“After lunch we lounge for an hour or two in his wife’s office. There’s a lot of this kind of art in the house. Among the many pieces in just this room, there’s a Giacometti drawing behind me and a Banksy in the middle of the wall to my left. And the Miró. “Honey likes Mirós,” he says. “She’s crazy about them. We’ve got a bunch of them. We don’t have a collection, per se. There’s smatterings.” (There is a slight marital divergence on this issue, of the kind you can indulge when you’ve had a chain of recent hits like Downey’s: “I like Picasso—she likes Miró.”) Also on the wall here, just by the Miró, is a photographic triptych of the Downeys’ 1-year-old son documenting the first time Exton ate spinach, with fairly calamitous results.”
“We have eccentric people on my side of the family,” Susan protests. “We just don’t have any…” She pauses there.
“…Aberrant behaviors?” suggests Downey. “Yes,” she says.
“Thank you,” says Downey.
“Those were the words I was dodging,” she says. As they leave, he kisses his wife, then his son, and then his son one more time on the flesh of his back. I ask him whether it seems surreal to him—his life now compared with fifteen years ago. Or is surreal the wrong word?
“No, it’s not the wrong word,” he says, and mentions that when he was out walking Exton in his stroller around the neighborhood this morning, he was remembering how he used to do the same when his first son was young. “Life,” he says, “is just so painful and messy and hard and worth it and all that stuff.”
“Before the recent upturn in his career, Downey says that he was not a wealthy man. “The missus has always been able to pull in some ducats here and there,” he says. “I was definitely leaning on her for a while. And happily so, I might add. I would make a great deadbeat husband—I would have no problem with that whatsoever.”
I ask Downey what was the key thing that finally enabled him to move away from where he was and how he used to be. He suggests that any answer he gives today might be different from an answer yesterday or tomorrow. “What would I say?” he considers. “I fell in love?” He offers this in a way that seems to say: That’s certainly true, but if you imagine that any one answer can fill the gap that follows a question like that, then you don’t really have a clue what it is that you’re asking about.
“I’m falling back into this unknown place,” he says, “away from all these kinds of easy wins.” His wife was already a successful movie producer when he met her. “I’m kind of saying, ‘Honey, what do you think we should do?’ That is the great luxury that that Avengers payday affords us.” Their husband-and-wife production company is called Team Downey. “I like working with her. I’d rather just do stuff with her.”