Downey Jr starred as the silent film legend in 1992’s Chaplin, which was directed by legendary actor Attenborough.
But despite the Iron Man actor earning an Oscar nomination for his role in the biopic, Downey Jr revealed on David Letterman’s Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction that Attenborough had originally favoured another performer for the role.
“The first time I met Dicky, he held up a picture of Tom Cruise to me and said, ‘Now isn’t that remarkable resemblance? Wouldn’t it be amazing if Tom Cruise [played him]?,’” he recalled.
“Was I called in for a humility session? I don’t know what was going on then. I s*** you not, he held a picture of Tom Cruise and said, ‘That’s why he should play Chaplin.’ I was like, ‘Probably, but he passed, so now what?’”
“How intimidating is that,” Letterman asked. “Because I think actors like other artists are insecure to begin with and you’ve got Richard Attenborough saying, ‘It’s too damn bad we couldn’t get Tommy.’”
Chaplin received mixed reviews upon its release and was considered a box office bomb after grossing just $9.5m (£7.2m) on a $31m (£23m) budget.
The cast included Dan Aykroyd, Anthony Hopkins and Milla Jovovich.