Here’s Why Famed Director Christopher Nolan Was “Afraid” to Meet Robert Downey Jr.


Robert Downey Jr. and Christopher Nolan attend the 2024 Sundance Film Festival Opening Night Gala.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Robert Downey Jr.'s reputation precedes him, apparently.

In a newly released interview with The New York Times—originally recorded In January the day after Oppenheimer received 13 Oscar nominations—famed director Christopher Nolan revealed that he was initially "afraid" to meet the Iron Man actor during casting for Nolan's 2005 film Batman Begins.

"I was also a little afraid of you, you know," Nolan told Downey in the joint interview. "I had heard all kinds of stories about how you were crazy. It was only a few years after the last of those stories that had come out about you."

Fifteen years before Downey made his epic Hollywood comeback with Iron Man in 2013, the actor was "sleeping on his assistant's sofa, addicted to heroin, cocaine and alcohol, and with only the first of several prison and rehab spells behind him," The Guardian reported at the time.

He went on to become one of the highest paid and most beloved actors in Hollywood... and armed with more than a few stories to tell.

Christopher Nolan and Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. and Christopher Nolan attend the 2024 Sundance Film Festival Opening Night Gala.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Recently, Downey made headlines after revealing he wanted to play the Batman villain Scarecrow in Nolan's 2005 film.

As Entertainment Weekly reported, Downey said he could tell he wasn't really in the running for the part.

 “I remember meeting for tea, and I was like, ‘He doesn’t seem like he’s really leaning in on this interview,’” Downey said. “And he was polite and all that, but I mean, you know, you can tell when someone is kind of like, ‘It’s not gonna go your way.'"

In The New York Times interview, Nolan confirmed that he already had a person in mind for the role when he met Downey for the very first time.

"I 100% knew you weren’t the guy. In my head that was already cast, but I always wanted to meet you," Nolan said. "I was a huge admirer of yours and therefore selfishly just wanted to take the meeting."

Robert Downey Jr. and Christopher Nolan attend the 2024 Sundance Film Festival Opening Night Gala.

Christopher Nolan and Robert Downey Jr.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

For what it's worth, Downey described that initial meeting—despite Nolan's anxiety—as "one of those thoughtful yet gratuitous meetings."

Downey plays Lewis Strauss in Nolan's hit movie Oppenheimer, and received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the upcoming Oscars.

Nolan's Oppenheimer received an incredible 13 Oscar nominations, including nominations for Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Turns out, overcoming your fears pays off... 13 times over.

Danielle Campoamor
Weekend Editor

Danielle Campoamor is Marie Claire's weekend editor covering all things news, celebrity, politics, culture, live events, and more. In addition, she is an award-winning freelance writer and former NBC journalist with over a decade of digital media experience covering mental health, reproductive justice, abortion access, maternal mortality, gun violence, climate change, politics, celebrity news, culture, online trends, wellness, gender-based violence and other feminist issues. You can find her work in The New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, New York Magazine, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, TODAY, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, InStyle, Playboy, Teen Vogue, Glamour, The Daily Beast, Mother Jones, Prism, Newsweek, Slate, HuffPost and more. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their two feral sons. When she is not writing, editing or doom scrolling she enjoys reading, cooking, debating current events and politics, traveling to Seattle to see her dear friends and losing Pokémon battles against her ruthless offspring. You can find her on X, Instagram, Threads, Facebook and all the places.