Robert Downey, Jr.: Julian Wells vs. Charlie Chaplin

Robert Downey, Jr.

One actor. Two film roles. You tell us which portrayal was the best. The most memorable. Or iconic. Or simply your favorite.
But before you pass judgment, a few words defending the “character” of each…

The case for Charlie Chaplin

Not terribly difficult to defend this portrayal of the genius of the silent screen. Despite his drug problems Downey was still able to put in long hours and “a lot of blood, sweat and tears” getting the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies of Chaplin just right. It paid off in an Oscar nomination for Best Actor (losing out to Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman). Chaplin is arguably Downey’s finest all-around performance to date.

The case for Julian Wells

Downey’s Chaplin was technically proficient and certainly worth all the accolades. But when thinking about Downey’s acting work pre-sobriety, the image that sticks with many is that of Julian Wells. Even Downey has admitted that his part in Less Than Zero was too close to the bone, remarking that “the role was like the Ghost of Christmas Future.” It’s a case of life imitating art. And because of that the Downey/Julian amalgam remains indelibly intertwined in many peoples’ minds.


Now that you’ve heard the arguments for both it’s time to render your verdict!