Robert Downey Jr.
- Robert John Downey, Jr.
April 04, 1965 (age 56)
- Actor, Musician, Film Producer, Screenwriter, Singer-songwriter
- Susan Downey
- Robert Downey Sr., Elsie Downey
Robert John Downey, Jr. (born April 4, 1965) is an American actor who made his screen debut at the age of five, appearing in his father's film Pound. He has appeared in roles associated with the Brat Pack, such as Less Than Zero and Weird Science. Other films he has starred in include Air America, Soapdish, and Natural Born Killers. He starred as the title character in the 1992 film Chaplin, earning him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
After being released from the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in 2000 for drug charges, Downey joined the cast of the TV series Ally McBeal playing Calista Flockhart's love interest. His performance was praised and he received a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries, or Television Film. His character was written out when Downey was fired after two drug arrests in late 2000 and early 2001. After one last stay in a court-ordered drug treatment program, Downey finally achieved sobriety.
His more recent films include The Singing Detective, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, A Scanner Darkly, Gothika, Zodiac and Tropic Thunder, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. In 2008, Downey played the role of Marvel superhero Tony Stark / Iron Man in the live action film Iron Man, a role he reprised in Iron Man 2, Marvel's The Avengers, and Iron Man 3; he also made a cameo appearance as the character in The Incredible Hulk. He will again reprise his role in the upcoming films, Avengers: Age of Ultron and another Avengers sequel. In 2009, he played the title character in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes and again in 2011's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
Downey has starred in six movies that have each grossed over $500 million at the box office worldwide. Two of those films, The Avengers and Iron Man 3, each earned over $1 billion. Downey tops the Forbes list of Hollywood's highest-paid actors with an estimated $75 million in earnings between June 2012 and June 2013.
Early life and family
Downey was born in Manhattan, New York City, New York, the younger of two children. His father, Robert Downey, Sr., is an actor, writer, producer, cinematographer, and director of underground films, and his mother, Elsie (née Ford), is also an actress and appeared in Downey, Sr.'s films. His father is of half Russian Jewish and half Irish Catholic ancestry, and his mother is of Scottish, German, and Swiss descent. His father was born "Robert Elias", and changed his last name to "Downey" (after his stepfather James Downey), when he was a minor and wanted to enlist in the Army. He and his older sister, Allyson, grew up in Greenwich Village.
As a child, Downey was "surrounded by drugs". His father, a drug addict, allowed Downey to use marijuana at age six, an incident which his father has said that he now regrets. Downey stated that drug use became an emotional bond between him and his father: "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." Eventually, Downey began spending every night abusing alcohol and "making a thousand phone calls in pursuit of drugs".
During his childhood Downey had minor roles in his father's films. He made his acting debut at the age of five, playing a sick puppy in the absurdist comedy Pound (1970), and then at age seven appeared in the surrealist Greaser's Palace (1972). At the age of ten, he was living in England and studied classical ballet as part of a larger curriculum. He attended the Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center in upstate New York as a teenager. When his parents divorced in 1978, Downey moved to California with his father, but in 1982 he dropped out of Santa Monica High School and moved back to New York to pursue an acting career full-time.
Downey and Kiefer Sutherland, who shared the screen together in the 1988 film 1969, were roommates for three years when he first moved to Hollywood to pursue his career in acting.
Downey began building upon theater roles, including in the short-lived off-Broadway musical "American Passion" at the Joyce Theater in 1983, produced by Norman Lear. In 1985, he was part of the new, younger cast hired for Saturday Night Live, but following a year of poor ratings and criticism of the new cast's comedic talents, he and most of the new crew were replaced. That same year, Downey had a dramatic acting breakthrough when he played James Spader's sidekick in Tuff Turf and then a bully in John Hughes' Weird Science. He was considered for the role of Duckie in John Hughes' film Pretty in Pink (1986), but his first lead role was with Molly Ringwald in The Pick-up Artist (1987). Because of these and other coming-of-age films Downey did during the 1980s, he is sometimes named as a member of the Brat Pack.
In 1987, Downey played Julian Wells, a drug-addicted rich boy whose life rapidly spirals out of his control, in the film version of the Bret Easton Ellisnovel Less Than Zero. His performance, described by Janet Maslin in The New York Times as "desperately moving", was widely praised, though Downey has said that for him "the role was like the ghost of Christmas Future" since his drug habit resulted in his becoming an "exaggeration of the character" in real life. Zero drove Downey into films with bigger budgets and names, such as Chances Are (1989) with Cybill Shepherd and Ryan O'Neal, Air America (1990) with Mel Gibson, and Soapdish (1991) with Sally Field, Kevin Kline, and Whoopi Goldberg.
In 1992, he starred as Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin, a role for which he prepared extensively, learning how to play the violin and tennis left-handed. He even had a personal coach in order to imitate Chaplin's posture and way of carrying himself. The role garnered Downey an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor at the Academy Awards 65th ceremony, losing to Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman.
Summer 2008 blockbusters
With all of the critical success Downey had experienced throughout his career, he had never appeared in a "blockbuster" film. That changed in the middle of 2008 when Downey starred in two critically and commercially successful films, Iron Man and Tropic Thunder. In the article Ben Stiller wrote for Downey's entry in the 2008 edition of The Time 100, he offered an observation on Downey's commercially successful summer at the box office:
Yes, Downey is Iron Man, but he really is Actor Man.[...]In the realm where box office is irrelevant and talent is king, the realm that actually means something, he has always ruled, and finally this summer he gets to have his cake and let us eat him up all the way to the multiplex, where his mastery is in full effect.
—-- Ben Stiller, The 2008 Time 100, entry No. 60, "Robert Downey Jr."
In 2007, Downey was cast as the title character in the film Iron Man, with director Jon Favreau explaining the choice by stating: "Downey wasn't the most obvious choice, but he understood what makes the character tick. He found a lot of his own life experience in 'Tony Stark'." Favreau insisted on having Downey as he repeatedly claimed that Downey would be to Iron Man what Johnny Depp is to the Pirates of the Caribbean series, a lead actor that could both elevate the quality of the film and increase the public's interest in it. For the role Downey had to gain more than 20 pounds of muscle in five months to look like he "had the power to forge iron."
Iron Man was globally released between April 30 and May 3, 2008, grossing over $585 million worldwide and receiving rave reviews which cited Downey's performance as a highlight of the film. As a result, both Downey and Favreau stated their interest in making an Iron Man trilogy. By October 2008, Downey had agreed to appear as Iron Man in two Iron Man sequels and The Avengers, the superhero team that Stark joins based on Marvel's comic book series The Avengers. He also made a small appearance as Iron Man's alter ego Tony Stark in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk, as a part of Marvel Studios' attempt to depict the same Marvel Universe on film by providing continuity among the movies.
Downey started dating actress Sarah Jessica Parker after meeting her on the set of Firstborn. They separated in 1991 because of his drug addiction, according to Downey.
He married actress/singer Deborah Falconer on May 29, 1992, after a 42-day courtship, and had a son with her, Indio Falconer Downey, born on September 7, 1993 in Los Angeles County, California. The strain on their marriage from Downey's repeated trips to rehab and jail finally reached a breaking point; in 2001, in the midst of Downey's last arrest and sentencing to an extended stay in rehab, Falconer left Downey and took Indio with her. Downey and Falconer finalized their divorce on April 26, 2004.
In 2003, Downey met producer Susan Levin, an Executive Vice President of Production at Joel Silver's film company, Silver Pictures on the set of Gothika. Downey and Susan quietly struck up a romance during production, though Susan turned down his romantic advances twice. Despite Susan's worries that the romance would not last after the completion of shooting because "he's an actor; I have a real job", the couple's relationship continued after production wrapped on Gothika, and Downey proposed to Susan on the night before her thirtieth birthday. The couple were married on August 27, 2005, in a Jewish ceremony at Amagansett, New York. They have a son together named Exton Elias Downey, born on February 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. A tattoo on one of his biceps reads "Suzie Q" in tribute to her.
On July 9, 2014, he announced via Facebook and Twitter that he and his wife were expecting a daughter in November.
Addiction and sobriety
Downey maintains that he has been drug-free since July 2003, thanks to his family, therapy, meditation, twelve-step recovery programs, yoga and the practice of Wing Chun kung fu. Downey has credited his wife with helping him kick his drug and alcohol habits. "There's no understanding for me of the bigger picture in real time in a hands-on way without her. Because it was the perfect, perfect, perfect matching of personalities and gifts." He has described his religious beliefs as "Jewish-Buddhist", and in the past has been interested in Christianity and the Hare Krishna ideology. In a panel discussion, Rachel McAdams, who co-starred with Downey in Sherlock Holmes, called him a "superhero" for his "committed" work ethic. On the same panel, Downey described how he worked long hours and many weekends to ensure the accuracy of his portrayal of Holmes so as to help make the film a success.
Downey has been a close friend of Mel Gibson since they starred in Air America. Downey defended Gibson during the controversy surrounding The Passion of the Christ, and said "nobody's perfect" in reference to Gibson's DUI. Said Gibson of Downey: "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.'"
In October 2011, Robert Downey Jr. was being honored at the 25th American Cinematheque Awards. Downey chose Mel Gibson, fellow actor and good friend, to present him with his award for his life's work. After Gibson's introduction, Downey did not discuss himself, instead he explained why he chose Gibson, and continued to utilize his air time by saying a few kind words about Gibson, his recently down-trodden friend. After relaying how Gibson immensely helped him through his hardships, Downey addressed his fellow entertainers directly, "I humbly ask that you join me - unless you are completely without sin, and in which case you picked the wrong fucking industry - in forgiving my friend of his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate that you have me and allowing him to continue his great and on-going contribution to our collective art without shame." After the speech, the two friends hugged onstage, to a standing ovation.
Downey has indicated that his time in prison changed his political point of view somewhat, saying, "I have a really interesting political point of view, and it's not always something I say too loud at dinner tables here, but you can't go from a $2,000-a-night suite at La Mirage to a penitentiary and really understand it and come out a liberal. You can't. I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone else, but it was very, very, very educational for me and has informed my proclivities and politics ever since."