Robert Downey Jr was born on April 4, 1965, in New York, to Robert Sr, an independent filmmaker, and Elsie, an actress. His childhood was colourful. “Dad was doing these crazy films. Mom would pick me up at school wearing this big quilted cape,” he remembers. “I felt like I was in a JD Salinger story.”
Robert Sr cast his son as a puppy in his feature film The Pound, and Robert caught the acting bug. Three years after dropping out of high school he headed to New York City and was starring on popular US sketch comedy programme, Saturday Night Live. He had a string of Eighties film credits including teen comedy. “Weird Science” and “Less Than Zero”, which got him noticed by film critics.
From there he progressed to bigger projects such as “Air America” with established stars like Mel Gibson and “Soap Dish” with Whoopi Goldberg. Then in 1992 his Hollywood status was confirmed when he landed his first Oscar nomination for his masterful portrayal of Charlie Chaplin in “Chaplin”.
TV fans will be familiar with Robert for his stint as a lawyer on “Ally McBeal”. He was popular with viewers and TV pundits alike, garnering a SAG Award and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Calista Flockhart’s on-screen love interest Larry.
While he’s battled substance abuse for most of his career, spending lengthy stretches in treatment and detention centres, Robert has been sober since 2003, thanks to his family, therapy, yoga, meditation and the practice of Wing Chun Kung Fu. He’s also found support in the form of Hollywood pals including Mel Gibson and Sean Penn, with whom he bonded quickly. “In a relatively short time he was a better friend than some people I’d known for ages,” says Robert.
As he began to overcome his demons in the 2000s Robert came back from years in the wilderness after Mel paid the insurance bond which would allow him to star in 2003’s “The Singing Detective”. This paved the way for a career comeback and a string of successful roles, including “Gothika” and the hugely successful action flick “Iron Man” in 2008. It was his comic turn in “Tropic Thunder”, though, which sealed his return – landing him his second Academy Award nod in 2009.
Having arisen, somewhat astonishingly, as one of most bankable superstars in Hollywood, Robert Downey Jr. was featured as a fearful father to be in a road trip comic show “Due Date”. He appeared in a supporting role in “Chef”, prior playing the role of a lawyer guarding his father, who is suspected of vehicular killing, in “The Judge”. He repeated his role of Tony Stark in the sequels of “Iron Man”, The Avengers’s sequels, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Captain America: Civil War”.
After a half-decade of appearing solely in Marvel branded features, Downey reemerged as host of the YouTube series, “The Age of AI beginning” in late 2019. In January 2020, he starred as a veterinarian who talks to animals in “Dolittle”, based on the classic children’s book series by British author Hugh Lofting.
For his part, Downey isn’t taking this professional and personal resurgence for granted. “I think part of my destiny has to be realising that I’m not the poster boy for drug abuse,” he told reporters in 2005. “I’m just this guy who has a really strong sense of wanting home and wanting foundation and having not had it, I now choose to create it.”
As of 2020, Robert Downey Jr. has an estimated net worth of $300 million and is one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood.