Robert Downey Jr. Honored by Don Cheadle at Make-A-Wish Gala

RDJ_Getty - H 2016
Greg Doherty/Getty

RDJ_Getty - H 2016

“Honestly I never expected Tony Stark to define my purpose, or that ‘Iron Man’ would be much more than just a fun creative paycheck that kept doubling every 10 minutes for a decade,” Robert Downey Jr. said at the annual gala.

You don’t always need high-tech flying armor to be someone’s hero. It helps, though.

Thanks largely to his big-screen role as Marvel’s armored Avenger Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. was honored with Make-A-Wish Greater Los Angeles’ Shining Star Award during the organization’s fourth annual Wishing Well Winter Gala at the Hollywood Palladium on Wednesday. And the actor revealed that whether children see him as himself or as Tony Stark, it’s always a humbling experience.
“It’s one of the huge benefits of these Marvel films, and kids sometimes really have this honest-to-God belief that I’m Tony Stark, so I play it up,” Downey told THR. “What you first have to do is ascertain, do they actually think I’m Tony Stark? Or do they know they’re visiting me? So I play it how they’d want it to be. If they know I’m just some middle-aged schmuck who got a great break then I want to show them some of the cool stuff behind the scenes. If they think I’m Tony Stark, then whatever. I try to, you know, act like him – whatever that means.”
Downey says that the personal stories behind his young Make-A-Wish visitors move him “every single time,” recalling the first time he met a young boy named Cameron, who five years earlier had requested a visit with him on the set of the first Avengers film. “I remember it was a bit of a stressful schedule,” the actor recalled, “and it wound up being what seemed like an obligation at first, and it wound up being one of the high points of the whole shoot.”
Cameron ultimately triumphed in his health battles and was on hand at the Palladium, taking the stage with Downey’s Marvel film's co-star Don Cheadle to honor him.
“My wish – which was my first and only wish – was to meet Robert Downey Jr.,” Cameron told the crowd. “What I remember most about that day was how kind he was, and how he went above and beyond to make the day extraordinary for me and my family, such as giving us all necklaces, and for me he gave me the one that he was actually wearing, which I actually still have today and wear every day.” Cameron proudly displayed the necklace to the audience.
“I remember how genuinely sad he seemed when our time was over because he had to go back and get in costume,” added Cameron. “It meant so much that people worked so hard and valued me enough to make a day that I would never forget.”
“Robert actually gives you stuff? Wow, Robert never ever gave me anything,” quipped Cheadle, before detailing how Downey’s commitment and donations to Make-A-Wish had granted dozens of wishes for children around the world. “While Robert’s talent and impressive career spans more than 40 years in the entertainment industry, his heart and kindness make him even more of a hero than the superhero character that he plays,” said Cheadle.
“You’re a badass,” Downey told Cameron when he took the stage to accept the award. He jokingly detailed figures and percentages about his pettier actor-y neuroses, irritations, hang-ups and preoccupations before noting, “I’m 100 percent freed from bondage when a Make-A-Wish family visits me at home, or on set, or abroad.”

The evening – which also honored producer, manager and media mogul Scooter Braun as well as the Los Angeles Kings and featured performances by Bush, Tori Kelly and Ambassador X – raised more than $1 million for the organization.