MOTW: The Tough Journey of Robert Downey, Jr.

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
May 2nd, 2013

MOTW: The Tough Journey of Robert Downey, Jr.

Born in Manhattan on April 4, 1965, Robert Downey, Jr. has had a career that has spanned over forty years. The younger of two children, Robert Downey, Jr. is the son of Robert Downey Sr., who was known for writing, producing, and acting in independent films. At the age of five, the young Robert Downey had his first role in his dad's movie "Pound." Two years later, he had another role in another one of his father's films called "Greaser's Palace."

Although he started his film career at a very young age, Robert has a childhood that was not perfect. In fact, many reports claim that Downey was surrounded by drugs from a very early age. He has even admitted to smoking marijuana for the first time when he was only six years old. In 1978, when Downey Jr. was about thirteen, his mother and father got a divorce, and he moved to California to live with his dad. There, he continued to experiment with drugs and alcohol, and eventually, Robert Downey, Jr. was taking drugs with his father on a regular basis. It became the only way that the two of them could bond together. Unfortunately, his early drug use led to many problems with addiction when he was older.

In 1982, four years after moving to California, Robert Downey, Jr. dropped out of high school, and he moved to New York to pursue acting on a full-time basis instead. He had a few roles in Broadway shows, including the off-Broadway musical "American Passion." Two years after moving to New York, he was hired by "Saturday Night Live." Sadly, due to poor ratings, he was let go after just one season on the show. Eventually, he moved back to Hollywood, and he became roommates with his future costar Kiefer Sutherland, whose father was also an actor.

His breakout role was as a sidekick in the film "Tuff Turf," and he followed that role by playing a bully in "Weird Science." Allegedly, he was considered but turned down for a role in the iconic Molly Ringwald film "Pretty in Pink." Eventually, however, he starred alongside Ringwald in "The Pick-Up Artist." Thanks to his role in that film and other work in coming-of-age films in the 1980s, Downey is sometimes considered to be part of the Brat Pack.

He played roles in several other films, including "Less Than Zero," "Air America," and "Soapdish." Finally, in 1992, Downey received his first Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Charlie Chaplin in the film "Chaplin." He lost that award, however, to Al Pacino.

Although Downey continued to work in films through the 1990s, he was struggling with drug abuse in his personal life. He was in and out of rehab on multiple occasions, and he seemed to constantly struggle with relapses. In 1996, he was arrested for possession of heroin and cocaine as well as for having a .357 Magnum. He was placed on parole, but while on parole, he unlawfully entered a neighbor's home where he fell asleep on their bed. After that incident, he was sent to jail for four months.

Unfortunately, he faced more trouble in 1999, and at that time, he was sent to serve a three-year term at a substance abuse facility. After only a year in custody, he was cleared for early release, and he almost immediately scored a role as Ally McBeal's boyfriend on the show "Ally McBeal." Despite being arrested for cocaine not long after he started his role, he continued to film episodes with the cast. He was able to escape jail time thanks to California laws that focus on giving addicts treatment rather than punishments. However, he lost several roles because directors weren't willing to hire him due to his unpredictable nature.

In 2001, Downey decided to clean up his act, and his career started to experience a comeback. He played roles in "The Singing Detective" as well as in "Gothika." However, his history of drug abuse meant that he often had to have special contracts. For instance, he was only given 60% of his payment right away for "Gothika," and the rest was held as insurance until after the filming had been completed. After successfully filming those two movies, he was offered several other roles, and he even recorded an album.

In the summer of 2008, nearly forty years after starting his acting career, he starred in his first two blockbusters. "Iron Man" and "Tropic Thunder" came out that summer, and they were both critically and financially successful. The following year, he received critical acclaim for his role in "The Soloist." Most recently, he has had roles in "Iron Man 2" and "The Avengers." Now, fans are waiting for the release of "Iron Man 3," which is due to come out in the summer of 2013.