First Look: Robert Downey Jr as Black Man in ‘Tropic Thunder’

Robert Downey Jr. as a Black Man in Tropic ThunderIn less than two months actor Robert Downey Jr. is going to be virtually on top of the entertainment world when he hits the big screen as Tony Stark in Iron Man. If you’ve seen the most recent Iron Man trailer, then you’ll agree that it is the closest thing we’ve had a to sure-fire hit so far in 2008 (especially considering the flop that was Semi-Pro).

But after Iron Man rocks the silver screen, Downey Jr. will be popping up in a handful of other films in 2008. For starters, he has a listed cameo as Tony Stark in Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk and he stars alongside Jamie Foxx and Catherine Keener in Atonement director Joe Wright’s The Soloist, a film that is already gathering some awards season cred. His fourth and final role of 2008 though, will be in Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, due out August 15th. EW has given us our first look at Downey, Stiller and Jack Black in the action comedy with the picture to the right.

Take a moment, look carefully.

Yes, that was not a typo. In the image to the right, we see Ben Stiller and Jack Black with Robert Downey Jr. between them, walking through the jungle. In the film, which is a satire that takes aim at the egos of big Hollywood actors (like the three pictured), Downey plays Kirk Lazarus, an Oscar caliber actor who ends up with a part that was originally written for a black man. Instead of recasting, Lazarus decides to dye his skin to play the character of Osiris, well, authentically.

Stiller directs (for the first time since Zoolander) and stars as a big action star who is headlining a modern day Apocalypse Now. Jack Black plays a comedian known for playing multiple roles in his films (like his last film, The Fatties: Fart 2). As EW explains, “when the film’s director (Steve Coogan) and writer (Nick Nolte) get fed up with their prima donna cast, they drop them into the jungle to fend for themselves. The actors think they’re doing some sort of full-immersion filmmaking, but the danger they’re in is very real.”

If you remember, we showed you pictures a while back of Tom Cruise in a fatsuit for this film, one of the many cameos that we can probably expect to see in Thunder. But I have a feeling that no matter how ridiculous the cameos get (IMDB also lists Tobey Maguire, Matthew McConaughey and Bill Hader in Thunder), people will be talking about the transformation of Robert Downey Jr. most. Is it outrageous? Absolutely. Incredibly dangerous? You bet your ass. But no matter how risky, Downey told EW that he is very confident that they have not crossed the line:

“At the end of the day, it’s always about how well you commit to the character,” he says. “I dove in with both feet. If I didn’t feel it was morally sound, or that it would be easily misinterpreted that I’m just C. Thomas Howell in [Soul Man], I would’ve stayed home.”

Personally, I think that this is becoming a very highly anticipated comedy. First Tom Cruise in a fat suit, and now this — I think I’m in. If you forget about all the crap Ben Stiller has done in his career (of which there is a lot), you will still be remembering Zoolander, his last directorial effort, as one of his better films. The concept, cast and gags that are going into Tropic Thunder seem to me like they will work just fine. There really is nothing like seeing Hollywood bring down the hammer on their own egos — no matter how silly, or in this case borderline inappropriate, it may be. But that’s just my opinion…

Paramount Pictures plans to debut the first trailer for Tropic Thunder on March 17 online.

Sound Off: What do you think, is Robert Downey Jr. as a black man going to be funny?

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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