Today: June 22, 2024

Robert Downey Jr. Talks The Judge

In The Judge, Robert Downey Jr. stars as big city lawyer Hank Palmer, who returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. FilmJuice caught up with the Iron Man to find out about what it takes to make a hard-hitting court drama…

Tell us a little about the challenges of making a film, like The Judge, where you are working with people you have known for a long time…
I can overcomplicate things. It’s exhausting, but there’s an efficiency with which Bobby [Robert Duvall] gets to these extremely difficult places. He doesn’t make it look easy or use tricks. And that’s something that I hope to take with me as I move forward.

There’s a real emotional complexity to Hank Palmer… Do you think that lawyers have a bit of the actor in them?
Bobby was telling me about some lawyers he knows. They’re either showmen or really dynamic, powerful women who command respect wherever they go. But they also know how important the jury is. But when we were developing this, I just kept thinking about the story.

We’ve got the conflict of Dax’s character, who the Judge wants to represent him rather than Hank. We’ve got Sam [Varma Farmiga]… who was his first love, and who’s still his conscience. She represents the heart of the movie. She has to be able to read his beads. And there also has to be a struggle, and a kind of funny, heartbreaking twist. Our director, David Dobkin, always said that the Judge has to be a mountain that Hank can’t and doesn’t want to climb. Hank’s whole journey has to do with the people that he has to contend with, who help and challenge him. But if he doesn’t climb this mountain his soul is at stake. Bobby Duvall is a mountain and his character, Joseph Palmer, is also a mountain.

In a super hero movie, you’re only as good as your bad guy. I thought: who’s a person I’d really not want to go up against, if he was prosecuting a case? That’s Billy Bob. If there’s someone in the film who’s really taking the emotional hits for all the conflict, then we have to find a gifted actor that can do next to nothing and communicate everything that’s unsaid in the film. That’s Jeremy Strong.

Would you describe The Judge as a father/son movie or a courtroom drama?
The Judge is a courtroom drama, and it’s a father/son story. The audience, to me, is a part of the cast. When the studio was reading the script, people kept called us and saying ‘We think this is really special. We want to make it.’ As we’ve been having these screenings, people are saying, ‘’Look, I know this movie is called The Judge, but that’s my mom or my older brother.’ The dialogue that’s been going on with people who have seen the movie is the biggest reward.

How do you ‘keep it real’?
You never want to be part of movie that’s really maudlin, graphic, or indulgent and cheesy. If you look at the central scenes in The Judge, whether it’s with the brothers or Dwight or Sam, or Hank and C.P., they start with incontinence and end with a knock-knock joke. We wanted it to be entertaining, but we don’t want it to try to switch gears too often. We want the movie to mirror how life is.

You’ve made Iron Man a household name. Did this character study feel like a departure?
I feel like no matter what I do it’s a character study. It’s just that sometimes I’m working with robots!




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