Long before his days playing Iron Man/Tony Stark in the MCU, beloved actor Robert Downey Jr made a few pit stops into the horror genre. First gaining Hollywood prominence in the 1980s, Downey went on to establish himself as one of the most talented actors of his generation. Of course, it’s no secret that issues with substance abuse led to several very rough decades for the actor, as his own demons repeatedly proved detrimental to career advancement.
By 2008 though, Downey had gotten sober and looked to be turning his career and life around. It was still seen as a big risk when the then-fledgling Marvel Studios chose to cast Downey as the face of their planned Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thankfully, as history shows, hiring Downey to play Iron Man in their first film was nothing less than a stroke of genius, and the actor would go on to become a true cornerstone of the MCU, even as more and more heroes joined the cause.
While Downey has never called horror his home for very long, in the years prior to playing Iron Man, he dabbled in the genre a few times. Without further ado, here are the horror roles of Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr’s first brush with the darker side of cinema came in Oliver Stone’s controversial 1994 film Natural Born Killers, written by Quentin Tarantino. While not a straight up horror film, Natural Born Killers centers on a pair of murderous lovers, and features copious killings, many done in very graphic fashion. Downey plays a sleazy tabloid journalist named Wayne Gale. Downey starred in a proper horror with 1999’s In Dreams, directed by Neil Jordan. The actor plays Vivian Thompson, a serial killer who becomes psychically linked to a suburban housewife named Claire Cooper (Annette Bening). It’s up to Claire to stop Vivian before he kills again.
In 2004, Robert Downey Jr. appeared in another unambiguous horror film, Gothika. Halle Berry plays lead character Dr. Miranda Grey, a psychiatrist who finds herself locked inside the asylum where she works, now as a patient and with no memory as to why. Downey plays Dr. Pete Graham, a colleague of Berry’s, and the person who then treats her after her switch to the other side of the medical fence. Downey’s final – to date – brush with horror came in 2007’s Zodiac, directed by David Fincher. Although normally classified as a mystery thriller, the fact that Zodiac centers on the hunt for one of history’s most notorious serial killers makes it of immense interest to many horror fans. Downey plays Paul Avery, a crime reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle.
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