After starring in approximately 10,000 Marvel movies, Robert Downey Jr. is finally done playing Tony Stark. While hardcore Marvel fans might be bummed that we won't get to see Iron Man fly around in a variety of absurdly intricate suits anymore, now that the character is dead and gone, Downey Jr. can get back to what he does best: taking on serious roles that showcase just how good of an actor he really is. It's an opportunity that Downey Jr. is psyched about, as he told director and photographer Sam Jones in a recent episode of the Off Camera Show.
"I had an incredible ten-year run that was creatively satisfying," Downey Jr. said. "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?”
Over the decade he spent playing Tony Stark, Downey Jr. said he developed a "dependency" on the role—but now, he's in a place where he's ready to move on.
"Occasionally, you would pull back from it and go, 'Let me stop, let me get off the teat of this archetype and let me see where I stand.' And you can feel really buffeted, and you can get really spun out by it," he said. "I’m not what I did with that studio. I’m not that period of time that I spent playing this character."
It's as if the world has forgotten who Robert Downey Jr. was before Iron Man. But he churned out a whole roster of hard-hitting, knock-your-socks-off performances long before he was Tony Stark.
His turn as a drug-addled, self-sabotaging screwup in Less Than Zero was devastating, an unbelievably powerful portrait of what addiction does to a person. He was stellar in Chaplin, in which he somehow managed to play the legendary comedian at every stage of his life in a way that didn't feel goofy or contrived—a performance so good it earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. He's a killer supporting actor, too: He was unforgettable as a hard-drinking, chain-smoking newspaper editor in Zodiac. He made the objectively terrible Terry Crabtree in Wonder Boys likable, turning what could've been a one-dimensional character into a multilayered, dynamic one. And he was phenomenal in Short Cuts: His manic, terrifying portrayal of Bill Bush was one of the most memorable performances in a movie with a stacked ensemble cast.
It's high time Downey Jr. gets back to taking on those kinds of meaty, multi-dimensional roles, and reminds us that he can do more than talk trash about Captain America and beat up bad guys. Here's to hoping his career is about to enter a whole new era—one in which he abandons the schtick he's been stuck with for the past ten years, and shows us what put him on the map in the first place.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.