By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin December 13, 2009 at 11:56AM
Robert Downey, Jr. put his hand and footprints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Monday, and I was honored to serve as master of ceremonies for the event. I also got an insider’s view of a ritual the public never sees, when the honoree is given an opportunity to practice writing his name in cement on a “test slab” placed on the refreshment counter inside Grauman’s lobby. Robert quickly realized he had his work cut out for him: it isn’t easy to do!
(When he approached the task for real, he was irked that photographers repeatedly asked him to look up and explained—to no avail—that he was trying to concentrate!) This was the 200 th induction to take place in the famous theater forecourt on Hollywood Boulevard since 1927—and the first, according to the historians on hand, to occur in the rain.
As a result, the entire area was tented, keeping the photographers and TV crews dry, along with Warner Bros. executives associated with Downey’s latest film, Sherlock Holmes, including his wife Susan, who is one of its producers, and a modest group of family and friends (including Robert’s mother and his Iron Man director Jon Favreau). In spite of the downpour, an impressive turnout of fans huddled behind barriers across the street—where I doubt they could see much of anything, although loudspeakers enabled them to hear what was going on—and cheered on the star. When the event was over, Robert spontaneously strolled across Hollywood Boulevard to chat with those loyal fans, and I’m sure he made a lot of people very happy. Robert told me that the whole thing was an out-of-body experience for him, but he seemed pleased and honored to participate in the process. It’s ironic that the man who portrayed Charlie Chaplin so well in Richard Attenborough’s 1992 movie is now commemorated at the Chinese Theater—but Chaplin himself is not. (Apparently, Chaplin did put his hands and feet in cement for Sid Grauman in January of 1928, when his film The Circus premiered with great fanfare at the picture palace, but some time later—during the 1940s, when he was plagued by scandal, or the 1950s, when he was barred from the United States—the square was quietly removed. Adding to the slight air of mystery, there don’t seem to be any surviving photos of his ceremony!)
In any case, Robert Downey, Jr. has earned this accolade; he is one of the brightest talents on the screen, and his work of late has been especially good. For more of my snapshots, click HERE.
For a Grauman's Chinese Theatre update click HERE.