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Robert Downey Jr. says most of his black friends supported his blackface in 'Tropic Thunder'

“It was impossible to not have it be an offensive nightmare of a movie, and 90 percent of my black friends were like, ‘Dude, that was great,'" the actor said.
Image: Robert Downey Jr. on the TODAY Show in New York on Jan. 15, 2020.
Robert Downey Jr. on the "TODAY" show in New York on Jan. 15, 2020.Nathan Congleton / NBC

Actor Robert Downey Jr. opened up in a recent interview about his role in the satirical film "Tropic Thunder" and its use of blackface.

Downey played a white actor who has undergone a skin-darkening procedure for the role of a black soldier in the spoof of the movie industry. Ben Stiller directed and also starred in the 2008 film about a group of actors shooting a big-budget war movie who are forced to become the soldiers they are portraying.

During a recent appearance on “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, Downey described the skin-darkening makeup he wore as "special-effects makeup" and recalled his conversation with Stiller who had offered him the role.

"I thought, 'Yeah, I’ll do that. I’ll do that after 'Iron Man,'" Downey said. "And then I started thinking, ‘This is a terrible idea.'"

His resistance was short-lived, he said.

"I thought, 'Hold on, dude. Get real here. Where is your heart?'" Downey said. “My heart is, A, I get to be black for a summer in my mind, so there’s something in it for me. The other thing is I get to hold up to nature the insane, self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they’re allowed to do on occasion."

Downey also said: "It was impossible to not have it be an offensive nightmare of a movie and 90 percent of my black friends were like, 'Dude, that was great.'"

When asked about "the other 10 percent," Downey said: "I can't disagree with them, but I know where my heart was."

Downey earned an Oscar nomination in 2009 for his performance in "Tropic Thunder." The film drew criticism for the use of blackface and the depiction of people with mental disabilities.

Downey told Rogan that his mother cautioned him against appearing in the film.

"My mother was horrified," Downey said. "'Bobby, I’m telling you, I have a bad feeling about this.' I was like, 'Yeah, me too, Mom.'"

Downey said his participation in the film was "a piece of work he was doing."

"And I cared about doing it as professionally and as honestly as I could," he said.