Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Will Downey Jr. do a Dunleavy on Steve Lopez?

Actor Robert Downey Jr. is getting another shot at getting it right when it comes to playing a prominent real-life working journalist as he takes on Tabloid Baby pal and LA Times columnist Steve Lopez in a movie based on Lopez’ new book, The Soloist. In fact, Patrick Goldstein writes in today’s Times that the portrayal is totally true-to-life— well, except for a few minor alterations, like that fact that in real life, Lopez “wears a baseball cap and jeans, with a reporter's notebook in his pocket,” while “in the scene I watched, Downey wore corduroys, an English trilby hat, and when he did an interview, he whipped out a Dictaphone.”

And blame the screenwriter for this:

“While happily married with a young child in real life, (Lopez) is portrayed in the film as a divorced loner -- with an ex-wife as his editor.”

Downey Jr. has played more than one real-life journo, but he’s best known for his portrayal of Wayne Gale (described in Tabloid Baby as a “slimy, soulless, grandstanding and ultimately demonic scumbag”) in Oliver Stone’s 1994 epic, Natural Born Killers, who according to Downey Jr. and Stone during the publicity tour, was based on legendary tabloid journalist Steve Dunleavy.

We turn to page 358:

“Indeed, a year or so earlier, Downey Jr. did follow Dunleavy on his daily rounds, sat in on production meetings, watched him interview heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe, and joined him at bars. “’He’s a rather tiny, obsequious man who spent three days with me drinking my beer,’ Dunleavy recalled when asked to comment on the actor. ‘Never asked me one question. Anyone who doesn’t ask a question of a supposed subject is either arrogant or stupid. You pick which one.’”

This time around, Downey Jr. seems to have employed the same quickfire tactic:

“Downey and Lopez also went out for dinner one night, ending up ‘blowing cigars,’ as Downey put it, at a Beverly Hills cigar club. Later, in rehearsals, Downey felt he needed to slip further into character. ‘He came in one day and said, “I need a piece of Lopez. I want his nose!”’ " recalls Foster. ‘So Steve graciously allowed us to get a prosthetic mold of his nose.’ “Eventually, Downey dropped the idea.”

By the way, Downey Jr. and Stone weren't entirely candid when they claimed that Dunleavy was the sole inspiration for the over-the-top Wayne Gale character.

You’ll have to go to page 369 of Tabloid Baby for that answer. And you can find Barry Nolan, who portrays journalists in movies and TV shows, on page 348 and elsewhere.

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