With 'Iron Man 3' on the way we take stock of his best work
9. "Wonder Boys"
The year: 2000
The role: Neurotic, sexually fluid literary editor Terry Crabtree
The reason it’s on the list: Unusually for a Hollywood actor of his stature, the characters Downey has played over the years occupy all areas of the sexuality spectrum – though admittedly, his charmingly scatty performance as Michael Douglas’s rakish, randy editor in Curtis Hanson’s melancholy academic comedy pretty much covers the spectrum on its own. The character lends itself to arch caricature, and many actors might have entertainingly gone that route, but Downey instead plays Terry as affably bemused by his own excesses and eccentricities: his arrival in town with a transvestite in tow is funny not for crass reasons, but because Downey’s comic performance maintains a fine line between nonchalance and genuine cluelessness.
- Guy Lodge