A Conversation With Robert Downey Sr. on the Genius of Nikola Tesla

A multiple exposure picture of Tesla nonchalantly reading a book sitting in his laboratory whilst his “Magnifying transmitter” is generating millions of volts.

Mutual admiration society. I recently sat down with a great man and friend of mine, the inimitable and ineffable Robert Downey Sr., anent a topic of our mutual fascination: Nikola Tesla, the world’s most famous unknown scientist and inventor. A giant who dwarfed Edison, in particular. How could someone of this man’s dimension and contribution be for all practical purposes shelved by modern history? Is he the Israel Bissell of his time? Who’s Israel Bissell?! See?

A mensch and a prince. Bob Downey is a most unique and accomplished filmmaker, whose résumé infra, speaks for itself. I provide it in toto as I love its style and cadence.

Underground filmmaker, midnight movie maven, existential cosmic joker and surrealist film freak extraordinary — Robert Downey, Sr. was the clown prince of the Beat Cinema scene in its golden age. Inspired equally by the Marx Brothers and Samuel Beckett, Downey’s absurdist wit and jazz film style made him a critics’ darling and audience favorite in the 1960s New York arthouse scene, and later a cult movie sensation in the 1970s with classics like Putney Swope and Greaser’s Palace. These early works are as barbed as Lenny Bruce, as absurd as Alfred Jarry, and as out-to-lunch as Eric Dolphy. Rough around the edges and all-around hilarious, Downey’s first films stand as landmark works in the history of American independent cinema.

The high summit and confab. But herein, we discuss this Brobdingnagian genius whose contributions include – just to name few – alternating current, light (fluorescent bulbs and the Tesla coil), radio, remote control, robotics, the electric motor, the laser, wireless communication and limitless free energy. Even in the field of ufology, Tesla is frequently mentioned in his connections to anti-gravitic propulsion and free energy. The scope and range of this man are nonpareil. We’re also pleased to note how younger generations have taken to his history and legacy. And it’s about time.

Please enjoy this discussion on Tesla (along with an encomium and paean to the great American playwright, screenwriter and novelist, Paddy Chayefsky). And make sure you pic up a copy of Bob’s referenced book Lightning in His Hand: The Life Story of Nikola Tesla by Inez Hunt.

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