Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Robert Downey Jr is the world’s biggest star

Once a liability, the star of Iron Man now earns more than any other actor.

Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 22:52


Well, maybe he’s not exactly the world’s biggest star. But, according to the latest chart from Forbes magazine, he is Hollywood’s highest earning performer. The money journal reckons that the twitchy character specialist trousered somewhere in the region of $75 million last year. You hardly need to be told the main source of that dough. There is every chance that the biggest films at the world box office for two years running will star the same actor in the same role: Downey Jr as Iron Man, of course. The Hobbit Part II could pass out Iron Man 3, but I think the Marvel film has the advantage.

It’s been quite a ride for Downey Jr. A decade and a half ago, he looked completely out of the picture. After numerous arrests, time spent in rehab and a reputation for serial unreliability, he had become virtually impossible to insure. When he got that Oscar nomination for the (to my mind, ropey) Chaplin it looked as if the world was opening up before him. Something did, indeed, open up, but it ended up being more of a big, dark, bottomless sort of thing.

Well, not quite bottomless. Downey Jr retained the respect of a few very important people. Here we come across an interesting irony. Quite a few pundits date the beginning of Downey’s re-entry to his appearance in the film adaptation of Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective in 2003. It wasn’t a great film. But it was a rigorous, difficult shoot and Downey Jr proved that he was capable of doing the work. How did he get the insurance? His old pal Mel Gibson stumped up. That’s how. This is the same Mel Gibson who — thanks to certain colourful views on the Jewish faith — is now persona non grata across Hollywood. It will be interesting to see if RDJ can manage to pull off the same trick for his old pal. Mind you, it’s probably harder to prove your “off” anti-Semitism than confirm you’re “off” cocaine,

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The full top-earners’ list makes for interesting reading. Have a gawp.

1. Robert Downey Jr., $75 million
2. Channing Tatum, $60 million
3. Hugh Jackman, $55 million
4. Mark Wahlberg, $52 million
5. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, $46 million
6. Leonard Dicaprio, $39 million
7. Adam Sandler, $37 million
8. Tom Cruise $35 million
9. Denzel Washington, $33 million
10. Liam Neeson, $32 million

Anybody, who managed to guess more than five deserves some kind of award. Mind you, many of those on the top ten owe their position as much to business acumen as to sheer pulling power. You will remember that, as we pointed out last week, the recent Gerry Butler Attack the White House flick earned more than the recent Channing Tatum Attack the White House flick. Yet there sits Mr Tatum at number two. Here’s the thing. No fool, Tatum helped finance Magic Mike with Steven Soderbergh and when that interesting movie became a surprise smash he ended up raking it in by the barrowload. Mark Wahlberg is also a producer. Adam Sandler (as you know) made a pact with Satan some years ago. And so forth.

You have power now, Mr Downey Jr. Use it for good. Help one of our better young directors to get something made. Encourage innovations. You, more than anybody, know that fortunes change quickly in Hollywood.