Robert Downey Jr. is one of the most successful, bankable, and gifted stars in Hollywood. His over-a-decade stint as Iron Man in the highest-grossing franchise Marvel Cinematic Universe cemented his status in the film industry. Yet, though who knew him before he became Tony Stark most likely knew that the actor endured many struggles and faced odds with his addiction before recovering, triumphing over his bad habits, and becoming what he is today. Here, let’s know more about Robert Downy Jr.’s heroic tale in real life.
Early Life and Career
Born in Manhattan, New York on April 4, 1965, Downey had an artistic upbringing, being the child of the notable director, writer, and filmmaker Robert Downey, Sr., and film actress Elsie Ann Ford-Downey. He made his movie when he was only five years old after his father cast him as “Puppy” in the comedy flick “Pound.” As Downey grew up, he landed several minor roles in his father’s movies.
In 1978, his parents separated. Downey moved to California with his father and attended Monica High School. In 1982, he dropped out of school to pursue professional acting in New York. At that time, Downey was already struggling with his substance abuse. His father was a drug addict himself, causing Downey to be exposed to drugs at a young age.
Downey began building his portfolio in the early 1980s, starting with theater roles, such as in the Broadway musical “American Passion,” in 1983, shown at the Joyce Theater. He then earned a spot in the late-night comedy sketch TV show “Saturday Night Live,” in 1985 but after a dismal performance, he was dismissed after one season.
Though he fell short in SNL, Downey had a breakthrough when he joined the drama film “Tuff Turf” (1985), taking the role of James Spader’s sidekick. The same year, he appeared as a bully in the cult teen comedy hit flick “Weird Science” (1985).
In 1987, he got his first lead role, playing Jack Jericho in the rom-com drama film “The Pickup Artist.” His career soared even further after his remarkable performance in Marek Kanievska’s “Less Than Zero.” He played Julian, a rich, troubled young drug addict, a role that earned him critical praise and interest from Hollywood executives.
Steady work ensued and Downey appeared in more films, such as in “1969” (1988) with
Winona Ryder and Kiefer Sutherland, “Chances Are” (1989) alongside Cybill Shepherd, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Ryan O’Neal, “Air America (1990)” co-starring Mel Gibson, and in “Soapdish” (1991) with Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Teri Hatcher, and Whoopi Goldberg.
His biggest success at that time came in 1992 when he played the title in the “Chaplin” biopic directed by Richard Attenborough. At only 27-seven years old, his visceral outing in the film earned him his first Academy Award nomination, while winning it as Best Actor in the BAFTA (British Academy Award).
Amidst the success, Downey has, sadly, developed a substance-abuse problem. While he continued to showcase his impressive acting prowess in the films, “Heart and Souls” (1993), “Short Cuts” (1993), “Only You” (1994), “Natural Born Killers” (1994), “Richard III” (1995), “Two Girls and a Guy” (1997), “U.S. Marshals” (1998), and “Black and White” (1999), his struggle with drug addiction led to numerous skirmishes with the law, and in-and-out stints in rehab facilities cast gloom over his successful performances.
In 1999, he was sentenced to 36 months at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison for violating parole in a previous arrest. Downey was released only 12 months later, but with a bail worth $5,000 and probation. He joined ‘Ally McBeal’ after his release and earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Yet, his drug problems never ceased, causing two more arrests until 2001. As such, he was fired from his recurring role in the legal comedy-drama television series. It was the lowest point in his life. His ex-spouse wife left him and took their son, while he fell into debt on the brink of bankruptcy. After serious contemplation, Downey finally committed to putting an end to his drug problems and getting his act together.
After emerging clean and sober from his rehab, he made a comeback into his acting career, appearing in several movies, such as “The Singing Detective” (2003), and “Gothika” (2003) with Halle Berry and Penélope Cruz, “Good Night, and Good Luck” (2005) starring
David Strathairn, ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (2005), and David Fincher’s “Zodiac” (2007).
Things went big for Downey after he landed the role in MCU’s “Iron Man” in May 2008. It was the role that made him one of the highest-paid in Hollywood and a role he gets to play over the next decade. The big-screen adaptation of the comic book superhero also featured stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, and Jeff Bridges. The movie earned a worldwide gross of over $585.8 million. Two successful sequels were also made: 2010’s “Iron Man 2” and 2013’s “Iron Man 3.’
Following the success of “Iron Man” in 2008, Downey also starred in the comedy film “Tropic Thunder” alongside Ben Stiller and Jack Black. He went to receive another Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Kirk Lazarus
Since then, Downey has become an in-demand commodity in the movie industry. In 2009, he appeared in “The Soloist” with Jamie Foxx, and played the title role in “Sherlock Holmes,” which had a sequel in 2011, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.” The following year, he starred in Todd Philips’ “Due Date,” in which he played the role of an anxious, expectant father in the middle of a road trip rushing to get back home before the birth of his child.
Following films he made in the decade include “Chef” (2014), and “The Judge” (2014). Of course, he went to reprise his role as “Iron Man” in “The Avengers” series (2012, 2015, 2018, and 2019), “Captain America: Civil War” (2016), “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017).
Summing all up, it’s remarkable to see how Robert Downey Jr.’s journey in life, a story of up and down, recovery, and redemption that proves that he is also an “Iron Man” in real life, being able to turn his life around for the better and emerging as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.