Monday Morning Quarterback Part III
By BOP Staff
May 9, 2013
Kim Hollis: Is Robert Downey Jr. now the biggest star in the world? Why or why not?
Jay Barney: His star has risen very quickly, yes, but I am not sure he is the biggest star in the world. There will come a time when he moves beyond the Iron Man character and it may be difficult for him to find success again. Is he huge? Yes. Does he now belong in the discussion? No question. There are other actors like Johny Depp, Tom Cruise, and DiCaprio who are still pretty huge international names.
Brett Ballard-Beach: I would say if not he doesn't have much competition. Johnny Depp, perhaps. I read the stat that he has had six films in the last six consective years gross $500 million or more globally (the three Iron Mans, the two Sherlock Holmes, and The Avengers). One franchise success is tremendous but two simultaneously is astounding. Prior to 2008, his highest grossing film was the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to School - and I don't even recall how big his role in that was. Depp had a long and storied career with some biggish hits and Tim Burton collabs before Jack Sparrow and POTC exploded him worldwide, but Downey Jr was coming back from an erratic career, a general avoidance of anything resembling a would-be blockbuster (save for the occasional US Marshals), and a mire of drugs and substance abuse. He has generated a seemigly limitless amount of goodwill in the second half of his career to date.
Edwin Davies: I think he's the biggest star in the world when he plays Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, but we've not got much data to determine how big of a draw he is outside of his franchises. The only non-franchise films he's been in since Iron Man was released in 2008 are Tropic Thunder, which garnered him an Oscar nomination (which is still one of the weirdest nominations ever) and did well on the back of Iron Man and because it was a big ensemble comedy, Due Date, which made $100 million almost despite starring Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, the stars of two recent massive hits, and The Soloist, which underperformed even for sub-par awards bait.
My point is that we only really know that people turn out for him when he's in either of his two franchises, and we've not really seen a big test of his star power outside of them yet. However, since he's going to keep appearing in those franchises for a couple more years, I think that qualifies him to be the biggest star currently working since his only other competition would be people like Will Smith, Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp, all of whom seem to have passed their box office peak where he is clearly just entering his.
In addition to Brett's point about Back to School being Downey Jr.'s most successful film prior to Iron Man, it's interesting to consider where his career was directly before he blew up. Back to School was the most successful film on his CV with $91 million in 1986 dollars, then the only films that got even close to that were Bowfinger ($66 million), The Shaggy Dog ($61 million) and Gothika ($59 million). He was still often really good in smaller fare like the beyond-excellent Zodiac, but he was very much an also-ran for a good decade of his career. This casts the last six years of his career into rather startling relief.