Robert Downey Jr. stepped out of the elevator and took a deep breath. His interview with The Toronto Sun had gone according to plan, and the man who called him every Thursday at exactly 11:30 had been pleased. But this was different. This was Variety. These were Hollywood people, and they wouldn’t be as suggestible as some reporter for some provincial Canadian rag.

Except they were. Robert Downey Jr. strode into the press conference, feeling a surge of energy as the gigantic man in the black polo shirt waved him through the door and onto the stage. He sat in the director’s chair that had been reserved for him, his The Judge costar Robert Duvall a comforting presence by his side.

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And when the question came, as he knew it would, he handled it beautifully. “There isn’t one in the pipe,” he said, the reporter’s wide, overeager smile hopelessly crude next to his own roguish grin. “No, there’s no plan for a fourth Iron Man.” Would he let someone else take the part?, they asked, each outstretched arm offering a digital recorder like a freshly diapered baby for him to kiss. Robert Downey Jr. sat up straight in his seat, took a sip of bottled water, and said, “I like that the idea is that it would be up to me, like I’m casting director for Marvel.” With the calm precision of a master in the art of showbiz banter, Duvall chimed in: “Don’t give it to anybody else.”

The reporters laughed, as they always did. They would never not laugh, or cry, or do whatever Robert Downey Jr. told them to do. He let this thought flow freely through his consciousness before snapping back into the present. The reporter was asking about The Judge. Would he work with Duvall again? Robert Downey Jr. saw his chance. “Maybe it’ll be a trilogy, like that other series he was in,” he said. “I heard two of those were good.”

The laughter grew into a roar. Robert Downey Jr. had done well.

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