Robert Downey Jr. to Play Multiple Roles in ‘The Sympathizer’ HBO Series From Park Chan-wook

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Two-time Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. and acclaimed South Korean director Park Chan-wook are teaming with HBO and A24 on a series adaptation of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer.

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The celebrated book is described as a satirical espionage thriller about the struggles of a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist spy during the final days of the Vietnam War and his resulting exile in the United States. A worldwide search is currently underway for the lead role and the rest of the largely Vietnamese ensemble.

Deadline broke the news, reporting that Downey Jr. will play multiple supporting roles, all of whom represent a different arm of the American establishment. Those adversarial characters include an up-and-coming Congressman from California, a CIA agent, and a Hollywood movie director, among others.

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Oldboy filmmaker Park Chan-wook will direct the series and serve as co-showrunner alongside

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Don McKellar. The two of them will also executive produce The Sympathizer along with Downey Jr. and his Team Downey partners Susan Downey and Amanda Burrell, as well as Niv Fichman of Rhombus Media and Kim Ly.

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Image via Marvel Studios

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“Adapting Mr. Nguyen’s important and masterful work requires a visionary team. With Director Park at the helm, I expect this to be a creative producing adventure for Susan, me and Team Downey, and a stimulating process for myself in playing these complex supporting roles. A24 and HBO are the perfect combination of partners and co-parents… It’s exactly the type of challenge I’ve been craving, and I believe we will deliver an exceptional viewing experience to our audience,” Downey Jr. told Deadline.

The Sympathizer will be a co-production between HBO, A24 and Rhombus Media produced in association with Cinetic Media and Park Chan-wook’s Moho Film. Team Downey recently produced the HBO series Perry Mason, which has been picked up for a second season, while A24 produces the HBO series Euphoria and is developing the network’s remake of Olivier AssayasIrma Vep, which will star Alicia Vikander. Team Downey recently re-upped its first-look deal at HBO, where it’s producing a series adaptation of Michael Crichton‘s novel Sphere. The company is also developing an adaptation of Samantha Downing’s forthcoming novel For Your Own Good for HBO Max.

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With the exception of Dolittle, this new drama series will mark Downey Jr.’s first major acting gig since hanging up Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit, and he’s eager to remind audiences of his range as an actor outside of the MCU, having earned Oscar nominations 16 years apart for Chaplin and Tropic Thunder.

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Team Downey is also developing an Apple TV+ series about a Canadian detective with writer Adam Perlman. I’m looking forward to both that series and The Sympathizer, which sounds like a great showcase for Downey Jr., though the project will ultimately depend on HBO and A24 finding the right actor to play the title character. It won’t be easy, but there are lots of Vietnamese and half-Vietnamese actors out there who are just waiting to be discovered. To them, I say good luck and godspeed! This has the potential to be a star-making role and I can’t wait to see who HBO and A24 pick.

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