8 Decades of The Hollywood Reporter

 20th Century Fox/The Kobal Collection

When Less Than Zero opened in November 1987, The Hollywood Reporter called it a "lame adaptation" of Bret Easton Ellis' novel with a "bogus designer plot on top of it" and said "box-office prospects look dismal." It would make a meager $12.4 million domestically but was the breakout film for Robert Downey Jr., then 22. Before making what has become a cult film of '80s teenage decadence, he'd done Saturday Night Live for a season and a handful of movies, including The Pick-up Artist with Molly Ringwald. THR gushed that his cocaine-addicted Julian was "easily the best performance" in Zero, worthy of a supporting actor Oscar nomination "notwithstanding the fact that Academy voters are not the most nimble in lining up for youth movies." (Downey wasn't nominated but later got a lead actor nom for 1992's Chaplin.) Producer Jon Avnet said recently that he knew Downey was perfect for Zero when he did a screen test with Kiefer Sutherland and Uma Thurman (they didn't end up in the film, but Brad Pitt did -- as a $38-a-day uncredited extra). "There's such a vulnerability to his performance," says Avnet. "You can see it in his eyes. And the more he tries to hide it, the more it's there." Up next for Downey: Warner Bros.' Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, due Dec. 16. 

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