Robert Downey Jr Explains Why Acting In Oppenheimer Was Like 'Picking Fly S**t Out Of Pepper'

The former Marvel star won an Oscar for his performance in Christopher Nolan's latest epic.
Robert Downey Jr at the premiere of Oppenheimer a year ago
Robert Downey Jr at the premiere of Oppenheimer a year ago
Karwai Tang via Getty Images

Following his Oscar win for his performance in Oppenheimer, Robert Downey Jr. has likened acting in the historical drama to “picking fly s**t out of pepper”.

In an Esquire interview published online last week, Robert explained how filming the US miniseries The Sympathizer helped him “unwind” from the rigour of his work on Christopher Nolan’s 2023 movie.

“I knew that playing Strauss, in Oppenheimer, was going to be like picking fly shit out of pepper—that it was going to be extremely exacting, that it was going to be... not confining, but liberating by its varied implicit limitations of what my usual toolbox is,” he said.

In Oppenheimer, Robert portrays Atomic Energy Commission member Lewis Strauss, the nemesis of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Meanwhile, he plays multiple roles in The Sympathizer, which US broadcaster HBO describes as an “espionage thriller and cross-culture satire” based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

In a W Magazine interview published online in January, the former Marvel actor said that playing Strauss was “counterintuitive for me”.

“I know that we’re all mixtures of what our persona is and who we really are. Nolan was inviting me to turn the mirror onto an unexplored portion of myself,” he said.

“And the character, to me, is everybody who has ever felt slighted by somebody who was more important than them. It gave me a lot of time to reflect. I wondered if I’ve come off like that to people in the past. And I wondered if I were them, if I wouldn’t seek to destroy me.”


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