From A Drug Abusing Urban Brat To The Inspiring Tony Stark Of Masses: The Legend Of Robert Downey Jr.


Only a man who is born in stone age can possibly not know ‘the’ Robert John Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. is easily the coolest and most swagger of all cinematic superheroes today.

His extraordinary portrayal of Tony Stark a.k.a. the Iron Man is one of the most celebrated roles in Hollywood’s history and his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes is beyond perfection indeed.

But everything isn’t flowery as it may appear. RDJ had his own rough patches too and for him mostly it was more of fight within than with anyone else.

His career has been a mix of critical and popular success in his youth, followed by a period of substance abuse and legal troubles, and a resurgence of commercial success in the middle age.

Downey was born in Manhattan, New York, in 1965, to Robert Downey Sr., an equally famous actor and producer. RDJ was the younger of his two elder siblings. His mother, Elsie Ann (née Ford), was also an actress who appeared mostly in Downey Sr.’s films.

As a child, Downey was said to be surrounded by drugs. His father was a drug addict and allowed his youngest son to use marijuana at the age of six, an incident which his father has admitted to regretting.

RDJ said once:

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 countless nights of alcohol abuse and making a thousand phone calls in pursuit of drugs.

On the other hand, RDJ had made his acting debut at the age of five, playing a sick puppy in the absurdist comedy Pound in 1970.

At the age of ten, he shifted to England and studied classical ballet as a part of his extended curriculum.

But as his parents divorced in 1978, Downey had to shift California with his father, and in 1982 he dropped out of Santa Monica High School.

Then he again moved back to New York to pursue a full-time acting career.

His first major break came in 1987 when Downey played the role of Julian Wells, a drug-addicted rich boy whose life rapidly spirals out of his control, based on the original novel Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

The role was a groundbreaker for RDJ and he received high acclaims for his portrayal.

It was sort of RDJ in the right skin of a character. The role was actually an extended enactment of his personal life.

-T. Morris, The New York Times

But as soon as 1996 approached, his evil clock of life began ticking quickly. Until 2001, RDJ was arrested countless times for drug-abuse including the likes of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana.

He went several times through unsuccessful drug treatment programs.

Once during his one of such trails at the federal court, he said to the judge:

It’s like I have a shotgun in my mouth, and I’ve got my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gunmetal.

He explained his relapses by claiming to have been addicted to drugs since the age of eight, due to the fact that his father, also an addict, had been giving them to him.

In April 1996, Downey was arrested for possession of heroin, cocaine and an unloaded .357 Magnum handgun while he was speeding down Sunset Boulevard.

A month later, while on parole, he trespassed into a neighbor’s home while under the influence of a controlled substance and fell asleep in one of the beds, like a madman who knows nothing of what he was doing really.

Then he was shifted to California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility at State Prison in Corcoran California. After a year passing there, Downey got a bail for $5,000 and was unexpectedly freed when a judge ruled that his collective time in incarceration facilities had qualified him for early release.

But by then he had already hit the rock bottom of his life where he could only feel his career broken and goodwill was gone.

So after five years of substance abuse, arrests, rehab, and relapse, Downey 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, in 2004 Downey told Oprah Winfrey on her show 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.

After my last arrest in April [2001], when I knew that I would likely be facing another stint in prison or another form of incarceration such as court-ordered rehab, I 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 do it.

But the real game-changer for him was the year 2008 when in middle of it, he was starred in two critically and commercially successful films, Iron Man and Tropic Thunder. And then, rest is all that we know until now.

After 2008 there was stopping for him. A series of inspiring superhero movies like Iron Man, The Avengers, Civil War, Sherlock Holmes etc. he reclaimed his throne and with his extreme sense of wit and humor, he made a fond place in hearts of his dear fans.

Today he enjoys a worldwide cult following along with a tremendous image of a self-made man who raised above own demons just that time he decided not a give his problems any more damn.

And three consecutive years (from 2012 to 2015), Downey has topped the Forbes list of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors, making an estimated $80 million in earnings.

From Robert Downey Jr.’s life, it can be easily comprehended that it is never too late to quit an unwanted lifestyle to become something that might exceed your common identity and make you a legend!

When Robert entered the Times’ 100 in 2008, Ben Stiller wrote in his article that:

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.


Image Credits: Times, The New York Times, IMDB