Pressing the limits to which Robert Downey Jr.’s affable charms can be strained has earned billions for Marvel so far, but today it’s earned Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy some viral infamy (which is worth far more in Internet dollars). Downey’s unflappable object met with Guru-Murthy’s unpersuadable force of wanting to ask questions about Downey’s past during an Avengers press junket, leading to several minutes of tension, before Downey finally walked out while calling his interviewer “kind of a schmuck.” The full video is below for anyone who enjoys awkwardness, which really begins around 4:00.
The trouble began when Guru-Murthy abruptly tried to steer the conversation from playing Iron Man to Downey’s political leanings—specifically his comments on how jail had changed him from being liberal, which Downey once claimed in a 2008 New York Times interview. Downey, his smile and eyebrows visibly straining to remain roguish, declined to comment on some “half-assed” thing he’d said so long ago, demurring, “I couldn’t even really tell you what a ‘liberal’ is.”
“Are we promoting a movie?” Downey also asked, a question that would have seemed rather existential in any other circumstance.
But Guru-Murthy pressed on, insisting he’d like to talk a little more about Downey’s personal life. Downey shrugged that Guru-Murthy would have “as much time as anyone else will” (though his glances off-screen at some publicist about to have a terrible afternoon suggested otherwise), before glaring at Guru-Murthy and noting, “Your foot is starting to jump a little bit. You better get to your next question.”
Going all in, Guru-Murthy’s next question was a long wind-up vaguely regarding Downey’s relationship with his father and his history with drugs and alcohol, and whether he thought he was “free of all that.” It’s the sort of tough soul-searching Downey has been asked to do many times, not least by himself, but usually not halfway through a fumbling interview about a superhero movie.
“Bye!” Downey replied, telling Guru-Murthy it was “getting a little Diane Sawyer” on his way out. There was then this shot of the cameraman, his face that of a million viewers all merged into one.
Guru-Murthy has actually developed quite the reputation for turning up at showbiz promo junkets determined to ask these sorts of antagonistic questions on years-old issues within his small, allotted time frame—like when he similarly pressed Quentin Tarantino on whether movie violence inspires real-life violence, an interview that had dramatically similar results. “We’re a news program, not a film program, we explore serious themes,” Guru-Murthy told Tarantino at the time, to which Tarantino retorted, “You can’t make me dance to your tune. I’m not your monkey.” But as we’ve seen, Guru-Murthy is determined to go on grinding.