That Time Robert Downey Jr. Chose ‘A Porn-Looking Mustache’ For Sherlock Holmes, And His Wife Had To Be The Bearer Of Bad News

 Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes .
Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes .

Robert Downey Jr. is a world famous movie star, known for his charisma and top-notch acting chops. His role as Iron Man in the Marvel films made him one of the biggest names in Hollywood, and his most recent film role in Oppenheimer made him an Oscar winner. However, he didn’t do it alone, and has had a notable person in his corner throughout the latter half of his career. Susan Downey, his wife is a rockstar movie producer behind many of RDJ's best films like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Sherlock Holmes. The line between producer and wife is a thin one and, apparently, Susan Downey had to be the bearer of bad news provide an assist when her hubby wanted to sport a "porn-looking mustache" in his Holmes flick.

The producer recently spoke with Harper’s Bazaar, during which she opened up about producing the new A24 series, The Sympathizer, which also stars her husband. The Hollywood creative also discussed what it’s like having both a working relationship and personal relationship with Robert Downey Jr., and if there are any lines between the roles in her life. She revealed that after balancing the dynamic for so long, it’s not something the couple even thinks about anymore. However, she did name one instance on Sherlock Holmes that definitely challenged her position. When talking about her spouse's previously mentioned choice of facial hair, Susan said:

We’ve been doing this together for so long that I don’t know if there’s a wife hat versus a producer hat, but the relationship we have enables me to be very honest with him. I remember way back before we shot the first Sherlock, he had this terrible, porn-looking mustache that he was trying out in anticipation of playing Sherlock. And I was just looking at this thing, thinking, This is horrible. But I didn’t need to say anything right away. We weren’t shooting yet, we weren’t camera testing. So I was just waiting and waiting.

Preventing your husband from having a terrible mustache on the big screen is a wife motivation, but also a producer one. If it was a good move for the character, there isn’t much Mrs. Downey could do but, thankfully, it was a bad move from a producer standpoint as well. Once it became clear that RDJ wouldn’t shave the ‘stache, it was finally time for her to step in:

Finally, when it seemed like he was not quite coming to that conclusion himself, I said, ‘Dude, he’s a master of disguise! You can’t have that mustache. It’s not going to work. Just let [co-star Jude Law] have the mustache!’ And his reaction was: ‘Oh, that’s a really good point.’ So sometimes you have to let things kind of work themselves out.

This sounds like a win-win situation for the producer. Not only did she prevent her lead actor from having a meaningless and illogical mustache as Sherlock Holmes, she also didn’t have to live with it anymore as his wife. Her argument was incredibly sound, and it wouldn’t have made sense if both RDJ and Jude Law had mustaches for the character. Plus, the more scruffy Sherlock definitely makes more sense for Downey Jr.’s interpretation of the character in my humble opinion.

If Susan Downey had such an influence on the look of Sherlock Holmes, I wonder how she advised his look for The Sympathizer. RDJ is unrecognizable in the various roles he plays on the show. The actor’s eyes were made a piercing blue, and his hairline was completely shaved back and dyed blonde for one of his alter egos, for example.. While that pornstache attempt was clearly unsavory for his producer wife, I’m sure this new look wasn’t much better, as it's such a departure from Downey Jr.’s dark features and famously pristine hair line. However, this time it made sense for thematically, so Susan Downey’s producer role had to take priority over her preferred RDJ look. All in all, you love to see this kind of honest creative collaboration amongst spouses.

You can see Robert Downey Jr. in the Susan Downey-produced series, The Sympathizer, which is currently streaming for Max subscribers. You can also revisit the 2024 Oscar winner’s mustache-less performance in Sherlock Holmes, which is now available to rent on Amazon.