The 46-year-old actor follows in the footsteps of such past honorees as directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg and fellow thesps Al Pacino, Julia Roberts, Michael Douglas and last year’s recipient, Matt Damon.
The award, established in 1986, is meant to honor “an extraordinary artist” in the film biz.
“The pleasure that we receive from his charismatic and nuanced performances is matched only by the respect that he has earned for his personal and professional journey,” said American Cinematheque board chair Rick Nicita in a statement. “While we have been enjoying him for years, it seems that he’s just getting started all over again.”That Downey has experienced a career revival, of sorts, after a very public history of substance abuse appears to have caught the imagination of the Cinematheque’s board of directors.
In 2008, he proved he could fuel a lucrative fanboy franchise as the star of “Iron Man,” which earned more than $585 million worldwide, and morph into an Aussie method actor playing an African American soldier in the Hollywood satire “Tropic Thunder,” for which he earned his second Oscar nom.
Downey’s role in “Sherlock Holmes” represents another franchise juggernaut for the actor, earning $524 million worldwide and spawning the sequel “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” scheduled for release in December.
He’ll reprise his “Iron Man” role as Tony Stark in the upcoming “Avengers,” which includes such other Marvel Comics superheroes as Thor, Captain America and the Incredible Hulk.