Robert Downey Jr. Calls Dolittle and Shaggy Dog the Most Important Films Hes Done in the Last 25 Years, Says Avengers: Age of Ultron Is Content

When thinking of the most important movie in Robert Downey Jr.’s filmography over the last 25 years, one might naturally assume the answer is “Iron Man,” the 2008 superhero tentpole that launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe and changed the blockbuster landscape in Hollywood. But that’s not the movie Downey Jr. himself would pick. In a new interview with The New York Times Magazine, the Oscar nominee cited 2006’s “The Shaggy Dog” and 2020’s infamous “Dolittle” flop as his most important titles.

“I finished the Marvel contract and then hastily went into what had all the promise of being another big, fun, well-executed potential franchise in ‘Dolittle,’” Downey Jr. said. “I had some reservations. Me and my team seemed a little too excited about the deal and not quite excited enough about the merits of the execution. But at that point I was bulletproof. I was the guru of all genre movies. Honestly, the two most important films I’ve done in the last 25 years are ‘The Shaggy Dog,’ because that was the film that got Disney saying they would insure me. Then the second most important film was ‘Dolittle,’ because ‘Dolittle’ was a two-and-a-half-year wound of squandered opportunity.”

“The Shaggy Dog” stars Tim Allen as a district attorney who transforms into a Bearded Collie after getting bitten by a sacred dog. Downey Jr. plays the villainous doctor behind the transformation. The film is hardly memorable, but for Downey Jr. it marked the moment when a major studio like Disney would hire him after his career was still on the outs following an arrest in April 1996 for possession of heroin, cocaine and an unloaded gun. It was “The Shaggy Dog” and not “Iron Man” that first brought Downey Jr. back into the Hollywood studio fold.

As for “Dolittle,” the $175 million family tentpole bombed at the box office in January 2020 and earned some of the worst reviews of Downey Jr.’s career. He produced the film with his wife, Susan Downey, under their Team Downey Productions banner. Despite being a critical and commercial failure, the actor still considers it an important film for shifting his priorities.

“The stress it put on my missus as she rolled her sleeves up to her armpits to make it even serviceable enough to bring to market was shocking,” Downey Jr. recalled of the flop. “After that point — what’s that phrase? Never let a good crisis go to waste? — we had this reset of priorities and made some changes in who our closest business advisers were.”

Amid the “Dolittle” flop, Downey Jr. pivoted to documenting his father, the indie filmmaker Robert Downey Sr., as he was dying. That project became “Sr.,” an acclaimed documentary released on Netflix last year. Downey Jr. referred to “Sr.” as “a piece of content.” Although it was personal to him, “to everyone else it was a piece of content that they could have chosen to click on and watch or not.”

“It’s a way for me to let myself know that just because this may be the most important thing that I ever commit to a data card on a camera, it doesn’t mean it isn’t [expletive] content to everyone else,” Downey Jr. said about using the “content” descriptor.

So what else is “content” in Downey Jr.’s eyes? He cited the 2015 Marvel blockbuster “Avengers: Age of Ultron” as another example. His 2011 mystery sequel “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” however, is “not content.”

Next up for Downey Jr. is a supporting role in Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” opening in theaters July 21 from Universal Pictures. Head over to The New York Times Magazine’s website to read the actor’s latest profile in its entirety.

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