The Avengers (2012) (announced)
Untitled Sherlock Holmes Sequel (2011) (pre-production)
Due Date (2010) (post-production)
Iron Man 2 (2010)
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
The Soloist (2009)
Tropic Thunder (2008)
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Iron Man (2008)
Charlie Bartlett (2007)
Lucky You (2007)
Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (2006)
A Scanner Darkly (2006)
The Shaggy Dog (2006)
A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006)
Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Game 6 (2005)
The Singing Detective (2003)
Whatever We Do (2003)
Ally McBeal (22 episodes, 2000-2002)
Auto Motives (2000)
Wonder Boys (2000)
Black and White (1999)
Friends & Lovers (1999)
In Dreams (1999)
U.S. Marshals (1998)
The Gingerbread Man (1998)
Hugo Pool (1997)
Two Girls and a Guy (1997)
One Night Stand (1997)
Danger Zone (1996)
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree (1995)
Home for the Holidays (1995)
Richard III (1995)
Only You (1994)
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Hail Caesar (1994)
Short Cuts (1993)
Heart and Souls (1993)
Too Much Sun (1990)
Air America (1990)
Chances Are (1989)
True Believer (1989)
That’s Adequate (1989)
Rented Lips (1988)
Johnny Be Good (1988)
Less Than Zero (1987)
The Pick-up Artist (1987)
Back to School (1986)
Saturday Night Live (18 episodes, 1985-1986)
Mussolini: The Untold Story (1985)
Weird Science (1985)
Tuff Turf (1985)
Baby It’s You (1983)
Up the Academy (1980)
Greaser’s Palace (1972)
Robert John Downey, Jr. (born April 4, 1965) is an American actor and musician. Downey made his screen debut at the age of five when he appeared in one of his father’s films, and has worked consistently in film and television ever since. During the 1980s he had roles in a series of coming of age films associated with the Brat Pack. Less Than Zero (1987) is particularly notable, not only because it was the first time Downey’s acting would be acknowledged by critics, but also because the role pushed Downey’s already existing drug habit one step further. After Zero, Downey started landing roles in bigger films such as Air America (1990) and Soapdish (1991). These higher-profile roles eventually led to his being cast as Charlie Chaplin in the 1992 film Chaplin, for which he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Between 1996 and 2001, Downey was frequently arrested on drug-related charges and went through several drug treatment programs, but had difficulty staying sober. After being released from the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in 2000, Downey joined the cast of the hit television series Ally McBeal, playing the new love interest of Calista Flockhart’s title character. His performance was praised and he was nominated for an Emmy Award in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series category and won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a mini-series or TV Film, but 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 lasting sobriety and his career began to take off again. He appeared in semi-independent films such as The Singing Detective (2003), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), and A Scanner Darkly (2006). He also had supporting roles in the mainstream films Gothika (2003) and Zodiac (2007). In 2004, Downey released his debut studio album The Futurist.
In 2007 Downey was cast as the title character in the comic book adaptation Iron Man which premiered in the spring of 2008, making almost $100 million in the United States and Canada during its opening weekend. In addition to receiving commercial success, Downey’s performance in the film received rave reviews. His other 2008 films include Charlie Bartlett and the Ben Stiller-directed Tropic Thunder, in which he portrayed an Australian method actor overly engrossed in his role as an African-American soldier. He received his second Oscar nomination for said film, in the category of Best Supporting Actor, which he lost to Heath Ledger. Next he played the titular lead character in Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, released Christmas 2009, for which Downey won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for his portrayal of the famous detective. He reprised the role of Iron Man in the 2010 sequel, Iron Man 2.
Early Life and Family
Downey was born in 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. Downey’s father is of Irish and Russian Jewish ancestry and his mother is of German and Scottish descent. His father was born “Robert Elias,” but changed his last name to “Downey” (after his stepfather James Downey) when he was a minor and wanted to enlist in the Army.
Downey had minor roles in his father’s projects in his childhood. 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 he appeared in the surrealist Greaser’s Palace (1972). At the age of 10, he was living in England and studied classical ballet as part of a larger curriculum. He grew up in Greenwich Village and 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.
Beginnings and Critical Acclaim
In 1985, at age 20, Downey joined the cast of the weekly television comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL), but was fired in 1986 following a cast overhaul that was done in order to save the show from cancellation due to low Nielsen ratings and critics panning the show for its mediocre cast at the time. Downey had his breakthrough when in 1985 he played James Spader’s sidekick in Tuff Turf and then a bully in John Hughes’s Weird Science. He was considered for the role of Duckie in John Hughes’ film Pretty in Pink (1986), but his first lead role would be 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 Ellis novel 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 him 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. 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. His other films in the 1990s included Heart and Souls, Only You, Natural Born Killers, Restoration, Two Girls and a Guy, Black and White, Short Cuts, Richard III, and The Last Party, a documentary written by Downey.
From 1996 through 2001, Downey was arrested numerous times on drug-related charges and went several times through drug treatment programs unsuccessfully, explaining in 1999 to a judge: “It’s like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and my finger’s on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gunmetal.” He also explained his relapses by claiming to be addicted to drugs since the age of eight; his father was giving them to him as he was also an addict.
In April 1996, Downey was arrested for possession of heroin, cocaine and an unloaded .357-caliber Magnum handgun, while he was speeding down Sunset Boulevard. A month later, when on parole, he trespassed into a neighbor’s home while under the influence of a controlled substance, falling asleep in one of the beds. He was sentenced to three years of probation and required to undergo mandatory drug testing. In 1997 he missed one of the court-ordered drug tests and had to spend four months in the Los Angeles County jail. When Downey missed another required drug test in 1999, he was arrested once more. Despite Downey’s lawyer, John Stewart Holden, assembling for his client’s 1999 defense the same team of lawyers that successfully defended O. J. Simpson during his criminal trial for murder, Downey was sentenced to a three-year prison term at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran, California (a.k.a. “Corcoran II”). At the time of the 1999 arrest, all of Downey’s film projects had wrapped and were close to release, with the exception of In Dreams, which he was allowed to complete filming. He had also been hired for voicing “The Devil” on the NBC animated television series God, the Devil and Bob, but was fired when he failed to show up for rehearsals.
After spending nearly a year in California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran, California, Downey, on condition of posting $5,000 bail, was unexpectedly freed when a judge ruled that his collective time in incarceration facilities (spawned from the initial 1996 arrests) had qualified him for early release. A week after his 2000 release, Downey joined the cast of the hit television series Ally McBeal, playing the new love interest of Calista Flockhart’s title character. His performance was praised and the following year he was nominated for an Emmy Award in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series category and won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a mini-series or TV Film. He also appeared as a writer and singer on Vonda Shepard’s Ally McBeal: For Once in My Life album, and he sang with Sting a duet of “Every Breath You Take” in an episode of the series. Despite the apparent success, Downey claims that his performance on the series was overrated and that “It was my lowest point in terms of addictions. At that stage, I didn’t give a fuck whether I ever acted again.” In January 2001, Downey was scheduled to play the role of Hamlet in a Los Angeles stage production directed by Mel Gibson.
Before the end of his first season on Ally McBeal, Downey was arrested during Thanksgiving 2000, when his room at Merv Griffin’s Hotel and Givenchy Spa in Palm Springs, California was searched by the police who were responding to an anonymous 911 call. Downey was under the influence of a controlled substance and in possession of cocaine and valium. Despite the fact that if convicted he could face a prison sentence of up to four years and eight months, he signed on to appear in at least eight more Ally McBeal episodes. In April 2001, while he was on parole, a Los Angeles police officer found him wandering barefoot in Culver City, near southwest Los Angeles. He was arrested for suspicion of being under the influence of drugs but was released a few hours later, even though tests showed he had cocaine in his system. After this last arrest, producer David E. Kelley and other Ally McBeal executives ordered last-minute re-writes and re-shoots and dismissed Downey from the show, despite the fact that Downey’s character had resuscitated Ally McBeal’s ratings. The Culver City arrest also cost him a role in the high-profile film America’s Sweethearts, and the subsequent incarceration forced Mel Gibson to shut down his planned stage production of Hamlet as well. In July 2001, Downey pleaded no contest to the Palm Springs charges, avoiding jail time; instead, he was sent into drug rehabilitation and put on a three-year probation, benefiting from the California Proposition 36, which had been passed the year before with the aim of helping non-violent drug offenders overcome their addictions instead of sending them to jail.
The book Conversations with Woody Allen reports that director Woody Allen wanted to cast Downey and Winona Ryder in his film Melinda and Melinda in 2000, but was unable to do so because he could not get insurance on them, stating, “We couldn’t get bonded. The completion bonding companies would not bond the picture unless we could insure them. We were heartbroken because I had worked with Winona before [on Celebrity] and thought she was perfect for this and wanted to work with her again. And I had always wanted to work with Bob Downey and always thought he was a huge talent.”
After five years of substance abuse, arrest, rehab, and relapse, Robert Downey, Jr. was finally ready to work toward a full recovery from drugs and a return to his career. In discussing his failed attempts to control his own addictive behavior in the past, Downey told Oprah Winfrey in November 2004 that “when someone says, ‘I really wonder if maybe I should go to rehab?’ Well, uh, you’re a wreck, you just lost your job, and your wife left you. Uh, you might want to give it a shot.” He added that after his last arrest in April 2001, when he knew he would likely be facing another stint in prison or another form of incarceration, such as court-ordered rehab, “I finally said, ‘You know what? I don’t think I can continue doing this.’ And I reached out for help, and I ran with it…. You can reach out for help in kind of a half-assed way, and you’ll get it, and you won’t take advantage of it. It’s not that difficult to overcome these seemingly ghastly problems…what’s hard is to decide to actually do it.”
Downey got his first post-rehab acting job in August 2001, lip-syncing in the video for the Elton John’s single “I Want Love”. Video director Sam Taylor-Wood shot 16 takes of the video and used the last one because, according to John, Downey looked completely relaxed, and “the way he underplays it is fantastic.”
Downey was able to return to the big screen only after Mel Gibson, who had been a close friend to Downey since both had co-starred in Air America, paid Downey’s insurance bond for the 2003 film The Singing Detective. Gibson’s gamble paved the way for Downey’s comeback, and Downey returned to mainstream films in the mid 2000s with Gothika, for which producer Joel Silver withheld 40 percent of his salary until after production wrapped as insurance against his addictive behavior; similar clauses have become standard in his contracts since then.
After Gothika, Downey was cast in a number of leading and supporting roles, including well-received work in a number of semi-independent films: A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Good Night, and Good Luck, A Scanner Darkly, and Steven Shainberg’s fictional biopic of Diane Arbus, Fur, where Downey’s character represented the two biggest influences on Arbus’ professional life, Lisette Model and Marvin Israel. Downey also received great notice for his roles in more mainstream fare such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Disney’s poorly received The Shaggy Dog, and David Fincher’s 2007 take on one of the most famous unsolved serial killing cases ever, Zodiac.
On November 23, 2004, Downey released his debut musical album, The Futurist, on Sony Classical, for which he designed the cover art and designed the track listing label on the CD with his son Indio. The album received mixed reviews, but Downey stated in 2006 that he probably will not do another album as he felt that the energy he put in doing the album was not compensated.
In 2006, Downey returned to his television roots when he guest-starred on Family Guy in the episode “The Fat Guy Strangler”. Downey had previously telephoned the show’s production staff and asked if he could produce or assist in an episode creation, as his son is a fan of the show. The producers of the show accepted the offer and created the character of Patrick Pewterschmidt, Lois Griffin’s long lost, mentally disturbed brother, for Downey.
Downey signed on with publishers HarperCollins to write a memoir, which in 2006 was already being billed as a “candid look at the highs and lows of his life and career”. In 2008, however, Downey returned his advance to the publishers and cancelled the book without further comment.
Iron Man and Beyond
With all of the critical success Robert Downey, Jr. had experienced throughout his career, he had never appeared in a “blockbuster” film. All of that would change in the summer 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 #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, Jr., 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 in having Downey as he repeatedly claimed that Downey would be to Iron Man what Johnny Depp is to the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, 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 so as to look like he “had the power to forge iron.”
Iron Man was globally released between April 30 and May 3, 2008, grossing over $300 million in the United States and Canada and receiving rave reviews which cite Downey’s performance as a highlight of the film. As a result, both Downey and Favreau stated their interest in making Iron Man a trilogy. By October 2008, Downey had agreed to appear as Iron Man in two Iron Man sequels and the future film starring the Avengers, the superhero team that Stark joins. 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.
After Iron Man, Downey appeared alongside Ben Stiller and Jack Black in another 2008 summer film, the Stiller-directed Tropic Thunder. Each man plays a Hollywood archetype—self-absorbed multi-Oscar winning Aussie method actor Kirk Lazarus (Downey), aging action hero desperately looking to reinvent himself as a serious actor (Stiller), and overweight heroin-addicted self-destructive comic best known for portraying multiple characters in a franchise of comedies about a family that farts in every film (Black)—as they star in an extremely expensive Vietnam-era movie called Tropic Thunder. Lazarus undergoes a “controversial skin pigmentation procedure” in order to take on the role of African-American platoon sergeant Lincoln Osiris, which required Downey to wear dark makeup and a wig. Both Stiller and Downey feared Downey’s portrayal of the character could become controversial:
Stiller says that he and Downey always stayed focused on the fact that they were skewering insufferable actors, not African-Americans. ‘I was trying to push it as far as you can within reality,’ Stiller explains. ‘I had no idea how people would respond to it.’ Stiller screened a rough cut of the film [in March 2008] and it scored high with African-Americans. He was relieved at the reaction. ‘It seems people really embrace it,’ he says. —Entertainment Weekly- First Look: ‘Tropic Thunder’
When asked by Harry Smith on CBS’s The Early Show who his model was for Lazarus, Downey laughed before responding, “Sadly, my sorry-ass self.”
Released in the United States on August 13, 2008, Tropic Thunder received generally good reviews with 83% of reviews positive and an average normalized score of 71%, according to the review aggregator websites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, respectively. It earned US$26 million in its North American opening weekend and retained the number one position for its first three weekends of release. The film grossed $180 million in theaters before its release on home video on November 18, 2008. Downey was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal as Lazarus, but lost to Heath Ledger for his portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight.
Post-Iron Man Career
Opening in late April 2009 was a film Downey finished in mid-2008, The Soloist; the film was pushed out from a November 2008 release by Paramount Pictures due to the studio’s tight end-of-year release schedule. Critics who had seen the movie in 2008 were mentioning it as a possible Academy Award candidate. Downey still picked up an Academy Award nomination for the 2008 release year for his role in Tropic Thunder, but did not gain similar recognition for The Soloist after its delayed release.
The first role Downey accepted after Iron Man was the lead in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. Warner Bros. released on December 25, 2009. The film set several box office records in the United States for a Christmas Day release, beating the previous record holder, 2008’s Marley & Me, by nearly $10M, and finished second only to Avatar in a record-setting Christmas weekend release at the movies. Sherlock Holmes ended up being the 8th highest grossing film of 2009. When Downey won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for his role as Sherlock Holmes, he noted in his acceptance speech that he had prepared no remarks because “my wife (Sherlock Holmes producer Susan Downey) told me at 10:00 this morning that Matt Damon (nominated for his role in The Informant!) was going to win.”
Robert Downey, Jr.’s passion for singing has become known, as he has sung on several soundtracks in his films such as Too Much Sun, Two Girls and a Guy, Friends and Lovers, The Singing Detective and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He released a CD in 2005 called The Futurist, and while promoting his film Tropic Thunder, he and his co-stars Ben Stiller and Jack Black were back up singers “The Pips” to Gladys Knight singing “Midnight Train to Georgia”.
Downey started dating actress Sarah Jessica Parker after meeting her on the set of Firstborn. They separated in 1991 because of his drug and alcohol abuse, according to Downey. Downey also in the late 1980s dated Marisa Tomei, with whom he appeared in Only You and Chaplin. 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 the midst of Downey’s last arrest and sentence to an extended stay in rehab, Falconer left Downey in 2001 and took Indio with her. Downey and Falconer finalized their divorce on April 26, 2004.
With his parents’ guidance, Indio Falconer Downey began developing his own show-business career before he had even reached his teens. His first professional work was an appearance in one of his father’s movies, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, playing a younger version of his father’s character Harry Lockhart. Following his mother’s musical lead, Indio has branched out into a musical career as lead guitarist for a rock band, The Jack Bambis, whose members are all under the age of 18. Downey now sees his son frequently after settling custody arrangements with Falconer, and the pair are often photographed together at public appearances for each of their careers.
In 2003, on the set of Gothika, Downey met producer Susan Levin, an Executive Vice President of Production at Joel Silver’s movie company, Silver Pictures. 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 was married on August 27, 2005, in a Jewish ceremony at Amagansett, New York.
Downey says 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. He has described his religious beliefs as “Jewish-Buddhist,” although he has been interested in the past 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.’”
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.” In a 2007 interview with W magazine Downey showed the journalist a photograph of himself and his wife with President George W. Bush.
Released from jail on $5,000 bail. [2 August 2000]
Released from jail to complete his six-month jail sentence at a drug rehabilitation center. Downey caused a stir when he was freed to work on a movie. [31 March 1998]
He got into fight with another inmate at the Los Angeles County Jail, where he was serving time for a probation violation, and was treated for a cut over his nose. [13 February 1998]
Jailed for 180 days for violating probation. [December 1997]
Probation revoked after continued drug use. [17 October 1997]
Remanded to a secure drug rehabilitation center. [August 1996]
During traffic stop for speeding, he was arrested for drunk driving, possession of heroin, and possession of an unloaded pistol in his pickup truck. This was his first reported brush with the law at age 31. He was given a suspended prison sentence of 3 years, and granted probation with requirements of random drug testing and drug counselling. [August 1996]
Names Peter O’Toole as his favorite actor.
Lived with Sarah Jessica Parker for 7 years during the 1980s.
Son of Robert Downey Sr..
Son Indio Falconer Downey, with his first wife Deborah Falconer, was born on September 7, 1993.
Attended Stagedoor Manor.
Sent to a rehab center at the L.A. County jail while waiting for an August 5 hearing. [22 June 1999]
Claims that his father is the one who introduced him to drugs, by offering him a marijuana joint when he was 8.
While drunk, he wandered into a neighbor’s Malibu home that he thought was his own, and fell asleep on the bed. He was arrested for being under the influence of drugs, which was a third violation of his probation.
He took daily drug tests during the filming of Two Girls and a Guy (1997).
Once worked as a piece of living art in a SoHo nightclub in New York City.
After Downey’s three violations of probation for drug and alcohol abuse in a three-year span of time since he was spared a prison sentence and placed on probation, Malibu Judge Lawrence Mira stated that he was out of options. He was sentencing Downey to prison, he said, to save his life, because he would not take the responsibility of refraining from alcohol and drug use on his own. The Judge invoked the three years’ sentence in state prison that had been suspended in 1996. Downey, Dept of Corrections #P50522, spent two weeks in a state prison reception center at Wasco, California, for orientation. On 8/25/99, he was transferred to a Dept. of Corrections prison named “SATF” (Substance Abuse Treatment Facility) for drug dependent prisoners in Corcoran California. Scheduled release date: 11/2/2000. SATF is across the street from the other Corcoran Prison, where inmates were shot to death on the exercise yard during fights in the 1990s. Downey’s lawyers have approached the Malibu judge several times in the last 11 months to request Downey’s release, but the Judge has refused. [6 August 1999]
Downey’s lawyers petitioned the State Court of Appeals in Los Angeles, stating that Downey had already served enough time because the Malibu judge had made errors in calculating his sentence. He hadn’t given credit for the several times Downey spent in lockdown rehab units and in pre-sentencing confinement. Downey’s lawyers claimed that he should have been released in February 2000.
During his days of drug addiction, Robert once wandered into a stranger’s house and passed out on a child’s bed.
Downey re-arrested on drugs and weapons charges in Palm Springs, California, at the luxurious Merv Griffin resort, after an anonymous tip to police. Downey was found alone, with cocaine and methamphetamines. He cooperated with police, spent the night in jail, and was released the next morning on $15,000.00 bail. Downey had been on a career upswing with his successful stint on “Ally McBeal” (1997), and his upcoming stage performance as Hamlet, set for January, 2001 in Los Angeles, to be directed by his friend Mel Gibson. [25 November 2000]
Arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance in Los Angeles after he was found wandering in an alley. He was fired from the TV series “Ally McBeal” (1997) by producer David E. Kelley after the arrest. [24 April 2001]
Downey’s attorneys advised the judge that they could not reach a plea bargain in his November 2000 drug arrest. [15 March 2001]
Downey pleaded not guilty to the November 2000 drug charges. Next hearing will be on July 16. He is being held in a drug rehab center until his case is decided. [24 May 2001]
Downey pleaded no contest to drug charges. The judge sentenced him to remain in rehabilitation for one year and to three years’ probation. [16 July 2001]
Parents divorced when he was 11.
Kept a lot of the authentic vintage clothing he wore in the movie Chaplin (1992).
In a symbolic attempt to bury his decadent 1980s Brat Pack image and begin a new phase of his life and career after filming Chaplin (1992) in 1991, he (literally) buried the clothes that he wore in 1987’s Less Than Zero (1987) in the backyard of his house.
As a result of his father’s work (Robert Downey Sr. was (and is) an independent filmmaker), Downey the younger spent a great deal of his childhood on the move. He lived at various points in Connecticut, New York, California, London, Paris, and Woodstock.
At the age of 10, while living in London, Robert attended the Perry House School in Chelsea and studied classical ballet.
Married his first wife after dating her for only 42 days.
Dropped out of Santa Monica High School at age 17 and moved to New York to become an actor. First jobs in the city included bussing tables at Central Falls restaurant, working in a shoe store, and performing as “living art” at SohHo’s notorious underground club Area.
Downey enjoyed working with the director of the Elton John music video–contemporary artist Sam Taylor Wood–so much that he suggested that they work together again on an art piece. The result was an art video called “Pietà,” made in the manner of Michelangelo’s famous Pietà sculpture in Rome. It was included in Sam Taylor Wood’s exhibition “Mute” at the White Cube 2 art gallery in London, November 23 to January 12, 2002.
Starred in Elton John’s music video for the song “I Want Love.” Downey was let out of rehab for one day in late July specifically to shoot the video (which was filmed in one long continuous take at Greystone Manor in Beverley Hills.) It was Downey’s first work since being fired from the TV show “Ally McBeal” (1997) in April 2001.
Starred briefly with his first wife Deborah Falconer in the 1992 Robert Altman movie Short Cuts (1993).
Childhood friend of Richard Hall aka Moby.
He married his second wife, Gothika (2003) producer Susan Downey, at Amagansett, New York, on 27 August 2005.
Was approached to do the part as Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005).
He’s the first regular cast member of “Saturday Night Live” (1975) to be nominated for an Academy Award in the category “Best Actor in a Leading Role.” Joan Cusack and Dan Aykroyd were also nominated for Academy Awards some years before Downey, but both were nominated for supporting roles.
Was in attendance at Chris Penn’s funeral
Met wife Susan Downey on the set of Gothika (2003).
He proposed to Susan Downey on her 30th birthday.
Sting (”Every Breath You Take”) and Billy Idol performed at his wedding to Susan Downey.
Before he starred as Iron Man (2008), Downey had done films with three of the actors who played Batman: with George Clooney in Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005); with Val Kilmer in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005); and with Michael Keaton in Game 6 (2005).
On the set of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006) he took co-star Adam Scarimbolo under his wing.
Ranked #60 in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the world (2008).
He is of Irish and Russian-Jewish ancestry from his father’s side and German-Jewish and Scottish descent from his mother’s side.
Close friends with Anthony Michael Hall and Ramon Estevez.
Gave life to the same character (Tony Stark) in two movies in the same year (Iron Man (2008) and The Incredible Hulk (2008)) produced by the same studio (Marvel Studios).
Has worn lifts at his directors’ requests in his recent leading man roles, namely Iron Man (2008) and its sequel and in Sherlock Holmes (2009), in order to enhance his height.
Signed on to voice “The Devil” in the animated television series “God, the Devil and Bob” (2000). Shortly thereafter, Downey was jailed, so he was replaced by Alan Cumming.
Began studying Wing Chun Kung Fu under Sifu Eric Oram, who is serving as fight and martial arts consultant on Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (2009).
According to an interview he gave to Newsweek in February 2009, when Downey went to Japan for their opening of Iron Man (2008), he was detained on entry because Japanese authorities ran his passport and found it linked to “some incredible criminal activity” (namely Downey’s multiple arrests and incarcerations on drug-related charges in the 1990s and 2000s). For failing to disclose these convictions, Downey was interrogated for six hours and was almost barred from entry into Japan. It was finally decided that he could enter Japan for the Iron Man premiere but he is never to be allowed into Japan again.
Godfather of his son Indio Falconer Downey is close friend Anthony Michael Hall.
Was roommates with Kiefer Sutherland in the early ’80s.
Attended Junior High School 104 in Manhattan with fellow actors Jon Cryer, Erica Gimpel, and Kadeem Hardison.
Filmed his role in Hail Caesar in one day.
Lives in Venice and Malibu, California.
I’ve always felt like such an outsider in this industry. Because I’m so insane, I guess.
The higher the stakes, the happier I am, the better I will be.
I’m not used to feeling like I belong where I am.
A lot of my peer group think I’m an eccentric bisexual, like I may even have an ammonia-filled tentacle or something somewhere on my body. That’s okay.
I’ve become a picky little bitch. I’ve never bothered to plan projects before. I just used to throw the script across the room and say, “Why do they keep sending me this horseshit?” And then I’d start rehearsals two weeks later.
[on his addiction to drugs]: It’s like I have a loaded gun in my mouth, and I like the taste of metal.
It’s a blanket statement to say, “That guy’s really sharp and amicable and nice,” because there’s a little bit of a–hole in every nice guy, and there’s a little bit of genius in every moron.
I am putting together some ideas for two or three more things I want to do. Maybe a CD of just my kind of standards, which would be Supertramp and Steely Dan covers with an orchestra. I’m deep into old Genesis. I’m sorry, but these are songs that mean something to me. “Follow You Follow Me” is a song that’s about something to me. [on his music]
I know very little about acting. I’m just an incredibly gifted faker.
It was so nice to go into this fake courtroom [on "Ally McBeal" (1997)]. I immediately went up into the judge’s chair. Nice view. A preferable perspective.
What I usually hate about these movies when suddenly the guy that you were digging turns into Dudley Do-Right, and then you’re supposed to buy into all his “Let’s go do some good!” That Eliot Ness-in-a-cape-type thing. What was really important to me was to not have him change so much that he’s unrecognizable. When someone used to be a schmuck and they’re not anymore, hopefully they still have a sense of humor. [on superhero movies]
[on Black and White (1999/I)] A stage slap from Mike Tyson is like a shovel whack from a normally fortified male.
The great thing about “Saturday Night Live” (1975) was being at 30 Rockefeller Center. And having Belushi and Aykroyd’s old office. And me and Michael [Anthony Michael Hall] saying, “We want bunk beds. With NFL Sheets. And we want them now.” And Michael was like “Man, it’s gonna be great, we’re gonna be buddies, we’re gonna do a show together, we’re gonna …” Then, “I’m gonna do Out of Bounds (1986)” and he left. As for me, I was doing Back to School (1986) and Saturday Night Live at the same time. So I’d fly back to Los Angeles for a couple of days during the week to shoot the movie and then fly back and, “Live from New York, it’s a tired young man!”
I had four weeks’ work in Baby It’s You (1983), and I told all my friends I was now, officially, a major talent and film star. And then they cut my scenes out. You don’t even see me except in one scene – you see me in the background until this self-indulgent actress leans forward to try and get more camera time. They cut all my scenes out and my friends go, “Hey, Robert – maybe it’s you!” Now I don’t tell people that I’m in a film until I see it on videocassette.
Tofu is the root of all evil, and there’s only one thing that can change a man’s mind, and that’s a modified Uzi with an extra-long clip.
I did Air America (1990) for two reasons: to be in a movie with Mel Gibson and to make a bunch of money. And then underneath there was the hope that in doing this formulaic thing I would be launched into a whole new realm of opportunity to do A-list movies. By the time we were done, the only positive thing was meeting Mel Gibson.
Five hundred grand for two weeks. [on why he did Danger Zone (1996)]
[on Restoration (1995)] I just thought [Hugh Grant] was a dick, that’s all. And I still do. You know, and that could be something that has to do with me, or it could just be that not everyone in this industry is someone I’d care to hang out with.
[on Weird Science (1985)] I defecated in [Kelly LeBrock's] trailer, much to the chagrin of Bill Paxton and Robert Rusler. It was a real bad scene. Joel Silver freaked. I never admitted it. Joel said, “Downey, did you do it?” and I said I wish I had. Because I’d been threatening everyone that if they didn’t treat me right, I was going to take a dump in their trailer, or that I’d go take a shit in Joel’s office, on his desk or something.
[on his childhood] I didn’t want to talk about what my dad did because it wasn’t like he was directing “All in the Family” (1971) or anything. He was doing these crazy films. Mom would pick me up at school wearing this big quilted cape. I felt like I was in a J.D. Salinger story. Dad’s Jewish and Irish, Mom’s German and Scotch. I couldn’t say I was anything. My last name isn’t even Downey. My dad changed his name when he wanted to get into the Army and was underage. My real name is Robert Elias. I feel like I’m still looking for a home in some way.
[on Sean Penn] In a relatively short time he was a better friend than some people I’d known for ages. I remember him saying three or four years ago, “You have two reputations. I think you know what both of them are, and I think you’d do well to get rid of one of those reputations. If you don’t, it will get rid of the other one.” And I was like, “Two reputations, I’ll be right back.” Just hearing him say that reminded me that I should go score. After that, he was like, forget it. It sucks, too, because someone as honorable as he is, I really should have responded. Jesus, I grew up idolizing this guy. Not only does he consider me a friend, but he’s taking time. He’s got a family. He’s got a career that’s going well. He’s living his dreams and making time for me, and I’m like, “I can’t, I just can’t – sorry, busy.”
As soon as I started smoking heroin instead of smoking coke, everything was different, and I knew it was. And it happened around the time I was doing Home for the Holidays (1995). Home for the Holidays is, for me, one of the most relaxed performances in the history of cinema. I can’t attribute that to the fact that I was at a serene place in my life, or that there was a real warm feeling on the set. This is a problem for me because I glamorize this stuff. I can’t say that it wasn’t real dark, real evil and real hurtful to those around me. And yet, practically every take of that film was a print. God bless Jodie Foster. When does she have time to do a handwritten letter telling someone how she genuinely cares about them? She said, “Listen, I’m not worried about you on this film. You’re not losing it or nodding out, and you’re giving a great performance. I’m worried about your thinking you can get away with doing this on another film.”
[on Chaplin (1992)] When I accepted the part, they didn’t tell me that I also had to do the acrobatic stuff of Charlie. That has cost me a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Though I now can say, ‘I did all my stunts myself.’ Working on Chaplin was really intensive and cost me years of my life, but if I could do it all over again, no doubt I would do it the same way.
[on Chaplin (1992)] Chaplin was the culmination of an opportunity, and the biggest humiliation I’ve ever experienced. It was like winning the lottery, then going to prison. I realized that nothing that had worked for me before was going to work here. I’d watch one of Charlie’s films, but by the end of it I was wildly depressed, because I realized that what he’d done in this twenty-minute short was more expressive and funnier than everything I’ve thought about doing my whole life.
[on U.S. Marshals (1998)] Possibly the worst action movie of all time, and that’s just not good for the maintenance of a good spiritual condition. You’ve had a traumatic year, you’ve been practically suicidal – what do you think would be really healing for you? How about like twelve weeks of running around as Johnny Handgun? I think that if you talk to a spirit guide, they would say, ‘That’ll kill you.’
[on U.S. Marshals (1998)] I thought maybe there was something I was missing, and what I really needed to do was to be in one of those films that I love taking my kid to. It would end up being really depressing. I’d rather wake up in jail for a TB test than have to wake up another morning knowing I’m going to the set of US Marshals.
I don’t want to go all Michael Jackson on you, but I never really had a childhood.
I have a sense of destiny that you are led to the things you are supposed to do
[on Mickey Rourke] He’s so good. And he’s formidable and he’s very much reminding me of that kind of charming, confident guy that we know.
[on Iron Man 2 (2010)] I’ve never been in a sequel and it’s very daunting because I feel the expectation of the millions of people who watched it and enjoyed it and told me that it was a little different than your usual genre picture and that they expected us to not screw it up. So I actually have taken Iron Man 2 (2010) probably more seriously than any movie I’ve ever done, which is appropriately ridiculous for Hollywood.
Mel Gibson cast me in The Singing Detective (2003), even though an insurance company wouldn’t cover it because it was my first film after my release from behind bars. The best part was when Mel gave me a motorcycle while we still had two weeks left to shoot. I go, ‘Are you trying to ruin this movie? What if I have an accident?’ He goes, ‘No, no. I figure if you made it two-thirds of the way through, you can’t do anything wrong.’
What do you say, though — if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plan.