By Greg Brian | Yahoo! Contributor Network
You don't see a movie often that courts several Oscar-winning actors to join the cast, unless you're a Scorsese, Spielberg, or Hooper. When you're Robert Downey, Jr., it's a compounded event considering he's never won an Oscar after two acting nominations. And you can be sure that with his financial security being mostly in the "Iron Man" and "Marvel's The Avengers" wheelhouses of late, he likely knows the risk is there of losing more award-worthy human dramas if the superhero franchises go on too long.
Downey, Jr. may have found his human drama in his upcoming film project "The Judge." There, he plays a lawyer who goes home after his mother dies, only to find his ailing judge father may be to blame for the death. It could have been a project nearly existing in a dream had Jack Nicholson almost joined the cast as Downey's father. But with Robert Duvall replacing Nicholson, plus a cast of Vincent D'Onofrio and Billy Bob Thornton in tow, it looks like a project from the last days of the studio system.
Even Duvall must see that casting as something not usually seen since the 1970s when the last of the truly great movies with large casts were done. Yes, we saw many big stars in the recently dreadful "Movie 43", despite almost all of them being snookered into doing the project. Even Martin Scorsese hasn't employed this diverse of an Oscar-winning cast when you consider he's been recently re-using the same bank of actors.
It's possible Downey, Jr. will help bring back this element to movies that compete for Oscars. His only competition may be George Clooney who has his World War II epic "The Monuments Men" out at the end of this year with a surprisingly large A-list cast. Over the next decade, it could be only Downey, Jr. and Clooney being the two biggest movie stars in the world who can assemble myriad Oscar winners in a cast without trepidation by a single actor.
With celebrity egos seemingly getting larger by the minute, that's a refreshing way for Downey, Jr. and Clooney to use their powers. Regardless, compiling such huge casts might seem overly obvious as pandering for awards. That's why it seems top actors mostly prefer acting in projects where they can be the focus, or in smaller, independent productions not requiring equal acting time.
There's nothing worse than several legendary actors from one movie having to endure analysis of how much time they put into the movie for an Oscar nomination. We've seen our share of those, with some winning awards for being in no more than 10 minutes of scenes. The same potential is there should Downey, Jr.'s "The Judge" become a multi-Oscar nominee in a couple of years.
The real question is whether the film will reignite Downey, Jr.'s Oscar chances as a producer and actor. Any answer seems in the affirmative when we know how expansive he can be as an actor when not being stuck in the pit of his sarcastic Tony Stark persona. Because we haven't seen him in an intense family drama before, seeing a raw and emotional Downey act next to today's finest actors seems a setup as an eventual exit from the superhero genre.
That is, unless he's somehow Oscar-nominated for "Iron Man 3" after a raw and emotional performance surviving at the nefarious hand of The Mandarin.