Mediocrity is My Biggest Fear

Creator: Robert Downey Jr., Hollywood star known for playing comic book hero Iron Man and famous sleuth Sherlock Holmes

Context: While living in Los Angles the photographer Karen Hardy Bystedt met with young performers who were launching their movie careers: 1

Amazingly, more than half the actors and actresses I interviewed and photographed between 1987 and 1993 went on to become megastars.

She spoke with Robert Downey Jr. in 1988 after he had appeared in “The Pick-up Artist” and “Less Than Zero”. Downey discussed his fears and sacrifices. Emphasis added: 2

Mediocrity is my biggest fear. I’m not afraid of total failure, because I don’t think that will happen. I’m not afraid of success, because that beats the hell out of failure. It’s being in the middle that scares me.

My biggest sacrifice for success has been losing touch with the day-to-day reality of a modest existence. Los Angeles isn’t reality, and making a movie in Los Angeles is a double-entendre of non-reality.

Image Notes: Picture of Robert Downey, Jr.; creator Gage Skidmore; accessed via Flickr. License: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Notes:

  1. 1996 Copyright, Before They Were Famous: In Their Own Words by Karen Hardy Bystedt, (Collection of Interviews), Section: Introduction, Start Page 8, Quote Page 9, General Publishing Group Inc., Santa Monica, California. (Verified with hardcopy)
  2. 1996 Copyright, Before They Were Famous: In Their Own Words by Karen Hardy Bystedt, (Collection of Interviews), Interview with Robert Downey Jr., Date: January 1988, Start Page 108, Quote Page 113, General Publishing Group Inc., Santa Monica, California. (Verified with hardcopy)