Robert Downey Jr. Learned This Huge Lesson Early On

In this Off Camera clip, Robert Downey Jr. speaks with interviewer Sam Jones about the important lesson he learned from one of his “greatest teachers,” Warren Beatty, early in his career. In the 1987 film The Pick-up Artist, Downey Jr. played womanizer Jack Jericho opposite Molly Ringwald–a role initially written for the infamous playboy Warren Beatty. Although Beatty passed on the part, he helped anonymously produce the film. Beatty challenged the young actor with an exchange that embarrasses Downey Jr. in retrospect. It went something like this:

“What’s Jack Jericho’s action in this scene?”

“Ah…he’s trying to pick up girls…um, he’s comparing girls to paintings.”

“Wrong. You’re so wrong. Don’t you even know what you’re doing in this scene?”

Defensively, Downey Jr. insisted, “I know what I’m doing: I’m trying to drive a car.”

“No. You’re trying to get to work. But you keep getting distracted so your action keeps changing,” Beatty counseled.

“Oh yeah.”

“So your action is to go to work.”

“Yes, it is,” Downey Jr. agreed.

“Right. But what happens?”

“Well, I see a girl I guess.”

“And then what happens?”

“Oh, my action changes.”


Beatty advised that an actor should always know what they’re being paid to do.

Even though Robert was initially convinced he knew what he was doing in the scene, he remained open to accepting words of wisdom from the prolific actor, producer, screenwriter, and director. Being receptive to feedback must have helped pave the way for Downey Jr. to becoming one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors. What’s the best career advice anyone’s given to you along the way?…

Check out the video clip from Off Camera found on Casting Frontier.