If it wasn’t for his brief yet critically acclaimed Golden Globe winning guest stint on Ally McBeal, there’s every chance Robert Downey Jr. could have faded into total obscurity at the turn of the 21st Century, even if his personal demons ended up getting him fired from the show. After all, despite finally cleaning himself up in the summer of 2003, nobody was willing to take a chance and resuscitate his big screen career.
It was longtime friend Mel Gibson who provided the platform for a comeback, though, after he paid RDJ’s insurance bond so he could play the lead role in that year’s The Singing Detective, and a month later he took second billing behind Halle Berry in psychological horror Gothika. As a precaution, however, producer Joel Silver had it written into the actor’s contract that he wouldn’t get paid the final 40% of his fee until after shooting had wrapped, just in case he suffered a relapse.
The plot follows Berry’s psychiatrist, who wakes up in the mental hospital that she runs with no idea how she got there, only to face accusations of murdering her husband. Things then take a disorientating turn, before the plot completely jumps the shark in the third act. Gothika was widely panned by critics, but it was a decent sized box office hit after raking in $141 million against a $40 million budget.
In retrospect, it may have also been the single most important movie of Robert Downey Jr.‘s career. Not only did he start dating Joel Silver’s assistant, who would go on to become his wife, but he struck up a friendship with the producer that got him cast in Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and his performance in the crime thriller caught the attention of Jon Favreau, convincing the filmmaker that the resurgent star could be an inspired choice to play a certain Tony Stark in his upcoming comic book blockbuster.
As such, if you’ve never seen it before, you might want to check out Gothika when it arrives on Netflix next month, on January 1st.