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Tiring of Retiring Stars?

Hmm… A little part of me is so surprised that everybody is taking this whole ‘retirement’ thing with Robert Downey Jnr. so seriously. Yes, he talked about quitting while he’s ahead – an act that many former stars would have done well to consider – and seems to long for a bit of quite time:

I’ve never had it this good — this is my day in the sun — and I certainly don’t want to look a gift horse in the molars. But [my wife] Susan and I want to begin to be in our lives as much as we are in our jobs. I’d love just to sit here and say, ‘What movie’s playing tonight?’ I’d love to finish the new book about D-day I’m reading. I love painting, I love music.

I’m far too cynical to be driven to a state of panic about the loss of one of the finest talents to re-emerge over the past two or three years. Experience has taught us that there’s quite a distance between ‘retiring’ and ‘retired’ in Hollywood.

No need to feel down about Downey...

Downey wouldn’t be the first Hollywood celebrity to claim that he was stepping down. Not even this year. Remember the whole furore around Viggo Mortensen’s proposed retirement (ignoring the fact that most of us were more concerned with whether he’d appear in The Hobbit rather than mourning the passing of a serious dramatic talent) – only swiftly followed by a ‘clarification’.

And that was just two months ago. Before that we’ve had the retirement of Luc Besson – oh, wait, no. And Angelina Jolie never seems to shut up about quitting acting to look after her kids, while touring for one of several movies with her face on the posters each year. And even Sean Connery – so committed to the act of retiring that he didn’t come back for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skullhas even emerged from his tranquil requirement recently.

It seems that being retired in Hollywood is like being dead in comic books. As long as people still want to see you, you aren’t going to stay that way.

I’m not so cynical as to suggest that if you put a big enough pile of money at the door of a retiree that they will immediately leap back into acton. Part of me just thinks that life must be so… boring after being a celebrity. I mean, you can’t really get a small eight-hour-a-week job anywhere to keep you busy, you don’t have to worry about money, you’re essentially static and secure for the rest of your life. Going to that from a jet-setting life of premieres and stunt doubles and CGI and imagination must take some getting used to (not that I’m suggesting showbiz is an entirely glamourous career, but I think we all nostalgise our pasts). Maybe the call of Hollywood and acting is too strong to refuse.

Part of me thinks that part of the issue is how we interpret quotes from celebrities on these affairs. Take the above Viggo Mortensen example. the quote that sparked all this was errily similar to above quote from Downey:

I have no plans to do another movie. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m open to seeing how I feel in a while, but right now I’m not saying yes to anything. My agent is like, ‘Well, if you don’t do anything, people will forget about you…’ I just feel like I’ve taken on too much for a while.

He subsequently clarified that he simply had nothing on his plate after The Road, not that he was hanging up whatever it is actors have instead of spurs.

Being honest, Downey’s remarks sound pretty much the same. The guy has been working pretty much non-stop for the past few years – with Sherlock Holmes, Iron Man 2 and The Soloist under his belt in the past fifteen months or so. A young supporting actor would do well to appear in so many films, but Downey himself is now a settled married man. A slow down and  a change of pace might do him well – and I think that’s what the quote suggests. Simply reducing his workload rather than completely giving up acting.

I think this is a storm in a giant teacup. Downey – like any other celebrity – has got at least a few more retirements left in him.

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