You’d assume someone would be jumping for joy to know that he is the highest-paid person in his industry (especially when that industry happens to be Hollywood). However, Robert Downey Jr. is more focused on his legacy and finding continued success as an actor at this point in his life.
In the latest issue of GQ Style, the 51-year-old actor opens up about getting older, wiser and understanding that monetary value has nothing to do with his creative value.
“First of all, could you imagine back in, let’s call it the golden era…Pacino’s and De Niro’s—do you think they would ever have allowed such a paltry discussion, reducing them to a monetary figure?” he asks the publication. “I have had and I have created some of the worst luck in the history of anybody in the public eye. And then there was five minutes there where I was batting a thousand.”
Despite what he may consider his “worst luck,” R.D.J. says he never sees anything as a failure. “I don’t want to talk about failure. I want to talk about moments of humility,” he explains. “Like when you feel suddenly sick and embarrassed but then you have to continue on to the next moment immediately in full view of others. Because it’s not failure if you just recognize, I fell short, and that’s okay.”
In order to prevent himself from falling short in the future, he looks at the roles he takes on with a keen eye. “Honestly, just as someone who loves movies, it’s: Can I be bothered to go see that movie if that guy makes it?” he tells GQ. “And I’m not saying that I only want to do quote-unquote popular mainstream movies. But life is short, and ultimately I’m in a service industry. As much as I exist to do anything else, I exist to create widgets of entertainment for other people to consume. And some people, that’s a big affront to their sensibilities, and I go, okay. End of the day, you are in a service industry, like Kirkland. It’s that simple.”
He continues, “When you’re on the outside looking in, for years, for decades, only a fool misplays [success] once he’s given a winning hand. And aside from certain devastating genetic weaknesses, I am not a fool.”
As for his advice for younger actors seeking the same path as him, he says, “If you always talk about all the cool stuff you’re gonna do, and you don’t understand why it hasn’t already happened for you, because, you know [snaps fingers]… The fumes of that will get you over the first hurdle, and nothing else. You must learn to put your nose to the grindstone for years and not look up, no matter how much rejection is heaped on you.”
He also expresses the power of appreciating what you have when you have it. Looking back on his role in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, he gets nostalgic. “When I watch that movie I say, ‘You were beautiful. And now…you just need to accept the fact that you’re going to age as gracefully as possible.'”