Robert Downey Jr. might be known the world over as the Iron Man and for being the highest paid actor in Hollywood. But there’s more to his life than we actually know it. The 52-year old flamboyant actor has a backstory that is full of childhood troubles and battles with drug addiction. Even if you think that you’ve known his story for a while, you’ll definitely be surprised how he managed to become what he is today.
Childhood and Movies
Born in New York City on April 4, 1965 to the revolutionary film-maker Robert Downey Sr. and actress Elsie Ann Ford, Robert Downey Jr. was attracted to films at an early age as his mother instilled the love of performing in him.
He was raised along with his sister Alison in Greenwich Village and made his first debut in films playing the role of a puppy in the 1970 film Pound which was directed by his father. Later on, he played several small roles in his father’s films.
Downey was introduced to drugs at the tender age of six by his father, who was himself a drug addict. An incident his father publicly regretted several times later on. Downey stated that the incidents of drug use were like an emotional bond between him and his father and also added that it was a way, he thought, that his father was showing his love for him. Eventually, Downey spent most of his time with his dad using alcohol and making several calls in pursuit of drugs.
He was 13 when his parents divorced and had to live with his father in LA, California. As he turned 16, he dropped out from high school and returned to New York to live with his mother and to pursue acting as his full-time career.
His early roles included those in films like Baby, It’s You in 1983, Firstborn in 1984, Weird Science in 1985 and Back to School in the year 1986. He was also a regular cast member of the NBC’s popular program Saturday Night Live.
His first leading film role was in the 1987 movie The Pick-up Artist in which he played a charming womanizer and his first breakthrough performance was in the movie Less Than Zero which released the same year.
His Struggle with Drugs
In the movie Less Than Zero, Downey played the character of a cocaine-addicted and party loving Julian Wells. Sadly, the character rand true for Downey who had, by now, developed a full-fledged addiction to drugs.
Downey later explained that he felt like the character of the movie was as exaggeration of himself and lasted for more than it needed to.
A drug rehabilitation stint didn’t do any good and his struggles with alcohol and drugs continued. However, this didn’t stop him from becoming the most acclaimed actor of his time and his success continued for years. On the other side, he also earned reputation as a controversial figure in Hollywood.
Expanding his personal life, he married actress Deborah Falconer in 1992 and the couple had a son, Indio, two years later.
Arrests and Life in Prison
He was stopped by police and arrested in 1996 after driving naked in his Porsche. At that time, he was also in possession of heroin, cocaine and a revolver. As he was slated to be charged, he ran afoul again only to be found passed out this time in his neighbour’s house.
He was arrested and sent to prison for 12 months and another drug rehab followed after his release. Found in possession of cocaine and Wonder Woman costume, he was again arrested in 2000 in a Palm Springs hotel. His trial was delayed for several months and he was arrested in April 2001 for being under the influence of a stimulant. His personal life was also in turmoil as his wife filed for divorce in 2004. He couldn’t even get an insurance bond because of his troubles with law.
Later in 2005, he married film producer Susan Levin and the couple had their first son, Exton Elias in 2012. In 2014, they welcomed their second child, a girl whom they named Avri. Downey was pardoned for the 1996 drug conviction in 2015 and was sent to prison for a year.
Back on His Feet
Even as his personal life was in turmoil, the actor went on to give memorable performances and received several awards including the Golden Globe Award in 2001 and also won a Screen Actor’s Guild Award later on.
During this time, the actor reached an agreement with his the prosecutors to plead no contest for his earlier drug charges. Downey was sentenced to three years of probation which allowed him to continue his live-in drug treatment instead of returning to prison.
His life has completely turned around since then and Mel Gibson was one of the people who played an important role in his coming back. They remain close friends even for this day.
2008 was the year when Downey returned to the superhero status with Iron Man, in which he played a wealthy industrialist Tony Stark. His character remains in high demand even to this day.
Recently in 2017, it was announced that Downey would star in the film adaptation of classic children’s book series The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle.
Downey says that he doesn’t take his professional or personal resurgence for granted. He also insists that he is not the poster boy for drug abuse. In an interview, he told the reporters that he always had a strong sense of wanting a foundation and home but failed to have it. Instead, he now choose to create it.