10/14/2014 10:27 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Director David Dobkin Talks The Judge and Working With Robert Downey Jr.

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Answers by David Dobkin, Director/Producer, The Judge

What was the development phase like for The Judge?

I wrote the original short story for the movie back in 2007. It was an 18-page document. I then found Nick Schenk and hired him as a writer. He wrote the first few drafts of the script, until we thought it was ready. Then I brought it to Susan Downey and Robert Downey Jr., and they came on board.

At that point, it was just David Gambino and the three of us. We had a room at Team Downey for two years, working whenever we had a chance and throwing our ideas, stories, and lives on the table, until it started to come together as a movie again.

Once we had an outline we were happy with, we hired Bill Dubuque, and he delivered the screenplay that was green-lit. All in all, it took five years of development, and it's been seven years since it first started.

What personal events influenced [you] when starting work on The Judge?

I lost my mother in 2007, and I had a very complicated relationship with her. When she got ill, I found myself in the position of having to parent my parent. And that personal experience really translated into the short story that I began writing a week after she died.

What is it about parent-child relationships that makes them so complex to put onscreen?

I think they're really sensitive for people. We all have them, obviously. We all came from somewhere. But, finding a new way to tell those stories is really essential. Parent-child relationships are stories that have been told from the beginning of time. The Bible is a father-son story. So is many of Shakespeare's greatest works - Hamlet (though the father has already died) and so on. Even Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men - though they're not literally father and son, George and Lennie are in a father and son relationship.

One of the most relevant and important stories that we pass down from generation to generation revolves around the family in this way. So putting it on screen is always about how to do it for your generation, how to tell that story in a new way. Kramer vs. Kramer had their moment. Ordinary People had their moment. The parent-child dynamic can not be surpassed in any storytelling, even when the story is not about that.

What is it like to work with Robert Downey Jr?

Absolutely fantastic. He's the most exciting actor I've ever worked with. His ideas are limitless, his enthusiasm is infectious, he loves making movies, and he makes you love the process with him.

It was an honor to work with him on The Judge because it was his most in-depth and dramatic role. He really put himself into the movie. You get to experience more of who Robert Downey Jr. is as a human being in The Judge than any other he has ever made.

David Dobkin's previous films include Clay Pigeons, Shanghai Knights, Wedding Crashers, Fred Claus, and The Change-Up.

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