“Yes, extremely,” Robert Downey Jr. replies when told that he must be confident to be rocking pink socks, a pink shirt, and a pink hat while doing interviews on the set of Captain America: Civil War. “You know what? I woke up this morning, and I said, ‘Pick a colour, man! You’ve got press to do!’” Coming from Robert Downey Jr., such bravado is not just acceptable but expected: this is the man, after all, who pretty much aligned the stars in The Marvel Cinematic Universe when his first turn as Iron Man back in 2008 was met with across-the-board praise and a box office windfall. Now, after six go-rounds as Tony Stark aka Iron Man – 2008’s Iron Man, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, 2010’s Iron Man 2, 2012’s The Avengers, 2013’s Iron Man 3, 2015’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron – Downey Jr. is back in Captain America: Civil War.
This time, however, as the title of the film suggests, Robert Downey Jr. is not number one on the call sheet. “I got to work with Chris Evans, who I hold with the utmost regard…he’s just a really talented actor,” Downey Jr. says of one of the lures of appearing in the film. “He’s had the toughest job of playing this character who initially we thought was just a square from another time. So, how do you take this guy who is essentially a righteous character from a different time and put him in a position where he also makes what isn’t the most obvious choice? And then we come together as a team, which is what we do…I think Avengers: Age Of Ultron is just a great movie. So I thought, ‘Okay, I get to help fill in all those spaces for Chris Evans, and for Cap, in what is a big arc for him.’”
Loosely bouncing from the epochal comic book series, Captain America: Civil War revolves around Captain America aka Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Iron Man’s (Robert Downey Jr.) wildly divergent philosophies on how accountable they need to be to both the US government, and the world’s population, in light of the mass destruction caused at the end of Avengers: Age Of Ultron. That divergence ultimately leads to an all-out superhero war, with nearly all of the major players in The Marvel Cinematic Universe drafted in to take sides. “It’s about finding a point of departure that’s not necessarily obvious,” Downey Jr. says of this next step for Marvel. “When they were talking about what the third Captain America movie could be, they brought up the Civil War comic series, which is one of the most loved in comic book history, and they used that to ask this question: how could you set Tony Stark and Steve Rogers against each other in such a way that you could see the point of both sides of the argument? And how could you still make that a fun movie?”
While still fun in the usual Marvel manner, Captain America: Civil War is also one of the studio’s darkest and most intense movies yet, as friendships are ripped asunder, and real world issues are woven through the film’s colourful fabric. This is, after all, a film about governmental intervention, personal responsibility, and, in some ways, America’s role in world conflict. “Whenever I think about stating a position on this, I just think [pause and sigh], ‘Fuckin’ politics!,’” laughs Downey Jr. “What I can say is that it’s such a personal thing. In my family, I have people who are married into Syrian families who are involved in the conflict there, so it’s harder for me to be impartial. When you step back and look at it, this is a bunch of personalities who all believe what they believe. It’s the age old conflict of when to intervene. It’s easy for me, just as Robert, who has a kid and stuff, to look at these superheroes and say, ‘These people go wherever they want and do whatever they want to do. That’s crazy! They’ve gotta be put in check.’ If there’s a simile, what always makes me as a person actually understand someone’s point of view is if I can deeply understand why it’s personal to them. That tells me a lot about them, and then I’m not thinking about politics – I’m thinking about the human experience that this person is having.”
Has Iron Man changed his life? “I don’t know if a fictitious character can change anybody’s life, but I know that this business opportunity has wound up being a lot more than a business opportunity for me,” Downey Jr. replies. “And when Marvel makes those big announcements, I knew that Captain America: Civil War was kind of a floater for me. They were like, ‘Oh, and you can do this one too if you like.’ I’ve never done Marvel movies back to back. I’ve always gone off and done something else, like Sherlock Holmes or Due Date or The Judge or something like that. To be honest, I’d turned fifty, and I knew that there was a limit to the credibility of these things…though, actually, there’s not. I was talking to someone who has worked on all of the Terminator films, and they said that if someone had said to them back on the first film that they’d eventually work on another reboot with Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was 68, they would have said, ‘Absolutely not!’ But as this universe expands and other people come in to play in it, it will eventually just run its course after these last projects are done.”
Captain America: Civil War sees Downey Jr. putting on the suit for the seventh time…how does he keep it fresh and entertaining? “We were in an impact crater, and a lot of people were in a lot of different suits, I’ll put it that way,” he laughs of shooting an action sequence for the new film. “I just go back to 2007 when we were in the desert shooting Iron Man, and I was thinking, ‘This might work!’ And I was wearing a suit in an impact crater…so there are things that are similar about it, but what I really enjoy – even though this is just apparently a land-grab, and a way to set up your kids for life – is when you hear the pitch from these [Captain America: Civil War directors] Russo Brothers, and it’s amazing. Since [Iron Man director] Jon Favreau, there have been a lot of different people involved. I love [Iron Man 3 director] Shane Black, and [Avengers director] Joss Whedon is an incredible, extremely complex guy, and he was perfect for those things. And now it’s like I’ve come full circle, and I’m working with guys who have the same kind of feel that Jon and I had the first time on Iron Man. So, for the seventh time, it’s feeling more like…the first time…which is weird! But I’m very happy, and I’m really enjoying it. I’m actually a little surprised that I’m having a good time.”
Captain America: Civil War is released in cinemas on April 28.