Robert Downey Jr. Was Nominated for His Role in ‘Tropic Thunder’, but Did He Win?

While Robert Downey Jr.’s character in ‘Tropic Thunder’ is an Academy Award-winning actor, has Robert Downey Jr. himself won any awards?

Katie Garrity - Author

Apr. 30 2020, Updated 10:29 p.m. ET

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Robert Downey Jr. is best known for his roles in films like The Avengers, Iron Man, and Sherlock Holmes. He is one of the highest-paid and highly-regarded actors in Hollywood not just for his charisma but for his acting talents and range of performances. While many fans wield him as one of the best actors of our time, many are critical of some of the roles Robert Downey Jr. has taken on — mainly his controversial role in Tropic Thunder. 

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In the 2008 comedy, Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey Jr. plays Kirk Lazarus. Kirk Lazarus is an Australian method actor and five-time Academy Award winner who also had a controversial "pigmentation alteration" surgery to darken his skin for his portrayal of the black character, Staff Sergeant Lincoln Osiris. While Robert’s character is an Academy Award winner, is Robert himself?

Robert Downey Jr. was nominated for an Oscar for ‘Tropic Thunder.’

In 2008, Robert Downey Jr. was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for playing the role of Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder. While many found his role to be controversial because Robert is in, what is seen today as, modern-day blackface, one blogger for CinemaBlend had another perspective. He believes that Robert was very deserving of the Oscar nomination.

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He wrote, “Downey’s performance is shockingly complex, especially for a parody comedy. But there’s no parody in his performance. He commits as fully to his duality as the fictional character he’s playing commits to the fictional character he’s playing on top of that….Downey immerses himself in the part, so much so that even when Kirk Lazarus takes off his mask to reveal his true self, there’s still no sign of RDJ anywhere in the character.”

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While Robert was up for the nomination, he did not win the Oscar. That year, the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor went to Heath Ledger posthumously. 

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He was also nominated for many other awards for ‘Tropic Thunder’.

The year Tropic Thunder came out, Robert Downey Jr. was nominated for not just an Oscar. He was also nominated for a BAFTA for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, a Critics Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actor, a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role. 

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He was also nominated for a Satellite Award and a Teen Choice Award for his role in Tropic Thunder. That is seven total nominations for one role. 

Robert Downey Jr. has recently defended his role as Kirk Lazarus.

Blackface has an ugly history in America and is cause for “cancellation” today. If a celebrity (or anyone) is spotted doing such, they are typically raked over the coals in the media. Having Robert Downey Jr. don blackface, even for satirical purposes in Tropic Thunder, became a topic of conversation at the time, and has recently been brought back into the news. 

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Robert recently went on the record to defend his portrayal in the film. According to IndieWire, Robert said, “I [got] to hold up to nature the insane self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they’re allowed to do on occasion, just my opinion,” he said. “And 90 percent of my black friends were like, ‘Dude, that was great.’ I can’t disagree with [the other 10 percent], but I know where my heart lies…In my defense, Tropic Thunder is about how wrong [blackface] is, so I take exception.”

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