Robert Downey Jr. has been awarded many prestigious accolades during his long and illustrious career in the film industry. From a ‘Best Actor’ Golden Globe win for his role in the 2010 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes to his multiple People’s Choice Award wins for his iconic portrayal of Iron Man in the Marvel series, Downey’s really secured a lot of victories in his time.

However, there’s always one particular movie that seems to crop up again and again during any Downey-centered discussion – and that’s his role in the comedy-action film, Tropic Thunder.

Directed by Ben Stiller, the movie tells the story of a group of actors who were shooting a big-budget war movie and were forced to become the soldiers they are portraying.

Brandon T. Jackson, Jack Black, Tom Cruise, Bill Hader, Ben Stiller, Matthew McConaughey, and Robert Downey Jr. all star in Tropic Thunder. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty

The 58-year-old played Kirk Lazarus, a character that saw him physically turn himself from a white man to a Black man, a more common name for the process being ‘blackface’.

As per the Oxford Dictionary, ‘blackface’ is a term used to refer to the practice of “wearing make-up to imitate the appearance of a black person.

So of course, naturally a lot of people were left feeling uncomfortable and upset by a veteran actor playing a character that uses “pigmentation alteration” surgery to darken his skin and pass off as a Black man.

Back in 2020, he opened up about the issue during an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast.

He continued: “When Ben called and said, ‘Hey I’m doing this thing’ – you know I think Sean Penn had passed on it or something. Possibly wisely. And I thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll do that and I’ll do that after Iron Man.’ Then I started thinking, ‘This is a terrible idea, wait a minute.’ Then I thought, ‘Well hold on dude, get real here, where is your heart?’ My heart is… I get to be black for a summer in my mind, so there’s something in it for me.

“The other thing is, I get to hold up to nature the insane self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they’re allowed to do on occasion, just my opinion.”

The 57-year-old then went on to state that “90 percent of [his] Black friends” referred to the movie as “great.”

Robert Downey Jr

Credit: Robert Gauthier / Getty

“[Ben Stiller] knew exactly what the vision for this was, he executed it, it was impossible to not have it be an offensive nightmare of a movie,” Downey Jr. continued. “And 90 percent of my black friends were like, ‘Dude, that was great.’

“I can’t disagree with [the other 10 percent], but I know where my heart lies. I think that it’s never an excuse to do something that’s out of place and out of its time, but to me, it blasted the cap on [the issue]. I think having a moral psychology is job one.”

The actor has repeatedly denied that his intention with the role was not to offend the masses and instead to highlight the importance of not doing blackface – though fans are seemingly reluctant to accept the Avengers star’s reasoning.

As per IndyWire, Downey received critical acclaim for his performance in Tropic Thunder and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild Awards.

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