Walter Kirn and Robert Downey Jr. Play Word Association

Robert Downey Jr. talks in long and overly enigmatic sentences using phrases like “transcending fear-based rituals” and “disempowered sense of magical thinking” when Walter Kirn sits down next to him on Venice Beach to interview him about his not-so-recent comeback–Iron Man 2 opens next weekend–for the May issue of Rolling Stone. (Not available online.)

So when traditional conversation proves difficult, the two engage in the word association game. Kirn begins with “Viral,” Downey responds with “Redundant.” Kirn says “Esoteric,” Downey says “Approachable.” Sensing failure, Kirn changes course.

“Vaginal,” he says.
“Parfait,” Downey replies.

Now Kirn can’t stop saying it. “It’s perfect,” he writes. “It’s more than perfect. It’s creepy, elegant, uncanny. And it came to Downey without a pause, as if though this absurd linguistic delectable–“vaginal parfait,” I can’t stop saying it–already existed in the collective unconscious, and he simply reached out and retrieved it.” Behold, the genius of Robert Downey Jr.