There was never any doubt that Hollywood would get around to making a movie about the life and times of Charlie Chaplin. The English multi hyphenates life is like a work of fiction from his Dickensian childhood growing up in poverty on the streets of London to his career as a legendary silent film comedian his butting heads with the U.S. government over his progressive political views and his infamous predatory behavior which led to several highly-publicized scandals. Less certain however was whether Robert Downey Jr. would be the one to portray him in the biopic Chaplin.
By the time that Chaplin entered development Downey was already rising through the ranks. Having gotten his start as a bit player in early 1980s comedies like Weird Science and Back to School Downey had gone on to headline modest hits like the 1989 fantasy rom com Chances Are while earning critical praise for his work in the 1987 film version of Brett Easton Ellis novel Less Than Zero. All the same that was not enough to convince would be Chaplin distributor Universal to sign off on the $30 million movie with Downey as its star.Speaking to the Los Angeles Times at the time the films theatrical release in December 1992 Chaplin director Richard Attenborough noted Nobody ever said to me We do not think Robert can do it. But because Downey was neither an A lister nor a newcomer at the time They Universal simply refused to sign his agreement Attenborough explained. He also suggested the studio might have been more amenable had Chaplin been budgeted at $20 million instead of $30 million.