Robert Downey Jr.’s Asian Slur Made the Situation Even More Tense with the Host | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Robert Downey Jr.’s Asian Slur Made the Situation Even More Tense with the Host

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Robert Downey Jr. was thrilled to receive his first Oscar.

The 96th Academy Awards ceremony, Hollywood’s highest honor, was held on March 10 (local time) in Los Angeles, and as expected, “Oppenheimer,” a biopic about the scientist who led the development of the atomic bomb in the United States during World War II and is considered the father of atomic bombs, won Best Picture, Best Director for Christopher Nolan, Best Actor for Killian Murphy, and Best Actor for Robert Downey Jr. Oppenheimer” won a total of seven awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Christopher Nolan, Best Actor for Killian Murphy, and Best Supporting Actor for Robert Downey Jr.


In addition, “Godzilla-0.1” won the Best Visual Effects Award for the first time in Japanese film history and the first time in Asia. Hayao Miyazaki’s “How Do You Live?” became the first Japanese film in 21 years to win Best Animated Feature since “Spirited Away,” making it the first Japanese film to win two awards.

Amidst all this, there was another series of happenings at this year’s festival.

One of the most talked-about incidents reported in Japan was Downey’s disregard for Asian actors.

“As predicted by the speculations, when he received the Best Supporting Actor award and took the stage, Robert Downey Jr. was accused of ‘Asian Slur Suspicion’ for ignoring a hug from the presenter, Asian American actor Ki Hong Lee, when receiving the Oscar statue.

However, later on, Downey hugged Lee and took selfies with him, and furthermore, a photo of them smiling together in a commemorative photo was posted on the official Instagram account of the Academy Awards, putting an end to the suspicion. Well, it seems there was also a possibility that he was just caught up in the excitement of winning his long-awaited first Oscar.”

This incident sparked considerable discussion in Japan as well, but it turns out that Downey was involved in yet another mishap.


According to American media reports, comedian and actor Jimmy Kimmel, who hosted the ceremony, made a reference to Robert Downey Jr. at the beginning of the awards show, saying, 

“Tonight marks one of the shining peaks in Robert Downey Jr.’s long and illustrious career.”

He then praised him and jokingly asked, 

“Were there any other highs?”

and hinted at past drug incidents. The camera then showed Downey in the audience tapping his nose with his index finger.

Upon seeing this, Kimmel proceeded to make a series of edgy jokes, asking, 

“Is the speech getting to you, or is it a signal for drugs?” 

Downey responded by mimicking the action of reeling in a fishing rod, signaling Kimmel to reel it in.

While this incident didn’t escalate into a major disaster like the “Will Smith Slap Incident” at the 2022 Academy Awards, it was still a tense moment.


It’s commonly depicted in movies and dramas that cocaine is typically snorted through the nose using items like straws or rolled-up dollar bills. By the way, it’s become a tradition at the Academy Awards for the comedian host to crack sharp-tongued jokes about nominated actors.

Downey, starting from his arrest in 1996 for illegal drug possession leading to a one-year prison sentence, and in 2001 for cocaine possession resulting in a three-year probationary period. He declared himself drug-free in 2003 and has since stayed away from drugs.

During this summer, on his own podcast, he said, 

“Prison was like being sent to a distant planet with no way of returning until the planets aligned.”

Downey, who has been resurrected by the blockbuster success of the “Iron Man” series, the first of which was released in 2008, has played a wide range of roles in “Sherlock Holmes” and other films, and finally won his first Oscar for “Oppenheimer”. It is truly a unique Hollywood drama, but there is no doubt that he was something of a center of attention at this year’s awards ceremony – and he was the center of attention at this year’s awards ceremony.

  • Writer Ryo Sakamoto (Writer, former head of the Culture and Society Department of Tokyo Sports Newspaper)

    He currently writes articles on entertainment, movies, Hollywood information, etc. for the web magazine "PlusαToday" and other publications. Member of the Japan Film Pen Club.

  • PHOTO Reuters/Afro

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