Robert Downey Jr. talks about his dramatic role in The Judge and how it’s unlike any role he’s played since he started out as an actor.


Robert Downey Jr. is no stranger to great roles. His career rose to an all-time high when he landed the role of Iron Man, which made him an international star. Now, Downey Jr. is expanding into new dramatic territory with his new movie, The Judge.

In the movie, Downey Jr. plays slick Chicago defence attorney Hank Palmer who, after returning to his Indiana hometown to bury his mother, a greater upheaval is presented. Hank’s father, Judge Joseph Palmer (Robert Duvall), stands accused of murder, alleged to have run down a former defendant whom he failed to convict, and who later commits a heinous crime.

Despite their bitterly dysfunctional relationship, Hank agrees to take his father’s case. But he is up against a formidable opponent in Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton), the local prosecutor who knows how to use Judge Palmer’s reputation against him. The ensuing trial is an electrifying display of lawyerly ingenuity and familial tension.

“One of the nice things about playing Hank is that I get to explore that part of me—of everybody—that just wants to jump out of their seat and run,” Downey says about his character. “He’s just looking for a trapdoor to fall through and wind up anywhere else but where he is.He is in his life mentally and physically, but not emotionally; he’s in complete flight from the ramifications of the way he’s behaved emotionally. He is also very accustomed to winning, and a lot of his identity is tied up in that, in his profession, but that doesn’t matter to anyone else. And of course the fact that his father is a judge and Hank’s a big time defense attorney says a lot about him.”

For Downey, unlike his superhero role as Iron Man, this was a part that made him dig deep as an actor, bringing back what he describes “the traditional actor” side of  him. “This was an opportunity for me to return to the classic acting of my roots, to see if I could still hit that place of deep emotional resonance like you do in the theater,” Downey says. “Hank is under tremendous pressure, and he just keeps being handed more and more weight and becomes less and less confident, which is not a place he’s used to being, not a feeling he likes at all. When he is certain he’s right, no one will listen; when he’s not so sure, everyone is looking to him for answers. Every day he has to jump through some sort of flaming hoop. I’d never really played a part that had so much to do with salvation and redemption, and that was one of the greatest challenges and joys of playing Hank.”


The Judge opens October 9.





—Toni-Marie Ippolito

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