The M Interview: RDJ enjoys beating up the Cap
Robert Downey Jr has carved out his place in Marvel's superhero pantheon, playing Iron Man again in new Captain America movie
He does not have the title role in Captain America: Civil War, nor does he have top billing which goes to Chris Evans.
But Robert Downey Jr certainly has the biggest payday - a reported US$40 million (S$54.1 million) - to don the Iron Man suit for the sixth time (though it's his seventh time playing Tony Stark thanks to a cameo in Incredible Hulk).
Forbes reported that "though Marvel has been accused of penny-pinching when it comes to paying its stars, Downey has leveraged his Iron Man role into a bulletproof position in which the Disney-owned studio must give him a favourable deal on any movie the character appears in".
Especially because Civil War would not have been made without the US actor's participation, since his character has a crucial role in the story.
It's also said that his casting in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) is the second Spidey reboot's insurance policy against franchise fatigue, reported Forbes last week.
Meanwhile, in superhero sequel Civil War, which opens here tomorrow, the Avengers are split into opposing camps, Team Cap and Team Iron Man.
That Steve Rogers/Captain America (Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey Jr) take counter-intuitive sides is interesting.
Cap, the one who's conditioned to taking orders as a military man, wants nothing to do with the Sokovia Accords, the oversight by the government that makes the Avengers answerable for every move.
And Iron Man, the ultimate rebel, agrees to sign the Accords, coming to an understanding that unchecked power is corruptible and boundaries are necessary even when intentions are good.
The rupture of their friendship in this movie is not unforeseen, as these two had clashed before as early as the first Avengers movie in 2012.
Fast forward to 2016. Our Civil War interview is at the London Hotel in West Hollywood, where Downey shows up with his usual jokey persona.
He says he particularly enjoyed the shooting of this complicated instalment, which features Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland) on his team.
"My mindset in playing Tony Stark is always that anything he's doing, he's not surprised about. He thinks he's doing it for a reason, in that he's probably right. So when it came time for the Civil War (fight) sequence, I just loved and geeked out on the idea of Tony being able to say to his team, 'Hey you two, go beat up Captain America.' Who wouldn't want to say that?
"But seriously, it's great action, but I also think the sequence works too because there are moments where you see that the team is definitely at odds and has trepidation with what they're about to do."
It wasn't that long ago that Downey Jr's career was famously floundering after his well-publicised bouts with drugs and alcohol.
"A couple of clicks back I was wondering how I was going to pay my rent or if I'd ever be in a functional relationship," he admits.
Now, he's one of the highest-paid actors in the world - no small feat at 51 - happily married with two young children and a 23-year-old son from a previous marriage.
He credits his producer-wife Susan with the turnaround of his fortunes.
Producer Susan Downey and Downey at the movie's Los Angeles premiere. PHOTO: AFP
"You see her with two kids, on the phone, running our production company, dealing with me, and she seems so graceful and effortless about the whole thing and I just go, 'my God, I lucked out'."
You could say Downey Jr also lucked out professionally with his Iron Man franchise and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is probably why we haven't seen - or maybe don't remember - him in anything other than superhero films lately.
"I've never been much for aggressively trying to plan my career trajectory. Because we have a four-year-old (boy) and an 18-month-old (girl), and because I'm not young any more, it's wound up being the perfect situation for me to stay relevant without having to attach myself.
"That said, when I go on to do a string of US$2 million indies that I have written and directed, I hope you'll be kind to me," he says with a laugh.
"Just don't make me feel like a schmuck for trying something different, please. I won't survive it, I swear to God."
There are a couple more Marvel pictures in his contract, and then he'd like to do a third Sherlock Holmes flick.
"And then I'll just kind of, I don't want to say reinvent myself, but I will start taking on more. I know I want to direct. I also think that the people who wind up really having the best lives, let alone careers, are those who support others in realising the things they want to do. While I still have a little bit of juice or cred, I'd love to do that, you know."
He also jokes about "battling a thousand in the parenting department", where he had to sit his younger boy down recently and teach him that "we don't talk about our nuts when there's a girl in the room".
So how hands-on a father is he to his daughter?
He says: "I changed her diaper today and it was a hot mess. Having gone through this 20-plus years ago and then in the last four years with boys, it's pretty cut and dry what you do.
The little girl sure has Iron Man wrapped around her finger.
"She was eating pasta and she decided she wanted to share the pasta with me. I really shouldn't have been eating dry pasta first thing in the morning, but I could not deny her and I almost barfed about an hour later."