‘The Sympathizer’ Trailer: Robert Downey Jr. Is a Master of Disguise in HBO Spy Thriller

Robert Downey Jr. may newly be wearing the title of Oscar winner, but the “Oppenheimer” star is shedding all semblance of self for Park Chan-wook’s “The Sympathizer.”

Downey is a chameleon in multiple roles for the HBO seven-episode limited series, co-showrun by Park and Don McKellar who both executive produce. “The Sympathizer” is based on Viet Thanh Nguyen’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name and is at once an espionage thriller and cross-culture satire about the struggles of a half-French, half-Vietnamese communist spy (Hoa Xuande) during the final days of the Vietnam War. As he starts his new life as a refugee in Los Angeles he learns that his spying days aren’t over.

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“The Sympathizer” cast also includes Sandra Oh, Fred Nguyen Khan, Toan Le, Phanxine, Vy Le, Ky Duyen, Kieu Chinh, Duy Nguyen, and Alan Trong. The series is a co-production between A24 and HBO, along with Rhombus Media, and is produced in association with Moho Film and Cinetic Media.

Park writes and directs the first three episodes, with Fernando Meirelles and Marc Munden additionally helming installments. Mark Richard, Naomi Iizuka, Maegan Houang, Anchuli Felicia King, and Tea Ho pen the series.

Actor Downey executive produces with Susan Downey and Amanda Burrell for Team Downey. Niv Fichman executive produces for Rhombus Media, Jisun Back executive produces for Moho Film, and Kim Ly, Ron Schmidt, and author Nguyen further serve as executive producers.

Park previously teased the series to IndieWire in 2023, saying, “Overall, it’s a seven-episode series, and it’s set in 1975, immediately after the Vietnam War. The story covers Vietnamese refugees who have migrated to L.A. and the stories surrounding that environment. Because of the context, casting revolves around having a lot of diversity, especially a heavy presence of Vietnamese and Vietnamese Americans.”

Author Nguyen first announced the partnership with Park, tweeting, “Thrilled to finally announce that A24 has optioned ‘The Sympathizer’ for TV, with director Park Chan-wook, whose films include ‘The Handmaiden.’ His ‘Oldboy’ was a big influence on ‘The Sympathizer,’ and I can’t imagine a better person to direct this TV adaptation. I hope Park Chan-wook, who did wonders with the octopus in ‘Oldboy,’ will be equally imaginative with the squid in ‘The Sympathizer…'”

“The Sympathizer” premieres April 14 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO. Check out the trailer below.

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