That final snap in Avengers: Endgame sent a hundred million Marvel Studios fans or so reeling, but no one is feeling that loss quite like Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau, who helped launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man. Favreau went on to direct Downey Jr. in Iron Man 2, and they’ve appeared together in multiple MCU films. But their collaboration extends beyond the MCU, including the 2014 indie film Chef, which Favreau wrote, directed, produced, and starred in opposite Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, and Downey Jr., the latter of whom also co-produced the dramedy.
Their friendship has also transcended studio deals and filming shoots, as Downey Jr. presented Favreau with the Renaissance Award at the 2019 Gene Siskel Film Center Gala in Chicago on June 15. Favreau, who says he “cut his teeth” as a writer and improviser in Chicago, was honored by the Siskel Center for his work as an actor, writer, and cutting-edge director, as well as for supporting the organization’s mission “of celebrating the work of diverse, trailblazing directors, international cultures and classic cinema.”
The statuette was handed over with the requisite solemnity, but the benefit quickly became another showcase for their banter. Downey Jr. interviewed Favreau on stage about his influences—including working with Robert Downey Jr.—and his friend’s latest CGI extravaganza, a remake of The Lion King. But before the night’s festivities kicked off, Favreau and Downey Jr. spoke briefly with The A.V. Club about the future, including what Favreau sees as the next step for his former (sob) onscreen boss.
When we asked the two Renaissance Award recipients (Downey Jr. was honored in 2010) if there were any new collaborations on the horizon, Downey Jr. pointed to The Chef Show, Favreau’s Netflix cooking and travel series. The first episode of the series features a reunion among Favreau, RDJ, Tom Holland, Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, and Kevin Feige at Atlanta’s The Optimist restaurant. When we asked if Favreau had ever offered to personally cook for Downey Jr., the latter jumped in to answer in the affirmative:
Absolutely. As a matter of fact, he came over to my house with a brisket that was amazing. But now he’s up in my head—all briskets are judged by the brisket he brought over, because now he’s culinary icon Jon Favreau. And now it’s a little bit of a hassle eating with him, because he’s gotta glad-hand with all the [culinary world] heavies and stuff. But I just want to digest something. I call it sustenance—for him, it’s a calling.
Of his tasty new venture, Favreau says “It’s a bit of a fun hobby now, and Robert helped me. He helped me get the movie Chef made, which was great on so many levels for me just to be a performer, to direct a film like that that I was so passionate about. He knows good food and he has relationships with chefs. He appreciates good artistry wherever it may be found.”
The Jungle Book helmer also praised Downey Jr.’s leadership offscreen, a quality he hopes the once-but-probably-not-future Iron Man will take in a whole new direction.
I look forward to a lot of stuff, not just with him on screen, but I look forward to him behind the camera, too. We’re not going to talk about that tonight, but I think that’s the step that he hasn’t taken yet in a big way. But he has such great knowledge, and when he’s on a set as an actor he’s not just being an actor. He’s sharing a vision. He’s a collaborator and a storyteller, and at the end of the day as he gets older and a little bit more tired of treading the boards, maybe he would take a shot and help mentor some younger actors throughout. He already does it informally off screen, but to be a director, too, I think it would be wonderful.
Favreau remains a part of the MCU, and will be swinging by Paris with Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Far From Home. When asked who is poised to take over for Downey Jr. as a mentor, Favreau told us the two-time Oscar nominee “is still doing it. He’s there. There’s a whole bunch of people in the Marvel universe that have spent many years working with him and now the team over there at the MCU has a personality, just like a sports team.” Favreau also says he can’t wait to see “what the next generation” brings to the MCU.