Robert Downey Jr. and his portrayal of Tony Stark/ Iron Man kickstarted the MCU. Over the years, we have heard the story of how vigorously the director of Iron Man, Jon Favreau, had to bat for Downey Jr. to take the role. Most Marvel Studios executives were apprehensive about casting the actor due to his drug-riddled past. However, turns out he isn’t the only friend the Marvel actor had in the industry. Braveheart star Mel Gibson also helped the star when he didn’t have anything.
Robert Downey Jr. Thanked Mel Gibson
Robert Downey Jr. and Mel Gibson at the 2011 American Cinematheque Award Ceremony
At the 25th Annual American Cinematheque Award Ceremony in 2011, Mel Gibson presented Robert Downey Jr. with an award. In his speech, Downey Jr. had nothing but kind words to say about Gibson. He thanked the star for giving him a lead role in a film and helping him keep food on his plate. Here’s what the Marvel star said:
“I asked Mel to present this award for me for a reason. When I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope and encouraged me to find my faith. It didn’t have to be his or anyone else’s as long as it was rooted in forgiveness. And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me in the lead of a movie that was actually developed for him. He kept a roof over my head and food on the table.”
Robert Downey Jr.
The Oppenheimer star’s words were moving but that wasn’t the end of the speech. He went on to say that Gibson was the one who encouraged him to assume responsibility for his wrongdoings. The actor said:
“Most importantly he said if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoing and embraced that part of my soul that was ugly — hugging the cactus he calls it — he said that if I hugged the cactus long enough, I’d become a man. I did and it worked. All he asked in return was that someday I help the next guy in some small way. It’s reasonable to assume at the time he didn’t imagine the next guy would be him or that someday was tonight.”
When Downey Jr. gave this speech, Gibson was going through a rough patch in his life. It was a role reversal that surprised many. However, that night while receiving his award, the Iron Man star begged a room full of industry people to forgive Gibson.
Robert Downey Jr. Defended Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson’s past has been riddled with one controversy after another. In 2006, during a Malibu DUI arrest, he went on an anti-Semitic rant. Then in 2010, there were leaked tapes where the veteran Hollywood actor was heard screaming racist remarks at Oksana Grigorieva, his then-girlfriend and one of his nine children’s mother. Later on, Grigorieva alleged that Gibson was physically abusive.
Robert Downey Jr.’s speech at the 2011 American Cinematheque award ceremony restored Gibson to some of his former glory. The Marvel star said:
“In light of the recent holidays including Columbus Day, I would ask that you join me, unless you are completely without sin in which case you picked the wrong f—ing industry, in forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate you have me, allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame. He’s hugged the cactus long enough.”
Gibson has repeatedly apologised for both incidents and chalked it up to manic depression, alcoholism as well as breaking up with Grigorieva. After Downey Jr.’s speech, he was welcomed back to the industry and cast in high-profile films like Machete Kills (2013) and The Expendables 3 (2014). He is currently busy making The Passion of the Christ: Resurrection. As for Downey Jr., he will next appear in Oppenheimer.
Oppenheimer will release on 21 July 2023, while The Passion of the Christ: Resurrection is speculated to be released in 2024.