Danny McBride Accidentally Heard Robert Downey Jr. Going to Pee While in Character on ‘Tropic Thunder’ Set: ‘He Was Talking to Himself’

TROPIC THUNDER, Robert Downey Jr., 2008, © DreamWorks/courtesy Everett Collection

Robert Downey Jr. played a Method actor in Ben Stiller’s comedy “Tropic Thunder” and things got meta on set. In a new GQ video interview, Downey’s co-star Danny McBride remembered accidentally hearing Downey going Method himself and staying in character as he went to take a bathroom break in between takes.

McBride played an explosives expert in the film and was given an earpiece to communicate with the set as his character was perched in a watchtower above the production. It turns out the earpiece was connected to the microphones of several of the cast and crew down below.

“I guess during one of the takes, they had left Downey’s mic on, and so I’m sitting up there, and I’m like, ‘Oh shit, I can hear what he’s saying,’” McBride said. “He was talking to people, and he was in character the whole time. And then I even watched him walk back to his trailer and saw it from down there, and he was talking to himself [and saying], ‘I’m gonna go drain the snake.’”

“He made up a song about how he was gonna go piss in character for no one else’s benefit except for his own,” McBride added with a laugh.

Downey starred in the film as an egotistical Australian thespian who takes Method acting to an extreme by undergoing “pigmentation alteration” surgery to darken his skin in order to play a Black solider in a war movie. Some have come down on Downey Jr. in recent years for doing Blackface in the film, but the actor has never agreed with the backlash.

“There used to be an understanding with an audience, and I’m not saying that the audience is no longer understanding — I’m saying that things have gotten very muddied,” Downey said on Rob Lowe’s “Literally!” podcast earlier this year. “The spirit that [Ben] Stiller directed and cast and shot ‘Tropic Thunder’ in was, essentially, as a railing against all of these tropes that are not right and [that] had been perpetuated for too long.”

During a 2020 episode of “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, Downey said that while he also had a bad feeling about “Tropic Thunder” and the potential backlash it could generate, he still thought to himself: “I get to hold up to nature the insane self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they’re allowed to do on occasion.”

“[Ben Stiller] knew exactly what the vision for this was, he executed it, it was impossible to not have it be an offensive nightmare of a movie,” Downey Jr. added. “And 90% of my Black friends were like, ‘Dude, that was great.’ I can’t disagree with [the other 10%], but I know where my heart lies. I think that it’s never an excuse to do something that’s out of place and out of its time, but to me it blasted the cap on [the issue]. I think having a moral psychology is job one. Sometimes, you just gotta go, ‘Yeah I effed up.’ In my defense, ‘Tropic Thunder’ is about how wrong [Blackface] is, so I take exception.”

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