Robert Pattinson and Robert Downey Jr. may be best known for their on-screen bromance, but off-screen the English actor and the American actor have a long-standing rivalry that goes back to their ’70s heyday. Now, at 76 years old, Downey is finally acting teacher Pattinson in the new film ‘Hell’ (2017).

The film centers around the 76-year-old Downey’s return to Hollywood after many years in the Middle East on an oil drilling rig. To get back in shape for his role, Downey decides to take a stint as a gym teacher at a local high school. When Pattinson’s character decides to take a more active role in his son’s life after years of being sidelined by the child’s busy schedule, Downey’s character pushes back with a vengeance and their battle of wits ensues. The two actors’ physical dexterity and fast-talking humour provide ample entertainment.

The Rivalry Begins

Pattinson and Downey first collaborated on the ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ (1960) series, with Downey playing the role of Danny Ocean in all but one of the original 11 films. In those early days, Pattinson was best known for playing the role of Dorothea’s son Alfred in the Alfred Hitchcock classic ‘Psycho’ (1960).

After that, the two went their separate ways as Pattinson continued appearing in films like ‘A Private Dick’ (1970) and ‘Pumpkin Eater’ (1971), while Downey ventured into more adventurous roles in films like ‘The Godfather’ (1972) and ‘Chinatown’ (1974). At some point during this time, the rivalry developed into a friendly one.

Friendly Competition

In a 2007 interview with Stephen Fry for Vogue magazine, Pattinson commented: “I feel like we’ve been friends for a really long time. I know he’s older than me, and he’s more experienced. I’ve always looked up to him as a friend and a mentor.”

While these comments seem to indicate that the competitive edge may have worn off their rivalry, it’s clear from Pattinson’s filmography that their collaboration still provides plenty of material for comedic gold. Over the years, they have consistently collaborated on projects that showcase their physical dexterity, like ‘The Appointment’ (2017) or ‘Downsize Me’ (2009), as well as projects that require them to verbally spar, like ‘Bromance’ (2004) and ‘Meet the Fockers’ (2010).

An Active Rivalry

Since Pattinson reunited with Downey on ‘Killing Them Softly’ (2012), the two have been spotted working together on set and on social media. Even in retirement, they continue to work out with Sagi Shmuli, the owner of a Hollywood gym, as seen in the trailer for ‘Hell.’

Shmuli has trained celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Mel Gibson, and as a result, the gym has gained a reputation as a mecca for Hollywood’s A-list.

Downey jokingly credits Pattinson with inspiring his fitness regime in ‘Hell,’ saying: “Now that I’m 76 years old, I realize the importance of staying fit. Rob taught me a lot about the importance of staying fit. You can thank him for that.”

But it was Pattinson who inspired Downey’s newfound interest in acting. In a 2016 interview with Vogue magazine, Pattinson revealed: “When I found out that he was doing ‘Hell’,” Downey said, “I thought to myself, ‘Heck, that’s my kind of movie. I love hanging out with my buddies and having some fun. This is going to be an awesome experience.”

The competition between these two legendary actors is often funny, but it’s also an indicator of their enduring friendship. With both men now in their seventies, it’s clear that the competition will continue well into their retirement.