As any Freudian will tell you, father-and-son relationships are mythically fraught. In Robert Downey, Jr.'s new movie, The Judge, he's a killer New York lawyer with a small-town-judge father (Robert Duvall) to topple, but there's a twist: He has to defend his father in a murder case. The courtroom tension rests in questions of justice, with a silver-maned and chilly Billy Bob Thornton as a determined prosecutor.
At a luncheon at 21 last week, fathers and sons faced off in celebration of this excellent movie, which also features a superb supporting cast: Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio and Jeremy Strong. Not only were the stars present, but so was Downey's renowned filmmaker father, Robert Downey, Sr., and Dan Abrams with his father, legendary First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams.
Director David Dobkin of Wedding Crashers fame spoke about the subtlety of Robert Downey, Jr.'s work. In one scene, a setback in court, his character, Hank Palmer, sits with his hands over his eyes. Dobkin questioned whether or not Downey should remove them to show his wrenched expression, but Downey pulled it back. Perhaps it is that sort of artistic decision making that makes Downey so sought-after and the highest-paid actor in the world, according to some reports. "I don't know about that," said Robert Downey, Jr., allowing that the tabloids do some research: "I was never driven by the financial side of acting. When I was doing regional theater about 30 years ago, if someone would have said to me, 'Robert, we are not kicking you out of the show. We're just not paying you anymore,' I would have said, 'OK, I thought you were going to kick me out of the show.'"
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.