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Inspiring Biography of Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey is an American actor, producer and singer and is popular for portraying the role of Iron Man.


Robert Downey was born on April 4, 1965 in Manhattan, New York, U.S.

His father, Robert Downey Sr. was a cult film maker, director and an actor while his mother, Elsie Ann was an actress.

As Robert Downey was born in a family associated with films, his childhood was very different.

At the age of 10, he studied classical ballet while living in England.

Since his childhood, Robert Downey was badly influenced by the party atmosphere around him and walked the wrong path.

During his childhood, he played minor roles in his father’s movies.

In 1970, at the young age of 5, Robert Downey made his screen debut in his father’s film, Pound.

In this movie, he played the role of a sick puppy waiting to get euthanized.

In 1972, Robert Downey acted in Greaser’s Palace and this film was also directed by his father.

In 1987, he got his first leading role in The Pick-up Artist.

Getting recognised-

In 1992, Robert Downey played the lead role of Charlie Chaplin in the movie Chaplin.

This movie earned him a nomination for Academy Award for Best Actor but he lost the award to Al Pacino for the movie Scent of a Woman.

Robert Downey became the first Saturday Night Live cast member to get nominated for an Oscar in a Leading Role category for his applauded performance as Charlie Chaplin in the movie Chaplin.

This movie also helped him to get worldwide recognition for his acting skills.

The wrong path-

As his father was a drug addict, Robert Downey grew up surrounded by drugs.

His father introduced him to drugs by passing him a joint (cannabis) at a party and he got addicted to heroin after smoking crack.

Robert Downey tried marijuana when he was just 6 years old and his father allowed him to do so.

Later, marijuana became a part of his daily life and he started consuming it like a staple.

Robert Downey felt that using drugs together with his father helped in their bonding and this allowed Robert Downey Sr. to express his love towards him in the only way he knew how.

At that time, Robert Downey Sr. felt that it would be insincere if he did not introduce his son to marijuana and so, he let Robert Downey to smoke at such a young age.

Later, Robert Downey Sr. regretted introducing drugs to his son.

When his parents got divorced in 1978, Robert Downey moved to California to live with his father.

Later, in 1982 he moved back to New York after dropping out of school to pursue an acting career full-time.

When he first moved to Hollywood, Robert Downey was roommates with Kiefer Sutherland for three years and both of them co-starred in the 1998 movie, 1969.

Due to his drug addiction, Sarah Jessica Parker broke up with him and later, he also got divorced from Deborah Falconer.

During that time, Robert Downey was also suffering from bipolar disorder.

In 1987, he acted the role of a drug-addicted rich boy in the film Less Than Zero, this role kick-started his career.

This movie mirrored Robert Downey’s real life and his realistic performance earned him many positive reviews and offers from top directors.

The value of friendship-

After struggling for many years with substance abuse, arrests, legal troubles, rehab and relapse, Robert Downey needed someone’s help to make a comeback and revive his film career.

The drug and alcohol addiction severely impacted both his life and career and almost everyone believed that his acting career had come to an end.

During that time, the filmmakers were hesitant to give him a chance because of his habits.

Luckily, Robert Downey was helped by his best friend Mel Gibson, an American actor and filmmaker to make a comeback.

In 1990, both of them became best friends after acting together in the film Air America.

As Mel Gibson trusted Robert Downey, he paid his insurance bond for the 2003 movie The Singing Detective.

In this movie, Robert Downey played a lead role.

This movie helped him in making a comeback and reviving his finances and acting career.

In 2005, Robert Downey was hired by Woody Allen for the film Melinda and Melinda but he was unable to cast him in this film because he failed to get insurance.

The success which he achieved in his initial career was masked by his drug addiction and legal troubles.

The very bad year-

In 1995, Robert Downey started smoking crack cocaine and black tar heroin.

His friends introduced him to these drugs and once he tried them, he developed an urge to do drugs every 20 minutes.

The year 1996 turned out to be a very bad year for Robert Downey, as in this year his drug use got out of control.

This made Sean Penn and Dennis Quaid to forcefully take Robert Downey in a private plane to a rehabilitation centre in Tucson.

But three days later, he ran out of the rehabilitation centre with only a water bottle and called his accountant for a plane ticket home.

And Robert Downey returned home in a drunken state.

Just a few days later, he drove naked in a Porsche and was high and throwing imaginary rats out of his car window.

During that time, Robert Downey was suffering from cocaine psychosis.

Even though he behaved strangely, he did not get arrested.

Later, Robert Downey felt very embarrassed for his behaviour.

Getting arrested-

In April 1996, Robert Downey got arrested for the first time for possessing heroin, cocaine, and an unloaded .375 magnum while speeding down Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles County, California.

And just a month later, he trespassed into the home of Bill and Lisa Curtis under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Bill and Lisa Curtis were Robert Downey’s neighbours at Broad Beach Road, Malibu, California.

He slept unconsciously in their eleven year old son’s bedroom.

When Lisa entered the room, she was surprised to see an unknown man in her child’s bed.

She complained to the emergency phone number, 911 that there was a strange man lying on her child’s bed in an unconscious state.

Robert Downey was charged for being under the influence of drugs but luckily the family did not charge him for trespassing.

After getting arrested, he was sent to the detox centre in Marina Del Rey.

But four days later, Robert Downey escaped from the bathroom window of the detox centre and reached his friend’s house in Malibu.

Within four hours the security found him and took him to jail.

Robert Downey failed many times while attempting to control his drug addiction.

Getting repeatedly arrested-

The court ordered Robert Downey to undergo compulsory drug testing but he missed one of the drug tests.

So, in 1997 he got arrested and was jailed for six months in the Los Angeles County jail.

Robert Downey felt humiliated and embarrassed upon getting imprisoned.

Here, he was assigned the task of scrubbing pizza pans and was paid eight cents per hour.

Robert Downey used to sleep on a three inch thick mattress and was given top bunk (bed) which he found difficult to climb up and down.

He shared his cell with four other inmates and his fellow prisoners used to call him Mo’ Downey.

During this time in jail, Robert Downey was attacked by the fellow inmates and woke up in a pool of his own blood.

This kind of incident occurred twice and he describes these incidents as the worst things that had happened to him and he dislikes telling about them.

In 1999, Robert Downey was once again arrested and was sentenced to a three-year prison term at the Corcoran state prison in California after he missed another drug test.

Once he explained his helplessness to a judge by relating his condition like having a shotgun in his mouth and having his finger on its trigger but having developing a taste for the gun metal.

This implies that Robert Downey was well aware of the dangers of the drug addiction but was helpless in overcoming his addiction because he developed a liking for the drugs.

An eye-opener-

The prison culture opened Robert Downey’s eyes to a lot of things.

In the prison, his self-esteem hit rock-bottom because he was considered as a menace to society.

Initially, the atmosphere at the prison shocked Robert Downey with its razor wire fences and correctional officers.

Later, he got to know that the job of the correctional officers was to protect the society from the prisoners.

Robert Downey’s witty and humorous nature helped him while he was publicly struggling with drug addiction.

He is a very light-hearted person, once he was granted permission from the court to take leave from the rehab to host the Saturday Night Live and he made fun of himself on the show in a light-hearted manner.

The change which couldn’t last long-

After completing his jail sentence in 1999, it appeared like Robert Downey abandoned the drugs and started a new chapter in his life.

He was cast in Ally McBeal, a hit comedy-drama television series and was highly praised for his work and even won a Golden Globe award.

But once again, Robert Downey started doing drugs as he could not restrain himself from doing drugs for a long time.

In 2001, he was found roaming barefoot and later in a fetal position in an alley behind a motel in Culver City, California.

Later, Robert Downey got arrested and subsequently got fired from the Ally McBeal series.

Unfortunately, these developments made him bankrupt.

In 2003, a new chapter began in Robert Downey’s life when he met Susan Levin.

He fell in love with Susan Levin, a film producer during the filming of Gothika.

During that time, many production companies withheld 40 percent of Robert Downey’s salary until the production got completed as insurance against his drug addiction behaviour.

He proposed to marry Susan Levin and she insisted that she would only marry him if he gave up doing drugs.

The beginning of the best times-

So, after struggling for many years with arrests, drug abuses, unsuccessful rehabs Robert Downey was ready to make a turn around and in a spectacular way, he threw all his drugs into the Pacific Ocean.

He entered a 12-step rehab program which included therapy sessions, meditation, practising Wing Chun Kung Fu.

Thanks to the 12-step rehab program and the support of Susan Levin, Robert Downey completely abandoned drugs and later, he described this journey as coming out of a 20 year old coma.

He made the strongest surprising comeback in Hollywood and his film career got completely revived as he got clean.

In 2005, Robert Downey acted in the title role in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and his acting was very well praised.

The biggest turning point-

In 2008, the biggest turning point in Robert Downey’s life occurred when his two films, Iron Man and Tropic Thunder became blockbusters.

As Iron Man was a comic book character, playing that role seemed very challenging.

For a comic book character to succeed in film it must exactly replicate the character as in the comic books and it is very important for comic book fans to get connected with the character shown on the screen.

Robert Downey felt deeply connected with the role of Iron Man and experienced creative freedom while playing the role.

He noticed that the Iron Man movie portrayed his life like a documentary and observed that it was happening to him.

Jon Favreau, the project director of Iron Man, gave Robert Downey a chance to act in the movie.

Jon Favreau strongly felt that only Robert Downey can do full justice to the character of Iron Man, so he insisted the folks at Marvel Studios give him an opportunity.

His decision was later proved to be correct as Iron Man became a blockbuster and grossed $585.2 million worldwide.

success of Iron Man helped Robert Downey

The huge success of Iron Man changed the life of Robert Downey forever.

By this success, the production companies which were once reluctant to give him a chance grew very excited to make film contracts with him.

The irreplaceable-

Without Robert Downey, the characters of Tony Stark and Iron Man would have been nearly impossible.

Once in ACE Comic Con, Chris Evans who played the role of Captain America opined that Robert Downey is irreplaceable and nobody could ever replace him.

He also said that the role of Iron Man is very different from the roles of Superman or Batman and it cannot find different incarnations.

Another blockbuster-

After Iron Man, Robert Downey acted in the title character of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes.

This movie was released on December 25, 2009 and broke many box office records in the United States.

This movie grossed over $524 million worldwide and Robert Downey was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.

He also acted in the sequel of Sherlock Holmes.

The success saga continues-

Later, Robert Downey appeared in many famous movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe like Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, The Avengers, Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant.

The most successful films of his career include Iron Man, Tropic Thunder, Sherlock Holmes, Due Date, The Avengers and The Judge.

Robert Downey also released his debut studio album The Futurist on November 23, 2004.

On June 14, 2010, Robert Downey and his wife, Susan Levin opened their own production company by name, Team Downey.

Getting pardoned-

In December 2015, Governor of California Jerry Brown pardoned Robert Downey for all his convictions because he came clean and was out of custody for 10 years.

He was one among the 91 other people to get pardoned for the criminal convictions.

Becoming the highest-paid actor-

In 2008, Robert Downey was paid $500,000 for Iron Man and his salary multiplied many times for his other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.

He was paid a whopping $75 million for his role in the 2019 Avengers: Endgame.

From the years 2013 to 2015, Robert Downey was listed as Hollywood’s highest-paid actor by Forbes.

His persistence and never give up attitude took him from being unemployable to becoming one of the highest-paid actors in the world.

In 2016, Robert Downey lost his highest-paid actor title to Dwayne Johnson (The Rock).

Once, he was earning just 8 cents per hour but now his net worth is $300 million.

Even after attaining huge success, Robert Downey is a very down to earth person.

An avid car lover-

Robert Downey owns a great collection of luxury cars which includes an Audi A8, Audi A7, Mercedes-Benz Pagoda, Bentley Continental, Mercedes SL550 Coupe Convertible, Nissan GTR, Ferrari California T, Porsche 993, Acura NSX, Boss 302 Mustang, Audi e-tron GT concept, etc.

In many Iron Man movies, Robert Downey was shown driving an Audi car.

Important life lessons-

Robert Downey’s biography is filled with many important life lessons.

His life story states that it is completely fine to ask for help during difficult situations and you should not be ashamed to ask for help.

Robert Downey took the help of the 12-step rehab program to overcome his insurmountable drug addiction.

Eventually, he was able to overcome his vices with his will power and dedication.

It is also important to remember that just because you hit the bottom in your life does not mean that you have to stay there forever.

Robert Downey rose to the heights of success every time he fell and this signifies the importance of getting up every time we fall down.

The best time is now-

It is never too late to change your life.

Robert Downey permanently changed his life when he was 38 years old by overcoming drug addiction.

Once he said that deciding whether or not to overcome a problem or challenge is much more difficult than actually overcoming it.

The power of persistence-

It is very easy to succumb to hopelessness during the difficult times but when you persistently try to improve the situations, the difficult times will pass with the passage of time.

Robert Downey’s life story affirms that nothing is impossible and you are the master of your destiny.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What inspired Robert Downey Jr.?

At a very young age Robert Downey Jr. was inspired by acting because both of his parents were actors.
Subsequently, at the age of 5 he debuted in the film Pound.

Does Robert Downey Jr. have an Oscar?

No, he didn’t win any Oscars (Academy Awards) but he was nominated for the Oscars twice.
• In 1993, Robert Downey Jr. was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the Chaplin film.
• In 2009, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the Tropic Thunder film.

Is Robert Downey Jr. the highest paid actor?

In between 2013 to 2015, Robert Downey was the highest-paid Hollywood actor.

Does Robert Downey Jr. have an autobiography?

No, Robert Downey Jr. hasn’t written an autobiography.

Is Robert Downey Jr. a trained dancer?

Yes, he is a trained dancer.
At the age of 10, Robert Downey Jr. was trained in classical ballet in England.
Ballet is a type of performance dance originated in Italian Renaissance.

Is Robert Downey Jr. left handed or right handed?

He is basically a right handed person.
But in 1992 for the Chaplin film, Robert Downey Jr. learnt to play the violin and tennis with his left hand.

When did Robert Downey Jr. meet his wife?

He met his wife Susan Levin in 2003 during the filming of Gothika.

Is Robert Downey Jr. a billionaire?

No, he is not a billionaire but a millionaire with a net worth of around $300 million.

Why did Robert Downey Jr. go to jail?

• In April 1996, he was arrested for possessing heroin, cocaine, and an unloaded .375 magnum.
• In May 1996, while on parole Robert Downey Jr. got arrested for trespassing into the home of Bill and Lisa Curtis under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
• In 1997, he spent six months in the Los Angeles County jail for missing drug tests.

Featured image credit- Wikimedia Commons

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