Robert Downey Jr. at ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ premiere: ‘Wakanda forever! I can say that as an honorary black man’
In a crowd including Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana and even coach David Fizdale, Iron Man pledges allegiance to the ‘Black Panther’ phenomenon
8:28 AMNearly 40 Marvel superheroes gathered on the stage at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on Monday night. For 10 years, the studio has been making films that bring comic book stories to life — breaking box-office standards and often introducing the next big thing along the way.
So the actors — Robert Downey Jr., Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana and Scarlett Johansson among them — stood there prepped for the opening of Avengers: Infinity War on Friday. According to Fandango, it’s already sold out more than 1,000 screens and has a chance to top the biggest opening of all time, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which collected $248 million on its big night in 2015. Marvel is already celebrating unprecedented success of its February release, Black Panther, which has to date earned more than $680 million domestically and is still growing.
But on Monday night, when Downey Jr., who began his Marvel journey with 2008’s Iron Man, was given the microphone by studio president Kevin Feige, he made his allegiance very clear: “Wakanda forever,” he said as he looked behind him to see Boseman. “I can say that as an honorary black man.”
The crowd, which included Angela Bassett, Courtney B. Vance and Laurence Fishburne, broke out into laughter, reminded of the actor’s controversial turn in 2008’s Tropic Thunder — his character undergoes skin surgery so that he can actually become a black man for a role. Infinity Wars screened at just under three hours — and judging by the oohs, aahs, laughter and audible shock reverberating through the space, Marvel has another darling on its hands.
Immediately after the premiere, lucky golden wristband holders were ushered to a rooftop for an after-party where guests feasted on vegan falafel, Thai chicken meatballs, beef meatballs tossed in marinara sauce and an assortment of salads, cheese platters and mini desserts. The crowd was huge and eclectic; the last few Marvel premiere parties (such as the one for Black Panther) have been more intimate. Guests jumped into and out of photo booths, received mini Marvel puppets and sipped champagne.
The night was soundtracked with tunes from George Michael, Janet Jackson, Prince, Tupac Shakur, Jay-Z and Michael Jackson, and industry insiders mingled with cast members such as Saldana, Winston Duke, Josh Brolin and even former Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale.
The party started closing out shortly after midnight, with straggling well-wishers issuing kudos to film producers for pulling off what likely will be another box-office blockbuster. Fans will have to wait until next year for the film’s second part — a year too long.
Why a Jack Johnson pardon would be easier for Trump than Obama
The first black heavyweight champ went to prison for sex with white women
2:48 PMDon’t be surprised that Donald Trump is expressing enthusiasm about pardoning Jack Johnson while Barack Obama ignored it.
The first black heavyweight champion was wrongfully imprisoned a century ago by racist authorities who were outraged by his destruction of white boxers and his relationships with white women. In 2004, a group of people began seeking a pardon for Johnson, but they were rebuffed by then-Presidents George W. Bush and Obama.
Now, President Trump is tweeting that he’s considering the idea. Here’s why a pardon is easier for Trump than Obama:
Exonerating Johnson would have opened Obama up to racial repercussions unique to the first black president. The boxer enjoyed rubbing white America’s face in his profligate habits with sex, money, cars, clothes and jewelry. At a time when black men were lynched for even looking at white women, Johnson not only flaunted his Caucasian companions, he viciously beat at least one of them.
Johnson’s lifestyle was like “the hip-hop culture of its day, widely associated with black criminality and black masculine pathology,” wrote American University history professor Theresa Runstedtler in her book on Johnson. Obama pardoning Johnson would have appeared to some people like pardoning Tupac Shakur or Bobby Shmurda. Black Americans, meanwhile, are more uncomfortable than whites with interracial unions.
Even though Johnson deserves to have his record posthumously cleansed, Obama was focused on clemency for living victims of mass incarceration policies, which disproportionately affect the black community.
Trump, meanwhile, was elected despite multiple accusations of sexual misconduct. Pardoning a womanizer like Johnson doesn’t dent Trump’s image as much as it would have tarnished Obama’s (evidence that black folks still need to be twice as good to succeed).
Pardoning Johnson would send a valuable message to white America, which is Trump’s main constituency. “It helps us white people more than black people,” the filmmaker Ken Burns, who directed an illuminating Jack Johnson documentary, told me in 2016. “Black people don’t need this information [about racial injustice]. Black people know this already. It’s us white people who don’t know it.”
Finally, a pardon would provide Trump with an opportunity to do something, albeit symbolic, about racial injustice. Trump’s Justice Department is reviving the “tough on crime” policies that created the racially biased disaster of mass incarceration – the exact catastrophe that Obama tried to mitigate with both policy and his huge number of commuted sentences.
Overall, it’s a fitting irony that Trump is weighing a pardon Obama never chose to pursue.