJ as an actor, but as a lover of independent cinema, I just felt deeply offended after reading his remarks.

So, those are my thoughts on Robert Downey, Jr.'s remarks on independent cinema. Whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!