Robert Downey Jr. starring in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Harvey’ remake?

Sept. 30, 2009 | 1:52 a.m.

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark

The official announcement may be a week or two away, but the word is that Robert Downey Jr. is poised to go down the rabbit hole in director Steven Spielberg’s  adaptation of “Harvey,” the Pulitzer-winning stage play that reached the screen in 1950 with a beloved performance by Jimmy Stewart.

Tom Hanks and Will Smith had been among the Hollywood stars whose names were bandied about when word spread this summer that Spielberg would be updating the gentle classic about a pleasant but somewhat daft man named Elwood P. Dowd whose best pal is a tall, sentient rabbit that no one else can see.

I know Downey is a Stewart fan — a few months ago when I visited the set of “Iron Man 2” the actor spoke with affection and awe about the late Stewart’s nuanced timing and camera sense — and it will be fascinating to see how he handles a role that Stewart sometimes called the most challenging of his career. It’s not quite a done deal, Downey is waiting for a new draft of the script, but I’ve heard from several informed sources that it looks strong.

Harvey 1950

The role was a classic one for Stewart, of course, earning him an Oscar nomination. In Downey’s hands the material could tap into an especially bittersweet sort of whimsy (think Peter Sellers and his understated brilliance in “Being There“), but with Spielberg there’s always some risk in a sentimental flight of fancy (“Hook” had four actors who now have Oscars and, well, that sure didn’t help).

Downey isn’t intimidated by Hollywood legend — this is the man who played “Chaplin” and earned an Academy Award nomination with that tightrope task — and, all things considered, it will be hard not to smile at a scene where mental-hospital doctors question his cheery character about his history of hallucinations.

Downey is in Atlanta right now shooting the Todd Phillips comedy “Due Date” (a film, by the way, that just added Jamie Foxx to its cast, reuniting the stars of “The Soloist“) and moviegoers will get a chance to see him in Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” on Christmas Day. For you regular Hero Complex readers, I know “Harvey” is testing the theme-limits of this blog but, well, when the director of “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” makes a movie with “Iron Man,” I think I can bend the rules a bit …

— Geoff Boucher


Robert Downey Jr

“Iron Man 2” takes flight at Comic-Con

Patrick Goldstein: “Harvey” and Hollywood’s remake addiction

Robert Downey Jr., seaching for Sherlock 

Ritchie says “Sherlock” will “reflect the intelligence on the page”

Try to keep up: Downey on Bruce Jenner, Mickey Mouse and MTV

It’s on: Downey drops F-bomb on DC Comics

Marvel looks for its Hollywood happy ending

Hammer time: Chris Hemsworth ready for “Thor” (and “Red Dawn”)

Downey and Favreau on board for the Avengers movie

Photos: Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, credit: Marvel Studios and Paramount. Downey portrait by Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times.


23 Responses to Robert Downey Jr. starring in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Harvey’ remake?

  1. Megan says:

    Harvey is one of our favorite family movies ever! It will be great to see what Downey does with it, he seems to respect the actors and material. Great info, thanks.

  2. Randy Waage says:

    Ah, another remake of a classic movie. Robert was incredible in Chaplin. To me it seems like Tom Hanks might have been a better choice for this role. Will be interesting to see how it goes.

  3. Jon Frederick says:


  4. Ellen says:

    Ok… this is a tough one. I've loved Robert Downey Jr. for years and years. I'm sure he'll do an excellent job. But another fabulous actor popped into my mind… very soft spoken… Edward Norton. His sweetness in "Death to Smoochy" was captivating. He could make a lovely Elwood P. Dowd. :)

  5. annonymous says:

    I think Robert will make a fantastic Elwood Dowd. He has all of the great sensibilities and acting talents needed to be wonderful in the role. To put it mildly he is just a naturally gifted actor. I think the movie will be great. Robert never disappoints! Speilberg has made a wonderful choice, he couldn't have made a better one!

  6. Shane Harris says:

    This man has become one of my favorite actors. I don't think there is any role he couldn't play. And I am really happy about this because I always liked him but had started grieving for his loss. Phoenix imagery associated with Mr. Downey Jr. must be cliche by now.

  7. Thom B. Hill says:

    I think Robert Downey, Jr. is an immensely talented artist. It's just that my preference for the actor to play the role of Elwood P. Dowd would be Tom Hanks. I'm sure that Downey will do a wonderful job and his casting will not stop me from seeing the motion picture.

  8. Sheldon says:

    While Robert Downey Jr. would probably be very good as Elwood P. Dowd, I hope Tom Hanks will consider taking the role – but I think the perfect man for the job is a maker of odd movies who has been described as "Jimmy Stewart from Mars," David Lynch.
    Mr. Lynch has acting chops and a very James Stewart-ish presence without being merely an impersonator. I think Mr. Spielberg will ask Mr. Lynch to read for the part. I suspect that Dowd might well be the role that entices Mr. Lynch into taking on a major acting role.
    Just sayin'…

  9. garyoke says:

    Elwood P. Dowd has Tom Hanks written all over him.
    Was he not interested?

  10. Joyce Schroder says:

    Very interesting, reading these comments.
    Remember the comments when Iron Man was cast? Well… Downey is alright but so and so would be better. What, Downey??? No way!!
    And just look what he did with Tony Stark/Iron Man!! Nearly $600 mil later… !! hmmmmm..
    Robert Downey Jr is pure genius …. when I see a really good movie with other actors I think to myself… wow, Downey would have been great in that part. So, as Elwood P. Dowd, I'm sure you'll find Downey not trying to copy James Stewart.. that is not his style. Stewart was of course, absolutely wonderful and Harvey is one of my favorite films. Downey will be making Elwood P. Dowd his own … and doing it beautifully. Robert has that very tender, sentimental side…with the imagination to go with it. I am really excited about this … I hope it does finalize. Wow, Downey and Spielberg together …. making beautiful music.

  11. annonymous says:

    Tom Hanks is known as the new Jimmy Stewart of this generation. Even mentioning that to him upsets him. Speilberg and Tom Hanks talked about it but agreed that he was already type cast enough in Stewarts shadow. Hanks didn't really turn it down. They just discused the movie, they are old friends. Tom Hanks hates being refered to Jimmy Stewart that is why he's not doing it. I am not really sure where the Will Smith idea comes from. That doesn't make any sense at all. I am not even sure he was even really offered the part, never heard any proof that he actually was in fact. That might just be another tabloid rumour.

  12. Debbie Brown says:

    Does Steven think he should be in it?

  13. Brown says:

    I don't like the name harvey.

  14. Clint Westwood says:

    Um, this is old news, Variety reported it ages ago.

  15. Andrew says:

    This sounds like Donnie Darko.

  16. Kristopher Stephens says:

    Though I believe Robert Downey Jr. to be an excellent actor who has starred in numerous excellent films such as The Soloist or the comedy Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, and though he is one of my favorite current gen actors, I do not wish him to star in the film because I don't think the film should be made. It was an excellent film, but a film that draws upon its current time, the 1950's. Putting the film in a more contemporary perspective would cause it to lose some of it's shimmer and shine.
    Also, Stewart is the only man I can see actually talking to an 8 foot rabbit.

  17. Rebecca says:

    Robert Downey Jr. seems like a good match for the movie. Tom Hanks seems too old for the part, but make-up and computer effects make that a null point if they want him bad enough. David Lynch is too much like Jimmy Stewart for the part, I think. You don't want a remake of the cast- you want a remake of the movie. I'm pretty happy that Speilberg is the director for this movie, though. It's perfect for his "speilberg endings". :)

  18. Wooloveryereyes says:

    Let's divide the ever-smaller pot among the same ten people! Yayyyyyy! Fools.

  19. George Tommyknucks says:

    It should be Tom Hanks.

  20. Cheryl says:

    I love Robert Downey Jr. Harvey is such a great movie…I am torn. I know this movie scene for scene.. In the movie Jimmy Stewart's Harvey did overpower any of the scenes with Tom Hanks, I think you would see him. He would make Harvey stand out. In Harvey, Harvey allowed the other players to be noticed, his niece and the nurse (Jesse White), the scenes with Veta-Mae..Someone in a prior post suggested Ed Norton…I think that would be a even better idea. Because he could play the scene without having his presence overpower the scenes.

  21. Billy says:

    Awesome story! electric cigarette

  22. hector says:

    Doesn't matter who they get to play this role, it's a crime that Speilberg is doing this at all. Why remake such a classic film? For God's sake, come up with an orginal idea.
    I hate when Hollywood does this.

  23. Kevin Myles says:

    Tom Hanks or Johnny Depp

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