Unless something unbelievable happens and Robert Downey Jr. lands another job that makes as massive a footprint on the pop culture landscape, Marvel’s Tony Stark will likely remain the actor’s signature role for the duration of his career and long after. With Downey poratraying the genius gazillionaire in nine movies before finally stepping away, at this point it’s difficult to imagine there ever was a time when the actor was playing anyone other than Iron Man. But if you think Tony Stark is Downey’s favorite role then, according to a new interview, you need to work on your targeting system.
Speaking on The Joe Rogan Experience (via Slash Film), Robert Downey Jr. said his best film isn’t a Marvel movie. It wasn’t the Downey movie that Rotten Tomatoes gives its highest score of all his films to: the 1993 reimagined Shakespeare tragedy Richard III with Ian McKellen and Annette Bening. It isn’t either of the films he earned Oscar nominations for — the 1992 biopic Chaplin or the 2008 comedy Tropic Thunder — or other critical darlings like Zodiac, Wonder Boys, or True Believer. Judging by its dismal ticket sales, it may be a movie most have never even heard of. Downey told Rogan his best film is the 2005 crime comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
Written and directed by Shane Black — who would go on eight years later to direct Robert Downey Jr. as his signature superhero in Iron Man 3 — Kiss Kiss Bang Bang stars Downey as a thief who unintentionally finds himself impressing a Hollywood casting director and later gets embroiled in a murder plot along with his former lover Harmony (Michelle Monaghan) and private eye Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer).
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang wasn’t a winner in terms of ticket sales, particularly compared to other Robert Downey Jr. films. As Slash Film points out, both Downey and Kilmer were largely considered persona non grata in Hollywood in 2005 — Downey for his past issues with addiction, and Kilmer because of a reputation of being incredibly difficult to work with, including allegedly putting a cigarette out on a cameraman while making 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. Whether it was because of those or other reasons, even with its comparatively modest $15 million budget Kiss Kiss Bang Bang flopped at the box office. It only made $4.2 million domestically and just barely broke even when it went overseas.
Still, Robert Downey Jr. loves the film, and he’s not alone. The movie enjoys an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, aided by critics like Wendy Ide of The Times who calls it a “film noir homage that assassinates the character of every LA archetype you could imagine.”
Robert Downey Jr. pointed out to Rogan that while Kiss Kiss Bang Bang may not have attracted the audiences that Iron Man did, the latter wouldn’t have been possible without the former. He told Rogan that it was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang that Jon Favreau saw that got Downey cast as Tony Stark.
While he looks into his past, Robert Downey Jr. isn’t neglecting his future. He’ll soon appear in the sports dramedy All-Star Weekend directed by Jamie Foxx and boasting an ensemble cast. Downey’s also been cast in the upcoming HBO miniseries The Sympathizer based on the 2015 novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen.