Robert Downey, Jr.

Robert Downey, Jr.
Robert Downey, Jr.

Downey, Jr. at the 83rd Academy Awards in 2011
Born Robert John Downey, Jr.
April 4, 1965 (1965-04-04) (age 46)
New York City, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Actor, producer, screenwriter, singer, songwriter
Years active 1970–present
Spouse Deborah Falconer (m. 1992–2004) «start: (1992)–end+1: (2005)»"Marriage: Deborah Falconer to Robert Downey, Jr." Location: (linkback://,_Jr.)
Susan Downey (m. 2005–present) «start: (2005)»"Marriage: Susan Downey to Robert Downey, Jr." Location: (linkback://,_Jr.)
Children Indio Downey (son), born September 7, 1993
Parents Robert Downey, Sr.
Elsie (née Ford)

Robert John Downey, Jr. (born April 4, 1965) is an American actor. Downey made his screen debut in 1970 at the age of five when he appeared in his father's film Pound, 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), Soapdish (1991) and Natural Born Killers (1994). He played Charlie Chaplin in the 1992 film Chaplin for which he received 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 clean. 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 received accolades, 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. The film was a huge success; the opening weekend for Iron Man is still in the top 20 openings of all time.[1] He reprised the role of Tony Stark in the 2010 sequel, Iron Man 2, and will again in 2012 in The Avengers and in the third movie of the planned trilogy, Iron Man 3, due to open in 2013.[2] In addition to receiving commercial success, Downey's performance in the first Iron Man film received rave reviews. Downey was nominated for, and won, a number of end-of-year awards from critics and film associations around the world. Downey's other 2008 films included 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 the film in the category of Best Supporting Actor. In 2009, Downey starred as the titular lead character in Guy Ritchie's adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, released Christmas 2009. Soon after, Downey won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for that portrayal of the famous detective.[3]


Early life and family

Downey was born in Manhattan, New York, the younger of two children.[4] 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 Irish and half Russian Jewish ancestry, and his mother is of German and Scottish descent.[4][5] 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.[5][6] He and his older sister, Allyson, grew up in Greenwich Village.[7]

As a child, Downey was "surrounded by drugs".[7] His father, a drug addict, allowed Downey to use marijuana at age six, an incident which his father has said that he now regrets.[7] 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."[8] Eventually, Downey began spending every night abusing alcohol and "making a thousand phone calls in pursuit of drugs".[8]

During his childhood Downey had minor roles in his father's projects. He made his acting debut at an 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).[5] At the age of 10, he was living in England and studied classical ballet as part of a larger curriculum.[9] 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.[10]


Beginnings and critical acclaim

Downey and James Spader in Less Than Zero (1987)

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, 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.[10] In 1985, Downey had his 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),[11][12] 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.[10][13]

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",[14] 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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17] 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.

Substance abuse and arrests

Downey Jr. at the premiere of Air America, 1990

From 1996 through 2001, Downey was arrested numerous times on drug-related charges including cocaine, heroin and marijuana[18] 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."[19] He explained his relapses by claiming to have been addicted to drugs since the age of eight, due to the fact that [19] his father, also an addict, had been giving them to him.[20]

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, 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.[21][22] 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.

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,[19] 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.[23][24]

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.[7] 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.[25] 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.[26][27] 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."[15] In January 2001, Downey was scheduled to play the role of Hamlet in a Los Angeles stage production directed by Mel Gibson.[28]

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.[29][30] 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.[31]

In April 2001, while he was on parole, a Los Angeles police officer found him wandering barefoot in Culver City, in southwest Los Angeles. He was arrested for suspicion of being under the influence of drugs, but was released a few hours later,[32] even though tests showed he had cocaine in his system.[33] 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.[34] The Culver City arrest also cost him a role in the high-profile film America's Sweethearts,[33] 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.[7][35]

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."[citation needed]

In a 2000-12-18 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."[36] 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.'"[36] In an article for the March 2007 issue of Esquire Magazine, 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.'"[37] 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."[37]

Career comeback

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."[38] 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."[38]

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".[39] 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."[40]

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.[41] 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.[42]

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.[43] 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[44] and designed the track listing label on the CD with his son Indio.[45] The album received mixed reviews,[46][47] 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.[48]

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.[49]

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.[50]

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. 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:

Downey promoting the film "Iron Man" in Mexico City, 2008
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."[51]

Iron Man

In 2007, Downey was cast as the title character in the film Iron Man,[52] 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'."[53] 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 series, a lead actor that could both elevate the quality of the film and increase the public's interest in it.[21][54][55][56] 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."[57]

Iron Man was globally released between April 30 and May 3, 2008, grossing over $300 million in the United States and Canada[58] and receiving rave reviews which cite Downey's performance as a highlight of the film.[59][60] As a result, both Downey and Favreau stated their interest in making Iron Man a trilogy.[61] By October 2008, Downey had agreed to appear as Iron Man in two Iron Man sequels and the future film The Avengers, named after the superhero team that Stark joins.[62] 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.[63]

Tropic Thunder

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'[64]

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."[65]

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 as Lazarus.

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.[66] Critics who had seen the movie in 2008 were mentioning it as a possible Academy Award candidate.[67][68] Downey still picked up an Academy Award nomination for the 2008 release year for his role in Tropic Thunder,[69] 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.[70] 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.[71][72] 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." In 2010, Robert Downey, Jr. signed on to reprise his role as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (due for release Christmas 2011).

Downey has signed on to reprise his role as Tony Stark in The Avengers (to be released in 2012) and Iron Man 3 (to be released in 2013).

Music career

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".

Awards and recognition

  • In 1992, Downey became the first cast member of Saturday Night Live to be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, which he garnered for 1992's Chaplin. Though he lost the award to Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, he won the BAFTA (the awards given by the British Academy for Film and Television Arts, the U.K. equivalent of the Oscars) for Best Actor for Chaplin, in Chaplin's own native country.
  • In 1993, Downey won a Saturn Award for Best Male Actor (Film) for Heart and Souls,[73] an early sign of fan recognition of his talent leading to guild-level awards. He would later win a second in 2009 for his portrayal of the titular character in Iron Man.[73]
  • Downey's 1993 film Short Cuts, an ensemble piece directed by legendary filmmaker Robert Altman, received two "Best Ensemble Cast" awards, one from the Venice Film Festival,[74] and the other from the 1993 Golden Globes.
  • As of 2010, Downey has three Golden Globe Awards to his name: A "Best Ensemble Cast" Globe for 1993's Short Cuts, a "Best Supporting Actor – Television" Globe for his 2000 turn in Ally McBeal, and a 2010 Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his 2009 portrayal of the titular character in Sherlock Holmes.
  • The Screen Actors Guild also recognized his 2000 Ally McBeal performance by giving him the Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series award.
  • In 2003, shortly after Downey returned to the acting world clean and sober, he received a Career Achievement Award from the Chicago International Film Festival.[74]
  • Also in 2003, Downey picked up the Best Actor award from the Sitges Film Festival for his work in The Singing Detective.[73]
  • In 2004, Downey was named "Man of the Year" by Harvard's Hasty Pudding Theatricals.[75]
  • The 2006 large ensemble piece A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, a film Downey co-produced, received a special jury prize for Dramatic film from the Sundance Film Festival.[74]
  • In May 2008, Downey was named to the annual list of The Time Magazine 100 Most Influential People.[51]
  • In October 2008, Paramount Pictures began advertising for Downey to receive an Academy Awards nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Tropic Thunder.[76] In a November 2008 issue of Entertainment Weekly, Downey's performance as self-important Australian method actor Kirk Lazarus was considered one of three sure contenders for the best supporting actor award.[77] As a way of extending the film-within-a-film "universe" into real life, there had also been at least two online "For Your Consideration" ads touting Downey's character, Kirk Lazarus, for Best Supporting Actor; one of these contains "scenes" from the faux trailer for Satan's Alley that were not in the trailer as released in theaters. has verified that at least one of these ads was definitely produced by Paramount and intended for early FYC awareness for Downey's role.[78][79]
  • In October 2008, Downey was ranked at No.4 on online magazine's 49 Most Influential Men in 2008.[80]
  • In November 2008, Downey was named by Entertainment Weekly as "Entertainer of the Year".[81]
  • Throughout the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, Downey was repeatedly nominated for awards based on his 2008 body of work, most frequently garnering Best Supporting Actor nominations for his portrayal of Kirk Lazarus in Tropic Thunder; however, Downey's Tropic Thunder performance usually finished behind Heath Ledger's star-turn as The Joker in The Dark Knight.
  • On December 11, 2008, Downey picked up a nomination for one of the more significant awards, receiving a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Tropic Thunder.[82]
  • Downey picked up his first win of the 2008 award season as part of the Boston Society of Film Critics' Best Ensemble Cast for Tropic Thunder.[83]
  • In December 2008, ShoWest Convention saluted him as "Actor of the Year".[73]
  • In early 2009, Downey won the COFCA Award for Best Actor in Iron Man from the Central Ohio Film Critics Association.[73]
  • On January 22, 2009, Downey was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Tropic Thunder.
  • On 2009 Downey was nominated for three awards: Favorite Male Movie Star, Favorite Superhero, and Favorite Male Action Star at People's Choice Awards.
  • On February 15, 2009, Downey won best international actor for Iron Man at the Irish Film and Television Awards, his fourth win for the 2008 awards season.
  • In November 2009, Downey was number 5 in People Magazine's "The Sexiest Man Alive 2009".
  • On January 17, 2010, Downey won the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy Or Musical for his role in Sherlock Holmes. However, he failed to earn an Academy Award nomination for the same performance.
  • On 25 June 2010, Downey was voted "Sexiest Man In The World" by the Hungarian magazine Periodika. [1]
  • On October 14, 2011 Downey was the 25th recipient of the American Cinematheque Award.

Production company

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.[84]

Personal life

Downey, Jr. and his wife, Susan Downey, at the 2010 Academy Awards

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.[85] He married actress/singer Deborah Falconer on May 29, 1992, after a 42-day courtship,[86] and had a son with her, Indio Falconer Downey, born on September 7, 1993[87] 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.[86] Downey and Falconer finalized their divorce on April 26, 2004. Downey now sees his son frequently after settling custody arrangements with Falconer.[86]

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.[41] Downey and Susan quietly struck up a romance during production, though Susan turned down his romantic advances twice.[88] 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",[88] the couple's relationship continued after production wrapped on Gothika, and Downey proposed to Susan on the night before her thirtieth birthday.[88] The couple were married on August 27, 2005, in a Jewish ceremony at Amagansett, New York.[89][90] 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."[91] One of his biceps reads "Suzie Q" in tribute to her.[92] The couple are expecting their first child in February 2012.[93]

Downey says he has been drug-free since July 2003,[94] thanks to his family, therapy, meditation, twelve-step recovery programs, yoga and the practice of Wing Chun Kung Fu.[15] He has described his religious beliefs as "Jewish-Buddhist"[95] although he has been interested in the past in Christianity and the Hare Krishna ideology.[95] In a panel discussion, Rachel McAdams, who co-starred with Downey in Sherlock Holmes, called him a "superhero" for his "committed" work ethic.[96] 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.[96]

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.[97] Said Downey of Gibson.:[98]

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."[99]


Year Title Role Notes
1970 Pound Puppy Directed by Robert Downey, Sr.
1972 Greaser's Palace uncredited Directed by Robert Downey, Sr.
1975 Moment to Moment uncredited Directed by Robert Downey, Sr.
1980 Up the Academy Caleb Yoon Directed by Robert Downey, Sr.
1983 Baby It's You Stewart
1984 Firstborn Lee
1985 Deadwait Short subject
1985 Tuff Turf Jimmy Parker
1985 Weird Science Ian
1986 Back to School Derek Lutz Directed by Alan Metter
1986 America Paulie Hackley Directed by Robert Downey, Sr.
1987 Pick-up Artist, TheThe Pick-up Artist Jack Jericho
1987 Less Than Zero Julian Wells
1988 Johnny Be Good Leo Wiggins Also stars Robert Downey, Sr.
1988 1969 Ralph Karr
1988 Rented Lips Wolf Dangler Directed by Robert Downey, Sr.
1989 That's Adequate Albert Einstein
1989 True Believer Roger Baron
1989 Chances Are Alex Finch
1990 Air America Billy Covington
1991 Too Much Sun Reed Richmond Directed by Robert Downey, Sr.
1991 Soapdish David Seton Barnes
1992 Chaplin Charlie Chaplin BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
London Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
1993 Heart and Souls Thomas Reilly Saturn Award for Best Actor
1993 Last Party, TheThe Last Party Himself documentary written by Downey
1993 Short Cuts Bill Bush Golden Globe for Best Ensemble Cast
Volpi Cup
1994 Hail Caesar Jerry also stars Robert Downey, Sr.
1994 Century of Cinema, AA Century of Cinema documentary
1994 Natural Born Killers Wayne Gale
1994 Only You Peter Wright, alias Damon
1995 Richard III Earl Rivers
1995 Home for the Holidays Tommy Larson
1995 Restoration Robert Merivel
1997 Danger Zone Jim Scott
1997 One Night Stand Charlie Boston Society of Film Critics Award for (3rd place) Best Supporting Actor
1997 Two Girls and a Guy Blake Allen
1997 Hugo Pool Franz Mazur Directed by Robert Downey, Sr.
1998 Gingerbread Man, TheThe Gingerbread Man Clyde Pell
1998 U.S. Marshals Special Agent John Royce
1999 In Dreams Vivian Thompson
1999 Friends & Lovers Hans
1999 Bowfinger Jerry Renfro
1999 Black and White Terry Donager
2000 Wonder Boys Terry Crabtree Male Screen Idol Award
2000 Auto Motives Rob short subject
2002 Lethargy Animal therapist short subject
2003 Whatever We Do Bobby short subject
2003 Singing Detective, TheThe Singing Detective Dan Dark Festival de Cine de Sitges Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
2003 Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin Himself documentary
2003 Gothika Pete Graham Produced by Susan Downey
2004 Eros Nick Penrose segment "Equilibrium"
2005 Game 6 Steven Schwimmer
2005 Outsider, TheThe Outsider documentary
2005 Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Harry Lockhart Produced by Susan Downey
Cameo by Indio Falconer Downey
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Original Song
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actor
2005 Good Night, and Good Luck. Joseph Wershba Nominated—Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast
Nominated—Gotham Award for Best Ensemble Cast
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Nominated—WFCA Award for Best Cast
2005 Hubert Selby Jr: It/ll Be Better Tomorrow Narrator Documentary
2006 Shaggy Dog, TheThe Shaggy Dog Dr. Kozak
2006 Scanner Darkly, AA Scanner Darkly James Barris Nominated—Chlotrudis Award for Best Supporting Actor
2006 Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, AA Guide to Recognizing Your Saints Dito Montiel co-produced by Downey
Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize – Dramatic
2006 Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus Lionel Sweeney
2007 Zodiac Paul Avery
2007 Lucky You Telephone Jack Cameo
2008 Charlie Bartlett Principal Nathan Gardner
2008 Iron Man Tony Stark/Iron Man Irish Film & Television Award for Best International Actor
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Award for Actor of the Year (also for Tropic Thunder)
Saturn Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Empire Award for Best Actor
Nominated—National Movie Award for Best Actor
Nominated—People's Choice Award for Favorite Superhero
Nominated—Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Actor: Action Adventure
2008 Incredible Hulk, TheThe Incredible Hulk Tony Stark cameo
Nominated—IGN Award for Best Cameo[100]
2008 Tropic Thunder Kirk Lazarus/Sgt. Lincoln Osiris Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Ensemble Cast
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Award for Actor of the Year (also for Iron Man)
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominated—Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Houston Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
Nominated—Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role - Motion Picture
2009 Soloist, TheThe Soloist Steve Lopez Nominated—Prism Award for Best Performance in Feature Film
2009 Sherlock Holmes Sherlock Holmes Produced by Susan Downey
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Irish Film & Television Award for Best International Actor
Nominated—Empire Award for Best Actor
Nominated—MTV Movie Award for Best Fight (Shared with Mark Strong)
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Teen Choice Award for Best Action Adventure Actor
2010 Iron Man 2 Tony Stark/Iron Man Co-writer
Executive Producer Susan Downey
Spike Guy's Choice Award for Deadliest Warrior
Nominated—People's Choice Award – Favorite Action Star
Nominated—People's Choice Award – Favorite Movie Actor
Nominated—People's Choice Award – Favorite On-Screen Team (Shared with Don Cheadle)
Nominated—Kids' Choice Award – Favorite Buttkicker
Nominated—Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Dance
2010 Due Date Peter Highman Executive Producer Susan Downey
Nominated—Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Hissy Fit
2011 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Sherlock Holmes Produced by Susan Downey; Post-production
2012 The Avengers Tony Stark/Iron Man Post-production
2013 Iron Man 3 Tony Stark/Iron Man Pre-production
Year Title Role Notes
Saturday Night Live Cast member 18 episodes
1995 Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree Mr. Willowby television film
2000–2002 Ally McBeal Larry Paul 15 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
Nominated—American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Male Performer in a TV Series
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor – Comedy Series
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Nominated—TV Guide Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Television Critics Association Award for Individual Achievement in Comedy
2005 Family Guy Patrick Pewterschmidt voice, episode "The Fat Guy Strangler"


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