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How Robert Downey Jr. Went from Addict to Becoming Iron Man

14 December 2019

If There’s Anybody Who’s Hit Rock Bottom, It’s either Ironman in The Battlefield or It’s Robert Downey Jr. in His Real Life

 

Robert Downey Jr. is one of the biggest stars today with a leading role in the most profitable movie franchise in history. He’s had a long history in Hollywood, but he also has a darker story of addiction and pain in his past that threatened to derail his career entirely. So today we’re going to tell you one of the greatest comeback stories ever of how Robert Downey Jr. went from being an addict to becoming Iron Man, but first a little background.

Who is Robert Downey Jr.?
Beginnings
The Struggle
Legal Trouble
Rock Bottom
Comeback
Becoming Iron Man
The Lesson
The Quote
Question

 

If you’re one of the Aluxers who’s used to connecting with Mr. Tony Stark in the visual reality, we’ve got a video covering all of the contents of this article, just for you!

With that put aside, let’s hop straight into the article!

Who is Robert Downey Jr.?

Robert Downey Jr.’s career stretches over nearly 50 years with over 90 movie and television credits. His most successful films include Chaplin, Sherlock Holmes, Tropic Thunder, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He also co-starred in the popular show Alley McBeal for a couple of seasons and released a studio album called The Futurist.

However, his greatest success has come from being an integral part of the Marvel Universe in the role of Iron Man. This role was responsible for Downey being named by Forbes as Hollywood’s single highest-paid actor from 2013 to 2015 and has boosted his net worth to 300 million dollars. He also helped propel Marvel Studios’ unmatched success in the movie industry. But it was a long road for Downey to make it to this height of success, so let’s go back to the start of his acting career.

Beginnings

Robert Downey, Jr., was introduced to acting at a young age since his father, Robert Downey Sr, was an actor and director, and his mother, Elsie Ann Downey, was an actress. Robert acted in his first film when he was five years old, a film his father directed called Pound Puppy. Robert has stated in interviews that as a child he was surrounded by drugs.

He tried marijuana for the first time at the age of six when his father gave it to him. Downey Sr. was a drug addict, and he used drugs to create bonding experiences with his son. By the time Robert was a teenager, he was regularly consuming alcohol, weed, and narcotics.

Throughout his childhood, he had minor roles in his father’s films, and when his parents divorced when he was 13, he moved with his father from New York to Santa Monica, California. Four years later, he dropped out of high school and went back to New York to act full time, but there were some very dark days ahead for him.

The Struggle

In 1987, Downey played a drug addict in the film Less Than Zero. It wasn’t long before art began imitating life as Downey delved deeper into drug addiction and alcohol abuse. He no longer was restricting his addictive behaviors to nights and weekends, and it became harder to control.

In 1991, his girlfriend of seven years, Sarah Jessica Parker, broke up with him because of his drug problem. Still, he continued on acting and was even nominated for a best actor Academy Award for the 1992 film Chaplin. Downey tried to turn things around when he got married to Deborah Falconer in 1993 and became a father to their son Indio.

He even dug a hole and buried his costume from Less Than Zero to symbolize that he was leaving that destructive life behind. But less than a year later he secretly began drinking again along with using cocaine and ecstasy. Not much later he tried heroin for the first time. He knew his life was spiraling out of control as he bounced in and out of rehab, and this was only the beginning of his problems.

Resource: Guy Used Virtual Reality to Propose to His Girlfriend, Because Reasons

Legal Trouble

The first of several times Downey was arrested was on June 23, 1996, at the age of 31. He was pulled over for speeding on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles and was then arrested for possession of heroin, cocaine, and a firearm. Just one month later, he accidentally staggered into his neighbor’s house in a drugged state, stripped off his clothes, and fell asleep in an empty child’s bed. He was ordered to serve three years’ probation and to go to rehab.

In the meantime, his wife left along with their son and he lost his house in Malibu. In 1997, after missing a court-ordered drug test, he was sent to Los Angeles County Jail for 113 days. He had to be moved to solitary confinement because he fought with other inmates so much. This still didn’t straighten him up, and after he was released, he missed another required drug test.

In 1999, he hired Robert Shapiro, who had successfully defended OJ in his murder trial, to try to keep him out of jail from his latest probation violation. However, the judge sentenced him to three years at the state prison in Cocoran, California. Trying to explain his addiction, he told 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 gun metal.”

He went from making about 7 million per year to making 8 cents per hour working in the prison cafeteria. Less than a year later, he was unexpectedly freed on early release, but he still wasn’t ready to change.

Rock Bottom

When he was released, he had the opportunity to start over with a major role on the popular show Ally McBeal. He received rave reviews and even won a Golden Globe in 2001, but behind the scenes he was about to hit rock bottom. He was arrested at a hotel in 2000 for possession of cocaine and valium.

Still, the producers of Ally McBeal allowed him to sign on for eight more episodes, but that changed when he was arrested once again in April 2001 while wandering around barefoot in public with cocaine in his system. He was fired from the show and sentenced to three years of probation and drug rehabilitation. His wife also officially decided to divorce him. He was finally ready to take rehab seriously and try to get his life back on track.

Comeback

After getting sober, Downey faced a new challenge in his career. Although some directors, including Woody Allen, were willing to give him a chance, the studios were not willing to pay the extremely high insurance premium associated with Downey. Downey couldn’t afford to pay the premium either, but his close friend Mel Gibson took a gamble and paid his insurance bond so that he could appear in the 2003 film The Singing Detective.

Also in 2003, he was cast in the Halle Berry film Gothika, but only after he agreed that 40 percent of his salary could be withheld until production wrapped. He also met his future wife, Susan Levin, while on set. This helped pave the way for his re-entrance into the mainstream, but his biggest blockbusters were yet to come.

Becoming Iron Man

In 2006, Marvel Studios chose Iron Man to be its first self-financed film. The director, Jon Favreau, thought that Downey would be perfect for the leading role as his vision for the character revolves around a man reinventing himself. Downey nailed the screen test, but the studio was not ready to cast him because he was still seen as risky, even though he had been sober for five years. But the director was relentless, and the studio finally agreed that Downey would play Iron Man.

The gamble paid off in a big way. For the first Iron Man film, which was released in 2008, Downey was paid 500,000 dollars and the film went on to gross 585 million dollars worldwide. Stan Lee himself said that Downey was born to play Iron Man.

Downey was then paid 10 million for Iron Man 2 in 2010 and 50 million in 2012 for The Avengers, which grossed 1.5 billion dollars globally. He later earned about 75 million dollars each for Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. In total, for playing the role of Iron Man, Downey has earned between 400 and 435 million dollars. Robert has now been sober for 16 years, and he says he doesn’t even have an inkling of a desire to go back to his old ways.  

The Lesson

Robert Downey Jr. once said, “Just because you hit rock bottom doesn’t mean you have to stay there.” Downey could have easily just resigned himself to being an addict who would be in and out of prison until dying an early death, and he almost did, but once he made up his mind to put in the work, take his rehab seriously, and face all the obstacles in front of him, he was able to reach greater levels of success than ever before.

If he can do all of that coming from a lifetime of drug addiction and years of prison time, just imagine what you could do.

If you need some inspiration and practical advice to help you face some of the challenges on your path, check out the book Making Ideas Happen. The author, Scott Belsky, studied the habits of successful creative people for six years and found out how they make their ideas happen time and time again.

It isn’t magic—it comes down to particular habits and skills that can be learned, and he tells you exactly how to do that. This book normally costs $22, but you can listen to it for free on Audible. Just go to alux.com/freebook and sign up so that you can get the audiobook version for free thanks to our partnership with Audible!

The Quote

While researching his story, we’ve come across this inspiring quote from Downey we’d like to share with you that goes like this:

“People rise out of the ashes because, at some point, they are invested with a belief in the possibility of triumph over seemingly impossible odds.”

Robert Downey Jr.’s story is the perfect reminder that it is possible to overcome just about anything if you have the drive and desire to do so.

Resource: 15 Steps to GET RICH (Ultimate Guide)

Question

Now that we’re wrapping up this story, we’d like to know: Now that Downey appears to be moving away from the Marvel Universe, what would you like to see him do next? Let us know in the comments.