Posted by: Mark Nielsen | March 23, 2011

My Reunion With Robert Downey, Jr.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. photographed by the Ca...

Actor Robert Downey Jr. photographed by the California Department of Corrections (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dreamed in the twilight this morning that I was at a sort of class reunion dinner. It felt like college. But at the table next to mine – with his chair fairly close to my own –sat Robert Downey, Jr. Yes, he of the radical ups and downs, both personally and career-wise.

(Hint: I didn’t go to college with RDJ. Nor high school. But his high school mercurial meltdown film “Less Than Zero” was on cable this week. I was tempted to watch it, to see how he –and I– have changed since the mid-Eighties, since we’re about the same age. Also, I watched him do a great bit part as a tortured NY theater critic and BoSox fan in the cool, quiet Michael Keaton dramedy “Game 6” two days ago.)

Back to the dream:

Aside from we two men, most of the other people I noticed at our dinner tables were women. Also, I was not wearing a shirt… this being a dream about nakedness and vulnerability. 😉 And about relationships and perception of men by women.

I took a chance, despite not knowing Downey, of striking up a conversation with him. I got right to the heart of the matter, in fact. I said I had followed his career intently, and that I was glad to see him having both career success and personal peace at this point. I told him it seemed fairly apparent that he had become a better performer, and more importantly a better and healthier human being. He was grateful and touched that I had said this. I continued, saying it came across, right through the screen, that he had defeated some demons and was comfortable in his skin. And furthermore he was leading the way for others in some vague way. “Which is the point of it all, right? It’s why we do it.”

I tried to speak of my own journey and process as a person and an artist, but in approaching the subject of my recent marital breakup and professional crossroads, I began to cry. He touched my arm and seemed genuinely concerned. Meanwhile several other shallow people at our two tables were beginning to notice our exchange and get uncomfortable with my brazen display of emotion. He didn’t mind them one bit, though. I tried explaining some things through my increasing tears, but having little success, instead got caught in a sob-cycle and broke down almost completely. Robert was trying to encourage me, but I made quick apologies and fled. Ostensibly I went “upstairs”, though the dinner site itself was more like a large tent, or a ballroom in a campus building, not a hotel.

Upstairs, I put on better clothes and got myself together. I wore socks with sandals, though, so that when I went back out in public, I was still self-conscious about why I had done that. Somewhere back downstairs, now about half an hour since I had bolted, I sat on a bench outside the entrance to the ballroom. I decided to take off the socks after all. Downey came out a few moments later, catching me in the act, with one bare foot. Great. More embarrassment on my part. Nevertheless, catching my eye, he came over and sat beside me.

“How about that guy Mark Nielsen, huh?! How embarrassing was that? People like that should not be allowed out in public,” I said, doing my best Robert Downey, Jr. laugh-it-off, wisecracking impersonation. He laughed with me, understanding immediately that I was “doing him”.

We chatted a few minutes more, but the content of the conversation is faded from my memory now, and the dream ended fuzzily. It’s the mere fact of his re-connecting and parting on an encouraging note that matters, though. I guess not all angels who appear in dreams to give us support are biblical.

Thanks, Robert. I’ll do you a solid in return, if I ever meet you.



  1. Socks and sandals? That’s a trademark look out here in the Pacific Northwest! Great dream…mine rarely make sense.

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