Robert Downey Jr. is now most famous as the Iron Man or Tony Stark. Throughout the years, Downey Jr. has struggled with a lot of negative things before finally beating them down, and becoming one of the most paid actors of Hollywood.
Robert Downey Jr. and his older sister, Alison, were raised in New York. Their parents, actor and filmmaker Robert Downey Sr. and his mother, actress Elsie Ann struggled with drug addiction, and they even let Robert Jr. try marijuana when she was around six years old. Downey Jr. revealed, “When my dad and I would do drugs together, it was like him trying to express his love for me in the only way he knew how.”
In his teen years, Downey Jr. went to the Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center after his parents split. His father moved to California, where she spent some years, and Robert Downey Jr. went back and forth until he decided he would stay in Hollywood. He stayed there for three years, and he lived with Kiefer Sutherland. He joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, for which Rolling Stone said that the young Downey Jr. was the worst SNL member in the history of the show. However, his luck changed, and he got the roles in Weird Science, Back to School, and The Pick-Up Artist.
What got him in the spotlight was the role of Charlie Chaplin, for which he prepared very seriously, by taking tennis lessons where he learned to play with his left hand, he played the violin and he even got a coach to help him master the Chaplin’s signature walk and demeanor. He was awarded and nominated for an Academy Award for this role.
After eight years, Sarah Jessica Parker and Downey Jr. ended their relationship. Parker discussed how she felt after seeing him after they broke up on the Howard Stern Show, “It was really nice. It was surprisingly not weird [to get together]. I guess you spend so many years with someone ― we were 18 when we met ― and fundamentally we’re sort of the same. I think the difference is he has a family and a wife and obviously his career is a massive thing, but I think his true nature — it was completely familiar.” Downey Jr. revealed his thought on the relationship, “I was so selfish. I liked to drink, and I had a drug problem, and that didn’t jibe with Sarah Jessica, because it is the furthest thing from what she is. She provided me with a home and understanding. She tried to help me. She was so miffed when I didn’t get my act together.” Downey Jr. married Deborah Falconer in 1992, after 42 days of dating. Two years later, they had a son, Indio Falconer Downey, but Downey Jr. rehabilitation and jail time got him a divorce from Falconer in 2004. Falconer got the custody of their son.
He got into some serious troubles from 1996 to 2001. He was charged with possession of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and even a handgun, which he revealed to a judge in 1999, “It’s like I have a shotgun in my mouth, and I’ve got my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal.” When he entered a neighbor’s home and fell asleep in one of their beds, the court set him to go into regular drug testing while fulfilling three years of probation. Upon missing one of the tests, he got six months of jail. But that wasn’t the end of it. After he missed another test, he got six years of jail at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran, California. He managed to finish making In Dreams before he went to jail, but he was fired from the animated show God, The Devil, and Bob.
After a year in prison, he was released in 2000. Late that year, he became a cast member of the show Ally McBeal. He got nominated for an Emmy Award in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series and won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a mini-series or television film. “It was my lowest point in terms of addictions. At that stage, I didn’t give a [expletive] whether I ever acted again,” said Downey Jr.
During his parole in 2000, he went around Culver City without his shoes, and he was arrested under suspicion of being under the influence of drugs. Even though he was released after a few hours, his career in Ally McBeal ended. During those years, California passed Proposition 36 which directed non-violent drug offenders to rehabilitation efforts instead of more jail time, and this came in handy for Downey Jr.
Finding his way back
He shared with Oprah Winfrey in 2004, “When someone says, ‘I really wonder if maybe I should go to rehab?’ Well, uh, you’re a wreck, you just lost your job, and your wife left you. Uh, you might want to give it a shot.” Facing the possibility of more jail time, he decided he couldn’t do it anymore and concluded, “It’s not that difficult to overcome these seemingly ghastly problems…what’s hard is to decide to do it.” Because of his troublesome past, his agents were careful, and his first real job after finishing the rehabilitation was to lip-sync to Elton John’s single, “I Want Love” in his music video. Mel Gibson, his close friend, got him the role in The Singing Detective. After that, he managed to get his career going, and he later appeared in Gothika, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Goodnight and Good Luck.
Trying love again
With his career growing, his love life began to grow too. While on the set of the movie Gothika, he and producer Susan Levin started hanging out, and he proposed to her in 2005. They have a son together, Exton, born in 2012, and a daughter, Avri, born in 2014.
He and Mel Gibson
After they appeared together in Air America, Robert Downey Jr. and Mel Gibson grew a strong bond. When Gibson had anti-Semitic statements during a 2016 DUI arrest, Downey Jr. didn’t leave his side, “He was one of the first people to call and offer the hand of friendship. He just said, ‘Hey, welcome to the club. Let’s go see what we can do to work on ourselves.'” Downey Jr. asked Gibson to be his presenter When Downey Jr. was recognized for his life’s work at the 25th American Cinematheque Awards. Downey Jr. said, “I humbly ask that you join me — unless you are completely without sin, and in which case you picked the wrong [expletive] industry — in forgiving my friend his trespasses, offering him the same clean slate you have me and allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame.”
Marvel Studios didn’t want someone with a past like Downey Jr. had, but director Jon Favreau fought really hard for him, stating, “Even when there was resistance, Robert said, I will do whatever it takes, will hang in there, fight for this thing. It came down to Robert offering to do a screen test. And once we rolled the camera it was inarguable. There was nobody who could say he was not Iron Man.” He took this part very seriously, and he prepared very well for the role. “I’m not particularly tall, strong, fast, or aggressive,” Downey Jr. explained to Men’s Health. “But I’m not faking it. I’m not a kid and I’m not a professional athlete.”
Terrence Howard feud
On screen, the duo is amazing. Off-screen, things were a little different. “It turns out that the person that I helped become Iron Man when it was time to… re-up for the second one took the money that was supposed to go to me and pushed me out. We did a three-picture deal… They came to me (for) the second and said, ‘We will pay you one-eighth of what we contractually had for you because we think the second one will be successful with or without you.’ And I called my friend that I helped get the first job, and he didn’t call me back for three months.” Downey Jr. replied, “I had nothing to do with that decision. I love Terrence very very much. That’s all I’ll say because I haven’t talked to him yet… It’s one of those situations where I still don’t quite know what happened or why.” Luckily, things seem to be good at the moment between the two.
He participated in Tropic Thunder, for which he got an Academy Award nomination, and Due Date. He landed the role of Sherlock Holmes, and Jared Harris, who played Moriarty, revealed, “He wants people around him to do their best work. Sometimes you run into these things where people aren’t like that, maybe they’re insecure. He’s not insecure about talent at all. He wants other people to raise their game. I loved it. I really enjoyed working with him. I can’t say enough highly about him. I think he’s very special.” Jude Law and Guy Ritchie shared, “Well, Jude and I are pretty close, and Guy and I are practically brothers, which makes things really interesting. There have been times when I’ve wanted to lop off his head with a machete, but it’s just because I love him so much.”
California Governor Jerry Brown gave a pardon to Robert Downey Jr., along with 91 other people, for their past crimes. He received it due to the fact that he has “lived an honest and upright life, exhibited good moral character, and conducted himself as a law-abiding citizen” in the years since his last arrest. Downey Jr. recalled his jail times, “Job one is get out of that cave. A lot of people do get out but don’t change. So the thing is to get out and recognize the significance of that aggressive denial of your fate, come through the crucible forged into a stronger metal. Or whatever. But I don’t even know if that was my experience. It’s funny: five years ago, I would’ve made it sound like I’m conscious of my own participation in seizing the similarities. But so many things have become less certain. I swear to God. I am not my story.”
When his son, Indio was 20 years old, he was charged with felony cocaine possession. Downey Jr. stated, “Unfortunately there’s a genetic component to addiction and Indio has likely inherited it. Also, there is a lot of family support and understanding, and we’re all determined to rally behind him and help him become the man he’s capable of being.” Indio was dismissed after a 20-month rehabilitation, and Downey Jr. felt very proud, “Congrats are in order for my firstborn, and I’m proud to oblige. Having braved the crucible of addiction (and pleased the court), his ongoing commitment to recovery continues to inspire and amaze.”
His relationship with his father
Even though his father was the one who welcomed him to the world of drugs, Downey Jr. has nothing but love for him. “If you recall, the first round of really cool head-shop T-shirts — forget the Scott Baio tuxedo shirt — I’m talking about the Superman logo. I remember walking around the Village with my dad wearing a Superman shirt. We also had a prop king’s chair, a throne, that he would sit in… he was a big guy, tall, dark, handsome—all that stuff,” said Downey Jr. to Vanity Fair. “I mean, I grew up with people saying, ‘Hey, that’s Bob Downey’s kid’ — and understandably so… He was a great innovator and a heck of a filmmaker.”
Everything began with Iron Man. Downey Jr. has appeared so fat in Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, and he will probably be Tony Stark for at least a few more movies in the Marvel Universe. But, he stated that he will stop to be Tony Stark when he starts to feel that he no longer possesses the stamina or energy required. “Everyone says to me it’s like a glove that fits so well,” he explained after seeing Tom Holland’s youthful performance in Spider-Man: Homecoming. “I have to start over every time but I am starting over with a pretty solid base… I just want to hang up my jersey before it’s embarrassing.”