Renowned A-list actor Robert Downey Jr. was born April 4, 1965, to actor Robert Downey Sr. and actress Elsie Ford. Downey Jr. was introduced to the world of acting at an early age, getting his first acting part by age five. He dropped out of Santa Monica High School to pursue a career in acting. Robert Downey Jr. made some of his first acting appearances in movies such as Baby, It’s You (1983), Firstborn (1984), Weird Science (1985), and Back to School (1986), biography.com reports. From 1985 to 1986, Downey was part of the regular cast on Saturday Night Live, NBC’s comedy skit program Britannica wrote. Robert Downey Jr.’s first leading part was in The Pick-up Artist (1987) and scored as a cocaine addict in Less Than Zero (1987).
Sadly, Less Than Zero seemed to be the “story of his life.” Robert Downey Jr. was introduced to drugs by his father at a very young age and grew into a full-blown addiction heading into his late teens. Downey later said, “Until that movie, I took my drugs after work and on the weekends. Maybe I'd turn up hungover on the set, but no more so than the stuntman. That changed on Less Than Zero. I was playing this junkie...guy, and, for me, the role was like the ghost of Christmas future. The character was an exaggeration of myself. Then things changed, and, in some ways, I became an exaggeration of the character. That lasted far longer than it needed to last."
A short time in drug rehabilitation followed, but his struggles with abusive substances would continue for some time. Biography.com states, “By the early 1990s, Downey had established a reputation as a critically acclaimed A-list actor.” Robert Downey Jr. played a suspicious soap opera producer in Soapdish (1991), co-starring Whoopi Goldberg, Sally Field, and Kevin Kline. In 1992, Downey Jr. played Charlie Chaplin in Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin and won an Academy Award nomination and a British Academy Film Award (BAFTA). Downey married actress Deborah Falconer in 1992 and had a son, Indio, two years later. Despite Downey’s ongoing success with hit movies such as Natural Born Killers (1994) and Restoration (1995), he frequently had run-ins with the law as his substance-abuse problems continued to worsen. In 1996, Robert Downey Jr. was stopped on Sunset Boulevard in possession of cocaine, heroin, and a .357 Magnum. A few months later, he was found passed out in a neighbor’s yard. “He reached a low point in 1999 when he was sentenced to three years in prison for having violated parole from an earlier arrest,” says britannica.com.
Downey was granted an early release in 2000 and was cast into Ally McBeal, a television show, and won a Golden Globe for his work. Downey seemed to turn his life around in 2003, but Deborah Falconer divorced him a year later. Mel Gibson played a huge role in Downey’s turnaround, helping him get cast into the Singing Dectective (2003). His previous run-ins with the law had left him unable to find a steady routine. Also in 2003, Robert Downey Jr. co-starred in the thriller Gothika with Halle Berry. He also appeared in several other popular movies including Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), the 2006 film A Scanner Darkly, and Zodiac (2007). Downey took a huge risk in starring in the action-comedy film Tropic Thunder (2008) along with Ben Stiller and Jack Black, but it paid off. He played a self-important actor pretending to be an African-American actor to land a role in the Vietnam War. He won several accolades, including an Oscar nomination and an Academy Award nomination.
Downey played Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes (2009) and again in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows (2011). But what Robert Downey Jr. is probably most known for is his portrayal as Tony Stark/Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Downey’s characterization of Tony Stark in Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010) and Iron Man 3 (2013), has made him into a huge blockbuster phenomenon. His quirky and nonchalant personality in real life reflects in ‘Tony Stark’ which has made it so successful,” thefamouspeople.com says. Since then, Downey has played in several Marvel movies, including The Avengers (2012), the 2015 film Avengers: Age of Ultron, in Captain America: Civil War (2016), Spiderman: Homecoming (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), which grossed around 2 billion worldwide. Finally, Avengers: Endgame (2019), in which Tony Stark/Iron Man said the well-known catchphrase “I love you 3,000” to his daughter, Morgan. Also in the same movie, Stark died after saving the world, a fitting end to any superhero.
Story by Caroline Barton