Robert Downey Jr. to Snag First Oscar With Post-MCU Biopic?

Robert Downey Jr. is best known for his career-resurging turn as Iron Man — a character he portrayed in the MCU for over a decade. Kickstarting the Avengers saga, and becoming the “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” overnight, Downey has been intimately tied to his superhero counterpart ever since.

Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. | Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Though Downey deserves recognition for his prowess in the role, and especially for his performance in the last Avengers installment, the closest the actor ever came to an Oscar was outside the MCU. He was nominated twice — once in 1992 for Chaplin, and again in 2009 for his supporting role in Tropic Thunder. 

Though Robert Downey Jr. has been nominated for two Oscars, he may be vying for his win with a soon-to-be-released biopic about a notorious scam doctor. Based on what we know about the film so far, it’s likely to be an Oscar-worthy story with Oscar-worthy performances (as biopics often are).

Robert Downey Jr. will portray the 20th-century scam doctor John Brinkley 

Robert Downey Jr. is set to play John Brinkley in an untitled film centering on the 20th-century con-artist who claimed to be a doctor and scammed his way to fame and fortune on the back of fake treatments and a popular radio broadcast. 

John Brinkley became known as the goat-gland-doctor following claims that he could cure male impotence through the xenotransplantation of goat testicles into humans. After a while, when this got old, he began to argue that the procedure was a cure-all for a variety of male afflictions 

The fraudulent doctor operated clinics in hospitals across America, and despite the fact that his practices were discredited early on, he managed to get away with it for nearly two decades. 

Why playing John Brinkley will earn Robert Downey Jr. his first Oscar

Let’s start with the obvious: biopics are virtually designed to win Oscars. If you take a look at famous biopics — Bohemian Rhapsody, Gandhi, The King’s Speech, The Iron Lady —  one trend quickly emerges: the actor in the leading role snags the most coveted prize in the entertainment industry. From Rami Malek to Meryl Streep, movie newbies and film pros alike have a shot at the Oscar when they take on a real-life person. 

Playing someone who exists requires a certain degree of finesse, as you have to perfectly embody that individual. In a biopic, you do not have the liberty of creating a character; you must portray someone with an already existent persona. Thus, the stakes are higher, and so is your award potential. 

Visionary director Richard Linklater will direct and pen the script (alongside Holly Ghent and Vincent Palmo Jr.); the man behind the Oscar-winning film Boyhood and Dazed and Confused is adulated for his realistic and humanist films; thus, this movie fits within his wheelhouse, and may also present opportunities for a little bit of his observational comedy. 

From the director to the source material, the movie is destined to gain award recognition; all it needs is a competent actor in the lead role. Who better than a two-time Oscar-nominated actor currently at the height of his career?

Iron Man may be Robert Downey Jr’s most famous character, but it will never be the one that shows off his full potential. John Brinkley may provide Downey an opportunity to crawl back into his Chaplin years and choose divergent, non-franchise films moving forward. The Oscar win would also present future film opportunities that otherwise may not have found their way to his desk.