Robert Downey, Jr.
|Robert Downey, Jr.|
Downey at the premiere of The Avengers, London, April 19, 2012
|Born||Robert John Downey, Jr.
April 4, 1965
Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Actor, producer, screenwriter, singer-songwriter|
|Spouse(s)||Deborah Falconer (1992–2004)
Susan Downey (2005–present)
|Parents||Robert Downey, Sr.|
Robert John Downey, Jr. (born April 4, 1965) is an American actor who made his screen debut at the age of five, appearing in his father's film Pound. He has appeared in roles associated with the Brat Pack, such as Less Than Zero and Weird Science. Other films he has starred in include Air America, Soapdish, and Natural Born Killers. He starred as the title character in the 1992 film Chaplin, earning him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
After being released from the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in 2000 for drug charges, Downey joined the cast of the TV series Ally McBeal playing Calista Flockhart's love interest. His performance was praised and he received a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries, or Television Film. 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 sobriety.
His more recent films include The Singing Detective, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, A Scanner Darkly, Gothika, Zodiac and Tropic Thunder. In 2008, Downey played the role of Marvel superhero Tony Stark / Iron Man in the live action film Iron Man, a role he reprised in Iron Man 2, The Avengers, and Iron Man 3. In 2009, he played the title character in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes and again in 2011's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
Early life and family
Downey was born in Manhattan, 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. His father is of half Russian Jewish and half Irish Catholic ancestry, and his mother is of Scottish, German, and Swiss descent. His father was born "Robert Elias", and changed his last name to "Downey" (after his stepfather James Downey), when he was a minor and wanted to enlist in the Army. He and his older sister, Allyson, grew up in Greenwich Village.
As a child, Downey was "surrounded by drugs". His father, a drug addict, allowed Downey to use marijuana at age six, an incident which his father has said that he now regrets. Downey stated that drug use became an emotional bond between him and his father: "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 every night abusing alcohol and "making a thousand phone calls in pursuit of drugs".
During his childhood Downey had minor roles in his father's films. 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 appeared in the surrealist Greaser's Palace (1972). At the age of ten, he was living in England and studied classical ballet as part of a larger curriculum. He 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
Downey began building upon theater roles, including the short-lived off-Broadway musical "American Passion" at the Joyce Theater in 1983, produced by Norman Lear. In 1985, he was part of the new, younger cast hired for Saturday Night Live, but following a year of poor ratings and criticism of the new cast's comedic talents, he and most of the new crew were replaced. That same year, Downey had a dramatic acting breakthrough when he played James Spader's sidekick in Tuff Turf and then a bully in John Hughes' 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 his 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 left-handed. 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.
Career troubles (1996-2004)
From 1996 through 2001, Downey was arrested numerous times on drug-related charges including cocaine, heroin and marijuana and went several times through drug treatment programs unsuccessfully, explaining in 1999 to a judge: "It's like I've got a shotgun in my mouth with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal." 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. He was sentenced to three years of probation and required to undergo compulsory 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.
After 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 television 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, over the Thanksgiving 2000 holiday, Downey was arrested 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, just outside 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 rewrites and reshoots 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 nonviolent 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 2005, 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."
In a December 18, 2000 article for People Magazine entitled "Bad to Worse", Downey's stepmother Rosemary told author Alex Tresnlowski that Downey had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder "a few years ago" and added that his bipolar disorder was "the reason he has a hard time staying sober. What hasn't been tried is medication and intensive psychotherapy." In the same article, Dr. Manijeh Nikakhtar, a Los Angeles psychiatrist and co-author of Addiction or Self-Medication: The Truth (ISBN 978-1883819576), says she received a letter from Downey in 1999, during his time at Corcoran II, asking for advice on his condition. She discovered that "no one had done a complete [psychiatric] evaluation [on him]...I asked him flat out if he thought he was bipolar, and he said, 'Oh yeah. There are times I spend a lot of money and I'm hyperactive, and there are other times I'm down.'" In an article for the March 2007 issue of Esquire, Downey told author Scott Raab that he wanted to address "this whole thing about the bipolar" after receiving a phone call from "the Bipolar Association" asking him about being bipolar. When Downey denied he had ever said he was bipolar, the caller quoted the People article, to which Downey replied, "'No! Dr. Malibusian said [I said I was bipolar]...', and they go, 'Well, it's been written, so we're going to quote it.'" Downey flatly denied being "depressed or manic" and that previous attempts to diagnose him with any kind of psychiatric or mood disorder have always been skewed because "the guy I was seeing didn't know I was smokin' crack in his bathroom. You can't make a diagnosis until somebody's sober."
Career comeback (2004-2008)
After five years of substance abuse, arrests, 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 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."
Downey got his first post-rehab acting job in August 2001, lip-syncing in the video for 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 biographical film 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 film Zodiac, in which he played San Francisco Chronicle journalist Paul Avery.
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 into 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 Indio 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 canceled the book without further comment.
Summer 2008 blockbusters
With all of the critical success Downey had experienced throughout his career, he had never appeared in a "blockbuster" film. That changed 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.
In 2007, Downey was cast as the title character in the film Iron Man, with director Jon Favreau explaining the choice by stating: "Downey 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 on having Downey as he repeatedly claimed that Downey would be to Iron Man what Johnny Depp is to the Pirates of the Caribbean series, 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 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 an Iron Man trilogy. By October 2008, Downey had agreed to appear as Iron Man in two Iron Man sequels and The Avengers, the superhero team that Stark joins based on Marvel's comic book series The Avengers. 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 film 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.
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 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 nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Lazarus.
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 film 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 garner similar recognition for The Soloist after its delayed release.
The first role Downey accepted after Iron Man was the title character 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 box office. 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."
Following the tremendous success of 2008's Iron Man, Downey agreed to reprise his role as Tony Stark in two more Iron Man films as well as the superhero team put together by S.H.I.E.L.D., The Avengers. After appearing in a connecting cameo scene at the end of the 2008 version of The Incredible Hulk, Downey returned as Tony Stark in the first of two planned sequels to Iron Man, Iron Man 2, opened in May 2010. It grossed over $623M worldwide, becoming the 7th highest grossing film of 2010.
Downey's other commercial film release of 2010 was the comedy road film Due Date. The movie, co-starring Zach Galifianakis, was released in November 2010 and grossed over $211M worldwide, making it the 36th highest grossing movie of 2010. Downey's sole 2011 film credit was the sequel to the 2009 version of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which opened worldwide on December 16, 2011.
In 2012, Downey reprised the role of Tony Stark in The Avengers. The film received positive reviews and was highly successful at the box office, becoming the third highest-grossing film both in the United States and worldwide. Downey played Tony Stark again in Iron Man 3 (2013). His next film will be the David Dobkin dramedy The Judge, a project co-produced by his production company Team Downey; filming will start in June 2013.
Nissan "Innovation for all" voiceover
In August 2010, Nissan Motor rolled out its newest ad campaign, "Innovation for all", the successor to its long-running "Shift" campaign. The campaign will consist of five spots covering the Nissan 2012 product line, with Downey providing narration for the ads.
Robert Downey Jr. has sung on several soundtracks in his films such as Chaplin, Too Much Sun, Two Girls and a Guy, Friends and Lovers, The Singing Detective and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He released a CD in 2004 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's most commercially successful recording venture to date (combining sales and radio airplay) has been his remake of the 1973 Joni Mitchell Christmas song "River", which was included on the Ally McBeal tie-in album Ally McBeal: A Very Ally Christmas, released in 2000; Downey's character Larry Paul performs the song in the Ally McBeal episode "Tis the Season". The song receives heavy radio airplay annually during the Christmas season.
On June 14, 2010, Robert Downey Jr. and his wife Susan, opened their own production company called Team Downey. Their first project will be the Steve McQueen script, Yucatan, which is a heist film.
Downey started dating actress Sarah Jessica Parker after meeting her on the set of Firstborn. They separated in 1991 because of his drug addiction, according to Downey. 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 2001, in the midst of Downey's last arrest and sentencing to an extended stay in rehab, Falconer left Downey and took Indio with her. Downey and Falconer finalized their divorce on April 26, 2004. Downey now sees his son frequently after settling custody arrangements with Falconer.
In 2003, on the set of Gothika, Downey met producer Susan Levin, an Executive Vice President of Production at Joel Silver's film 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 were married on August 27, 2005, in a Jewish ceremony at Amagansett, New York. They have a son together named Exton Elias Downey, born on February 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. He credits his wife with helping him kick his drug and alcohol habits. "There's no understanding for me of the bigger picture in real time in a hands-on way without her. Because it was the perfect, perfect, perfect matching of personalities and gifts." A tattoo on one of his biceps reads "Suzie Q" in tribute to her.
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", and in the past has been interested 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."
Awards and nominations
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- As listed in the credits on the CD version of The Futurist.
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