Director James Toback Rips New and “Improved” Robert Downey Jr.


tobackWriter and director James Toback, who is always controversial, and always interesting has never been one to sugar coat his opinions on anything.  And he didn’t hold back his feelings about the film industry, or his old friend Robert Downey Jr.’s career in an interview with SiriusXM’s Ron Bennington on Friday.    Toback was in to talk about his new documentary, ‘Seduced and Abandoned.’ The documentary premiers on HBO this Monday, October 28th at 9pm Eastern time.

As always, Toback is a fantastic and insightful interview, whether he’s talking about the state of the movie industry or his relationship with Mike Tyson, but things really got interesting when he started talking about his old friend, Robert Downey Jr.

Toback, who gave Downey Jr. his first starring role in “The Pick-Up Artist” says Downey basically went from being a great artist, who did “spectacular”, “original” and “inventive” work to doing “cartoon formulai.”

“I hate to say something like this, but my hatred is not strong enough to stop me from saying it. I discovered and invented him. He was a reject when I met him. A junkie reject.  And I found something appealing in him – kind of cute and unassuming and devious and perverse. And I gave him the lead in “The Pick-up Artist” which was a huge film. He had had a bit part in “Back To School” and a bit part in “Tuff Turf” …but basically, Robert Downey was going nowhere fast.”

Toback liked Downey’s performance in “The Pick Up Artist” and had even higher  praise for  the work Downey Jr. did throughout the 90′s, using words like “spectacular”, “inventive”, and “great” when describing his roles in “Black and White”, “Natural Born Killers” and “Two Guys and a Girl” (which he called his best performance).  But then, he says, an interesting thing has happened.  According to Toback:

“He was bought – and I say that for avoidance of lawsuit purposes, figuratively, into a different world – where his wife and Joel Silver and Warner Bros. took him away from what admittedly was a life of ongoing drug addiction into a life of robotic cartoon performance. In which, he has been…I don’t want to say “amazingly successful”. I would say “uniquely successful”. Because he is the number one billion dollar face of robotic cartoon franchise success. You almost couldn’t invent a more perfect marriage of cartoon franchise projection into the consciousness of the world and Robert Downey Jr. That’s been the marriage – the big economic marriage of the last, probably, decade in movie history, if not all of movie history. And he’s reinvented salaries for actors – getting $50 million.”

He also questions Downey Jr.’s sobriety:

What medication would he, I would assume, be on, at this point? I have no idea. But it’s difficult for me to believe that he went from non-stop drug addiction for 20-odd years to no drug taking. I think whatever version of what it used to be – Lithium or whatever, flattening people out, getting them off in a way…something’s going on there. And the look in the eyes…something’s going on there.

But look, it’s Achilles’ mother’s choice. You want a short glorious life or do you want a long, kind of happy, flat, successful life? He’s rich. He’s going to be one of the richest guys in Hollywood. He’s internationally famous. He’s got a family. As long as his brain doesn’t say to him – Look what you gave up. You were a real artist. You were doing something original and great. And now, you’re doing cartoon formulai. That’s his choice and probably most people would make it.

You can hear the interview in its entirety exclusively on SiriusXM satellite radio. It will re-air on Ron Bennington Interviews this Sunday at 6pm eastern on the Indie Channel (104) and again at 10pm eastern on The Opie and Anthony Channel (xm103 sirius206).  Ron Bennington is the host of SiriusXM’s “Ron Bennington Interviews”, “Unmasked” and “The Ron and Fez Show”.

 

32 comments
RickyDavis
RickyDavis

Say what you want about RDJ's acting and choices in screenplay selection, but questioning his sobriety is a scumbag move. Especially from a guy who gambles his fucking ass off and has his own demons to deal with.

Stig63
Stig63

Toback can't be that great.  He's being interviewed by Ron.  That makes him niche at best.

lis
lis

He is obviously SO envious. He can't stand the fact that Downey Jr is a success and he isn't.

Melinda Davies
Melinda Davies

Plus the asinine Warner Bros. comment.  

Come on, Warner Bros. couldn't find its way out of a shoebox with a map, let alone form a cabal that included Susan Levin and Joel Silver, who Toback is seriously suggesting (!!) conspired together to manipulate and take over Robert's life, get him weaned off drugs (but onto lithium or some other substitute, so they can control him...!), marry him off to Susan --  and, now that he's properly Stepford-ized and lobotomized into a perfect little actor-zombie, get him hired to do a bunch of comic book movies.  And Warner Bros was nice enough to let the first of those movies be Marvel, because really, all the studios were in on the plan.

Yup, su-u-u-re, James, they set all that up -- the greatest kidnap-and-conspiracy job in Hollywood history. Wow!  Someone should make a movie about that!

This guy is trippin'. 


Fabiee
Fabiee

I don't follow Robert not because I don't like him, I love the guy and I really pity James Toback. Robert is a talented artist who had to endure many things in his life but he overcame everything and became who he is now. Many kids, adults, people in general admire Iron Man so not only did Toback insult Robert but he insulted my fandom. I love superheroes and their movies are not less than any other. Yes, Robert has many movies where he did a great job and those movies were just wow, but do not insult his role right now. Be happy for him! 



It was really out of place, the comment Toback said about drugs I had to laugh because that was freaking pitiful. You don't know what you are saying and even if he didn't stop with the drugs, he had no right to say that. It's not his problem nor his life and Robert has many people supporting him. If he falls, people will catch him, but who will catch you James Toback ?

AlexisRichter
AlexisRichter

I think all of the Just For Men he's using is leaching into his bloodstream. What in the actual hell did I just read.

Tara
Tara

When I read between the lines, what Toback actually says seems to be something like that RDJ should have stayed on drugs and rather died young making weird movies no one watches because they were more "artistic" (whatever that means...) and his acting was better (which I don't think), rather than having a family, having a great time, making a shit load of money with what he actually loves doing, maybe making a few compromises here and there but seriously, who doesn't,  and living a long and happy life? I am sorry, but the man (Toback) is not only incredibly arrogant, he's also insane. And I agree with everyone who said it sounds very much like he's troubled by something and jealous of RDJs success, which he didn't achieve through Toback's movies, than anything else.

Melinda Davies
Melinda Davies

Toback crosses the line.  He’s of course entitled to his opinions about RDJ’s artistry and “comic book” roles (although tbh those “comic book roles” are financing RDJ’s ability to choose artistic projects in the future, and what artist wouldn’t take that opportunity?  Not to mention that those “genre” movies - Iron Man, Avengers, Sherlock Holmes - are flat-out fun, are artistic creations in themselves, and have tens of millions of fans…don’t be knocking genre fare.  Comic adventures CAN truly be works of art, and both of RDJ’s franchises — Iron Man/Sherlock Holmes — are deeply felt, beautifully produced, smartly written pieces that deserve credit and praise for the creations they are. Just because it's an action-adventure doesn't mean it's bad art -  in fact, maybe it's GOOD art if people love it, return to see it again and again, and it becomes part of our popular culture and the ongoing cultural discussion.).

But this pathetic person completely crosses the line when he ventures to speculate about RDJ’s sobriety.  This is out of bounds, reprehensible, and has no place in civil discourse.  Obviously stuck-in-the-’90s JT has been out of touch with RDJ for a long, long, long time. In fact, it’s usually the case that people in recovery want to (and must) distance themselves from their “old crowd” of dangerous enablers. Hmm.

Since Toback speculates on these very personal events in another’s life that he has no real information about nor any business speaking of, let’s speculate a bit about James Toback and what his comments reveal about: James Toback.  He seems to have somewhat creepy obsession with RDJ — as in, why would he still obsess over and maunder on about being RDJ’s “creator” and “discoverer”?  Hmm…  He seems to have quite a failure complex, too -- as in, why would he diss someone else’s healthful recovery and success, unless he himself is feeling, well…inadequate? Or are you still shoving coke up your nose like what maybe happened the good old days, JT?  You sound, frankly, like you're consumed with jealousy.  

Not hard to decipher the pathological intent here.   The words speak more about who’s speaking them than who’s being spoken of.

Bob Loblaw
Bob Loblaw

If Toback doesn't think Robert's movies are artistic greatness, that MUST mean they aren't- and therefore Robert should be ashamed for selling out into making movies that people actually watch. For shame, Robert, doing something you love and getting paid tons of money and making other people's lives better through your philanthropy. For shame, taking care of your family and finding fulfillment when you SHOULD BE MAKING MOVIES THAT ALMOST NO ONE WILL EVER SEE FOR THE SAKE OF ARTISTIC GREATNESS AND TOBACK'S APPROVAL. FOR SHAME.

Plastic Thoughts
Plastic Thoughts

I would love to indulge myself with a long diatribe attacking this man, but lacking the time to do so I will just say his bold assessments of Downey I feel are attached to his own insecurities as a man. By the way, I thought Pepper's father was dead?

CallOfTheWild22
CallOfTheWild22

James Toback is a sad and sick man. And he sounds somehow spurned and jealous. Did Robert turn him down on some project recently and he's still simmering about it? Is he actually saying Robert should have continued as an addict and died for his "art"? Does Toback resent true talent and success? After listening to this strange and rather demented interview, I've lost all respect for James Toback. What a sad and disturbed little man. Meanwhile, I will continue to admire and fully respect Robert Downey Jr., one of the world's great actors and one of the most astounding comeback stories in Hollywood history, who'll be remembered long after hacks like Toback become little more than a footnote. I hope Robert chooses to rise above this level of manure and not grace these comments with an answer, but those of us who observe the Hollywood scene can do it for him. RDJ does more behind the scenes charity work for the recovery community than just about anyone - he will be first to tell you that no one recovers from addiction by themselves, and he wants to make sure others have the kind of support he finally had when he met his wife and friends like Joel Silver. Meanwhile, harpies like Toback were happy to watch him self- destruct and do exactly nothing - what, to preserve his "artistry"? I don't think there's any question that those so-called "cartoon" movies - which have been widely praised by critics and are loved by millions of fans all over the world - are finer pieces of art than the crapfests "The Pick-up Artist" and "2 Girls and a Guy." LOL - there was exactly one thing that was good about Toback's movies with RDJ - and that was RDJ. You sad, sad loser, Mr. Toback. And gosh, just a little creepy, too.

RDJ is amazing
RDJ is amazing

Oh my god this guy is a total and complete douche. If anything it sounds like jealousy or some shit. So yeah RDJ is making the big bucks, but fucking hell he deserved it, after everything he’s been through. And just because he makes money doesn’t stop him from losing quality or stop him from being a “real artist”. Holy shit, I’m fuming. That’s like saying, “Volunteer fire fighters are the ones that really want to save lives while the ones that get paid- oh no, they don’t really care about human lives.” And if I wasn’t so fucking pissed, I would have come up with a better analogy.


And he’s basically saying RDJ is still on some sort of drugs, because apparently you can’t just stop. Well excuse Robert for fucking cleaning up his life, and I’m sure the only drugs he does are vitamins you fucking ass hat. But seriously, he’s saying no one if able to get clean then, I mean- oh man. I want to punch this guy in the face. Also does he think Susan would take that? She warned RDJ since the beginning she would never support drug habits, and he loves her so much so he would never risk their marriage.

Robert is happy, and I can see that in his eyes, not whatever you think you’re seeing in his eyes. He’s happy with the missus, and Exton. And you sir, didn’t invent him, you just discovered him. AND if it hadn’t been you it would have been another person. Robert has always had this talent, and will always have it. All his movies are amazing- and he plays the roles amazingly. 

Oh god, I need to punch this guy in the dick.

shinya
shinya

I'm just going like *shrug* right here.

Toback has his own opinions, Robert has his own opinions.  Toback has his own way of living his own life, Robert has his own way of living his own life.  Toback has his own choices, Robert has his own choices.  Toback is his own artist, Robert is his own artist.

Toback is his own person, Robert is his own person.

Thus said, I don't think anybody has a right to go all self-entitlement of "making" a certain person the way he is.  

Robert has his own set of artistry.  That's what got him working with Toback in the first place.  But anybody, especially those who have worked with Robert, surely should see that that is just scratching the surface of what Robert is.

But, sure, you can give your opinion.  We can give our opinion.  We don't know the truth anyway.  Frankly, I don't much care.

Nobody owns Robert Downey Jr., except himself.  Just let that man go and do it all and give him a break.  He had been through shit already.. I think it's already sadistic if you keep putting a downed man down.

And I don't feel like comicbook-based films should be bashed like that.  It is an art in itself, as much as comedies can also be art.  But, well, it could be quite senseless to explain if the person you're talking to is already close-minded.

cliffsofmoher11
cliffsofmoher11

Plus this ass is basically implying that Downey is still on drugs?  What the...??  That is going too far.  That is lowest of the low.  I never liked Toback before, but this basically proves he is a slimeball of the basest sort.  He needs to issue a public apology.  

cliffsofmoher11
cliffsofmoher11

Really, Mr. Toback?  You did NOT "discover and invent" Robert Downey Jr.   Your two movies with him were absolute crap ("Two Guys and a Girl" is probably the worst RDJ film ever, and NOT because of him...) He was the best thing about them.  

Why would you begrudge any actor the chance to have worldwide success and basically make enough money so that he never has to just take the next crappy script that comes along, but now can control and pick and choose his projects?  He'll be in artsy little movies again, and he'll win his Oscar, too - probably more than one.  He's not an idiot.  Plus, he's having FUN doing the superhero movies, and millions of people see them and have FUN seeing them, so what is the downside to that?  Maybe even a few people are inspired by them - I certainly have been.  There's nothing at all wrong with Joss Whedon's clever scripting for "The Avengers" or Drew Peace and Shane Black's smart "Iron Man 3," and you know what, "Iron Man" is a model of a great superhero movie.  There's no rule that says an actor must keep making little art films that no one sees to be considered an "artist."  There's certainly something wonderful AND artistic about making a finely crafted and heartfelt genre movie, be it "Iron Man" or "Sherlock Holmes" - both series, I would argue, are the product of excellent craftspeople and, again, have entertained and inspired millions, including me.

Punk0
Punk0

Toback has done a few decent movies, but he acts like he's the poster child for artistic integrity.  I've never thought Downey was a great actor, but he's always had charisma, which works out just fine for the roles he's been taking lately.  He's one of the few actors that can make a comic book movie watchable.

DonnieIris
DonnieIris

I think this title is misleading.  I listened to the interview.  He gave his honest input on the the choices he's made film-wise, not mean spiritedly, from what I took from it.  Also, he's not wrong.  Can anyone honestly say some robot cartoon Iron Man movie is even remotely close to being better than something like Two Girls and a Guy?

nullzero00
nullzero00

I'm sure Downey Jr is laughing as he watches multimillion dollar checks get deposited in his bank account.

chaaaddd
chaaaddd

Comic book movies are fucking gay who cares

Stilltryingregardless
Stilltryingregardless

What a Queen Sized Cunt!  Who the fuck is he to bash another person, who came back from pretty much being blacklisted as an actor to being successful.  Anybody on average who has had a drug addiction has been doing it for a while & when they hit bottom, that's enough for them to turn their life around.  


He's the equivalent of the negative asshole fake friends you cut out of your life to start anew, but he sees the person as the enemy instead of himself.  His comments in this interview is all the proof that you need.


**Fuck him & that Captain America: The Winter Soldier trailer looks fucking great.

Mister Obvious
Mister Obvious

He's right  Doing a cartoon franchise is more embarrassing than being an addict 

10below
10below

I don't think he's 'ripping' Downey. He just gave his honest opinion on the dude, it's just his perspective. 

Captain Geech
Captain Geech

Take your own inventory before you take others.

Steph
Steph

Guy sounds like an absolute DICK. Sounds like he has a very sad life and is jealous. He is not succes so he can do nothing but put down a man that fought his way back. He did not create RDJ. RDJ created himself.

Sharkbait99
Sharkbait99

It is not as good as Two Girls One Cup.

cliffsofmoher11
cliffsofmoher11

@10below His no doubt drug-addled, twisted, pathologically jealous and somewhat creepy perspective.  Which tells more about the person who's speaking than the one he's speaking about.  

But sure, nonetheless, whatever you say, Jim.

MonsterRain
MonsterRain

@Steph James Toback has a sad life?  "He is not success"?  Maybe you missed something because of the language barrier.   Right or wrong about "RDJ", You've gotta respect him for at least having an opinion that he's willing to express.

MugPush
MugPush

James Tomack said some "REAL" talk on the air about another rich public person on the air without using a fake internet name, without trying to make a phony attempt to be hip, ironic, edgy, or shockingly politically incorrect, yet gets shit on by individuals who on the daily, do the exact opposite, and even on this particular comments section from people who claim to "miss" Patrice O'Neal who did the exact same thing every visit on O&A, and on the mic, saying, "fuck you" to FAME, and the SYSTEM. Eat cunt snot.