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Robert Downey Jr. ended his Marvel run on a high note with Avengers Endgame. Afterwards, the actor was excited to jump into another potential franchise. But it was a mistake he later felt he learned a valuable lesson from.

What Robert Downey Jr. learned from starring in this critically panned film

Robert Downey Jr. posing at the U.K. premiere of 'Oppenheimer' in a suit.
Robert Downey Jr. | Kate Green/Getty Images

When Downey parted ways with the Marvel universe, the actor set out to explore his career in a way he previously couldn’t. He figured the 2020 movie Dolittle would mark a new chapter in his professional life. Similar to Eddie Murphy’s Dr. Dolittle, Downey’s movie would focus on a doctor who could speak to animals. Except Downey’s version would be more faithful to its source material.

In an interview with Extra, he explained he somewhat felt fated to do the movie thanks to all of the signs around him.

“I always go, ‘Why this movie, why now, why bother?’ And then I, honestly, I looked out the windows and these alpacas are looking at me and our goats and our Oreo cows and our pigs, the kunekune pigs … it just felt kind of synchronistic. And also, you know, we don’t like to go too long without an extremely difficult project to do together, whether it’s a movie or a kid,” Downey said.

His wife, film producer Susan Downey, shared that they also did the project because of their family. Although Dolittle was supposed to spawn a franchise, its poor reviews and disappointing box office ruined any chances of that happening. Speaking to The New York Times, Downey shared that Dolittle had plenty of warning signs in hindsight. But the actor shrugged them off.

“I finished the Marvel contract and then hastily went into what had all the promise of being another big, fun, well-executed potential franchise in Dolittle,” he said. “I had some reservations. Me and my team seemed a little too excited about the deal and not quite excited enough about the merits of the execution. But at that point I was bulletproof. I was the guru of all genre movies.”

Robert Downey Jr. considered ‘Dolittle’ one of his most important films

Despite Dolittle’s disappointing performance, Downey believed the movie served its purpose. So much so that he ranked Dolittle as one of his most important projects.

“Honestly, the two most important films I’ve done in the last 25 years are The Shaggy Dog, because that was the film that got Disney saying they would insure me. Then the second most important film was Dolittle, because Dolittle was a two-and-a-half-year wound of squandered opportunity,” he said.

The movie also put just as much, if not even more pressure on Susan Downey. But it also made the actor reassess and pivot his career.

“The stress it put on my missus as she rolled her sleeves up to her armpits to make it even serviceable enough to bring to market was shocking. After that point — what’s that phrase? Never let a good crisis go to waste? — we had this reset of priorities and made some changes in who our closest business advisers were,” Downey said.

Robert Downey Jr. felt it was difficult to shake off his dependency on Marvel movies


Robert Downey Jr.’s Wife, Susan Downey, Had Been Hesitant to Date the ‘Iron Man’ Actor Because of His Job

Downey enjoyed a decade-long run with Marvel and his Iron Man character. So after wrapping up with the franchise, he was excited to dabble in more diverse projects.

“It was very, very, very hard work and I dug very deep, but I have not been forced to explore the new frontier of what is my creative and personal life after this,” he once said in an interview on The Off Camera Show.

But he admitted that, after spending so much time with the superhero series, he’d grown extremely attached to Kevin Feige’s world.

“There’s always dependency on something that feels like a sure thing,” he said. “It’s the closest thing I will ever come to being a trust fund kid.”

Downey had to reflect on what he learned during his days in theater to be able to separate himself completely form his superhero alter-ego.

“First thing you learn in theater arts: Aesthetic distance,” he said. “I am not this play I’m doing… I’m not my work. I’m not what I did with that studio. I’m not that period of time that I spent playing this character. And it sucks because the kid in all of us wants to be like, ‘No! It’s always gonna be summer camp and we’re all holding hands and singing kumbaya. Isn’t it?’ It’s like, ‘no! No, snap out of it.’”