The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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The odd couple: Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr.

July 10, 2008 |  2:05 pm

Ritchie_3 I love reading Variety as much as the next guy, but sometimes the venerable trade paper is so willfully clueless about ignoring the real story at the heart of its latest dispatch that you wonder if its reporters--all in all, a pretty smart bunch--are forced to pull their punches for fear of scaring off the advertisers. A case in point: Today's Variety reports that Robert Downey Jr., perhaps Hollywood's hottest actor of the moment after starring in the "Iron Man" mega-hit, has announced that his first post-"Iron Man" gig will be playing the lead in "Sherlock Holmes," a new drama directed by Guy Ritchie.

Yes, that Guy Ritchie, the guy whose pop diva spouse, Madonna, makes a spectacle of herself everywhere she goes, starred in his biggest flop, the awful "Swept Away, and is now rumored to be fooling around with Yankees All-Star third baseman Alex Rodriguez. So why would the hottest actor in town want to make a movie with a director whose career has been in a huge tailspin? His last film, "Revolver," was such a dud that it grossed $75,000 in a courtesy U.S. release. In fact, Ritchie hasn't had a hit since "Snatch," a film released nearly eight years ago.

Variety is silent on this strange turn of events. But let's connect the dots, shall we? Ritchie has a movie in the can at Warners, "Rocknrolla," a gangster thriller due in October that stars "300's" Gerard Butler and Jeremy Piven. People I know who've seen it say it's actually pretty good--so perhaps Ritchie has some renewed heat. But one detail seems to have eluded Variety. Guess who produced the new film? Susan Downey, who is Robert Downey Jr.'s wife and--equally important--an exec VP for Joel Silver, Warners' top action producer. And guess who is producing "Sherlock Holmes"? Wow--it's Joel Silver and Susan Downey. 

Isn't it amazing how everywhere you turn in Hollywood, there's a funny coincidence staring you right in the face?

And now, something you only get to do to Madonna in a Guy Ritchie movie:

Photo of Madonna and Guy Ritchie by Christophe Karaba / EPA

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