The award recognizes an actor, director or writer who is "fully engaged in his or her work and is committed to making a significant contribution to the art of the motion picture." Board chairman Rick Nicita says:
"The pleasure that we receive from his charismatic and nuanced performances is matched only by the respect that he has earned for his personal and professional journey. The wide range of his talent has kept us enthralled in movies from a biopic like Chaplin to outrageous comedies like Tropic Thunder to franchises like Sherlock Holmes and, of course, Iron Man. While we have been enjoying him for years, it seems that he's just getting started all over again. The Cinematheque is thrilled to mark this milestone in the flourishing career of Robert Downey, Jr."
Up next for Downey Jr. is Marvel's The Avengers (May 4, 2012, reprising his Iron Man role) and sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (December 16, 2011, reprising the title character). He also has several projects in the works as actor and producer.