Due Date - Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr
Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) and Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr) © 2010 Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures

Equally comfortable in comedies, dramas and blockbuster movies, two-time Academy Award nominee Robert Downey Jr has joined actor Zachary Galifianakis and director Todd Phillips, whose box office smash The Hangover is the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time, to make Due Date, which premieres this week.

In the comedy Downey Jr. portrays Peter Highman, an expectant father whose wife’s due date is only days away. Hurrying back from Atlanta to Los Angeles to be with her for the birth, he encounters Ethan Tremblay (Galifianakis) a disaster-magnet who gets them tossed off the plane and placed on a no-fly list. When Peter’s luggage, wallet and ID take off without him, he is forced to hitch a ride with Ethan and his canine traveling companion on a cross-country road trip that he will never forget.

Can you tell us a little about Peter, your character?

Due Date - Robert Downey Jr
Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr) © 2010 Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures

He’s kind of an edgy, controlling, judgmental guy with some anger-management issues. And who better to help him explore those issues than Ethan Tremblay? High-strung as he is normally, Peter is now facing the birth of his first child and is thrown into this nightmare, so it’s all amped up.

Ethan is like a laser beam that focuses on the one thing that will drive you crazy the most, the kind of guy who will eat a whole plate of waffles before mentioning he’s allergic to waffles. I’m sure a lot of people know someone like this, someone who is perfectly wired to activate all of their irritation buttons.

Do you remember the first time you met Zach?

Due Date - Robert Downey Jr and Zach Galifianakis
Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr) and Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) © 2010 Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures

I was in Venice, California, and some weird guy walks by and says, ‘Hi, I think I’m doing a movie with you.’ And I was thinking, ‘I might have to punch this guy.’ Then I realized, ‘Oh my God … that’s Zach.’

Later, he came over for dinner so we could talk about the script. I asked if he had any dietary restrictions and he sent me a note detailing everything he’d need, like bottled water flown in from Barstow. It’s one of my favorite things. I read it to people at parties.

Was it refreshing to play someone with so many real and yet repellent moments in their arc?

Absolutely and I don’t know why but it was an invitation for me to get in to touch with everything that annoys me about everyone and all the fear that I have about everything that everyone can relate to.

Due Date - Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx
eter Highman (Robert Downey Jr) and Darryl (Jamie Foxx) © 2010 Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures

So in a way I felt like I was a conduit to this. It was very pleasant. I don’t know why. I’m not a method guy. I can’t be bothered to have a method. I just want to be a part of a good movie and I can’t stand to be surrounded by morons, but we had such a great group of people on this whole thing. It’s funny, because you could say this is a two dimensional commercial comedy. I feel that this is the second greatest story ever told.

The first being?

Oh, come on! The Bible.

Who was more likely to breakup during a take?

Due Date - Robert Downey Jr
Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr) © 2010 Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures

Let me put it this way, I’m eighty five times more professional than Zach but I was hoping that we’d have some good gag reels so maybe I’d chuckle a little bit more. He might not actually know how funny he is sometimes, too. It’s my favorite thing about him, to tell you the truth, particularly when we’re doing press and it takes him forty five years to answer one question.

He’s trying to think about what the answer is and then he stutters and then he judges himself. ‘Sonny stop it?[clearing his throat], Stop it sonny, we’re going to be late [clears his throat]?’ and I’m just there, like, ‘This is an anthropological study.’ ‘Now what are we supposed to do?’ ‘When will you be done? That’ll be my cue.’

Can you talk about the process of making this, and if you hope it will turn into a franchise.

Due Date - Robert Downey Jr
Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr) © 2010 Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures

That’s what I need, three franchises so that I can utterly have a personality meltdown in real life, but I would do it with these guys. I have to say, too, that there was something so cathartic I think it was just the most healing project that I’ve ever worked on.

I’ve never come up against anyone who is so confident and so thoughtful and so spontaneous that it’s not even daunting. (Zach) is just in a class by himself and I think that Todd is the best director that I’ve ever worked with, bar none.

How do you feel about Iron Man 3 going to Disney?

Love it. What’s that mean?

That it will be released under Disney’s deal with Marvel.

Well, I really loved our relationship with Paramount but to me, the main thing is that I don’t care about any of that. I just want to make a great movie and thanks to my tutelage under two guys who know how to play the power, Zach and Todd, I know exactly what to do with Iron Man 3!

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.