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October 27, 2005

Robert Downey Jr.

Toast Of The Town
Robert Downey Jr. Talks With Cole Smithey About "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang"
By Cole Smithey

As its title implies, "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" is a splashy neo-noir buddy thriller with plenty of laughs and jaw-dropping plot twists. Screenwriter Shane Black ("Lethal Weapon") returns to movies after a long hiatus to make a dazzling directorial debut that’s injected with full-bloom performances by Val Kilmer, newcomer Michelle Monaghan, and one very watchable Robert Downey Jr. as Harry Lockhart a petty thief/wannabe actor on the run in LA. Harry teams up with gay private detective Gay Perry (Kilmer) to pose as a private eye-in-training. But bodies start piling up and the girl of his dreams since childhood proves to be much more than he bargained for. Slick, sassy and downright delicious "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" is a royal cinematic treat.

Robert Downey Jr. sat down with Cole Smithey at the Hotel Du Cap during the Cannes Film Festival to talk about the movie and his career.

Q: What is the satisfaction of making movies like "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang"?

RDJ: You don’t have to go in with blinders on. I remember when I saw "Lethal Weapon" and thinking it was really entertaining and filled with action, but rooted in a story that worked well with its characters. It was so much about the interplay between the two main characters.


The best thing about "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" is that the movie’s sick damn good.

Q: The movie has a very loose feel to it. Were there any moments you guys improvised on?

RDJ: Shane wrote such a good script that there wasn’t much improvement on it. But there were some things that were occurring in right the moment. When we were in the parking lot outside of the clinic and the guy is going to bring us back in and torture us, and he hits me with the gun, I said, "Why’d you do that?" So when I took the gun from him, I thought, "I’ve gotta hit him back with it." So that’s why that happened. That was an improvised piece of business.

Q: How was it working with Val Kilmer for the first time?

RDJ: I didn’t really know Val before and I think he was back from "Alexander" and every fortnight there was a party at Val’s place, and I just thought he was even more eccentric in person than he was reputed to be.

As soon as we were on set the first day, we did the scene where he tells me that I’m not going to get the part and then I take a swing at him, and then he says I’m not a nice guy, and then I go for him. It was already everything that was on the page and something else -- two complete weirdos making a movie together that, I think, is as entertaining as we were expecting it to be. It kind of worked out.


Q: How did you feel about Michelle Monaghan in her part before shooting began?

RDJ: When we read Michelle it was obvious by the time she left the office that there was no one else that was going to get this part but her, and there were some great actresses up for it.

Q: How did Shane establish and maintain the strong tempo of the movie when you were shooting?

RDJ: Shane is really methodical and painstaking in his writing. He’s a very exacting and mechanically efficient writer. We shot the movie in 35 nights. We were doing really important scenes back to back, one right after another. I was almost afraid to look at the call sheet. There was no time to be ponderous about it.

My preparation was doing what I had to do to stay out of my own way so I could do the work, which means having a loose sense of what I have to say and where I have to be.

Q: You’re a very different actor from the actor you were when you made "Two Girls And A Guy." Are you aware of a difference in the way you approach the work?

RDJ: I’m certain about this, I think you’re always either getting better or worse. Sometimes you’re afforded several incarnations, and I’m 40 now. I started 22 years ago in movies, so there’d be times where I felt like I was on this rise up to "Chaplin," and then I kind of valleyed and then I hit it again with "Natural Born Killers." "Two Girls And A Guy" was almost entirely about the execution of something really loosely done and then it was all about memorizing and improvising off of that.

Q: Do you feel back in the Hollywood game now?

RDJ: I don’t know what would qualify being back in the game more than being in a movie. But, to me, you’re not in the game unless you’re in things that you think are good.

If you sit down wrong on your meditation cushion and wonder why your ankle’s killing you ten minutes later, it’s because you fucking sat down wrong. Therefore, you’re distracted in your meditation. The way you go into something is the way you’re going to experience it. I can tell you that 20 years ago when I was doing "Weird Science" that I didn’t think I was making "Pride And Prejudice." I knew that we were doing this really fun John Hughes genre picture. That was the first time I worked with Joel Silver. It worked, and it was that kind of movie for that generation, and I was just happy to not be in Hell's Kitchen in New York pretending I was making quiche.

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