The Long Road to Redemption for Robert Downey Jr.

The name is instantly recognizable for anyone who is a fan of superhero films. Robert Downey Jr. is the leading actor carrying the mantle of Tony Stark, a.k.a The Iron Man. He’s been the guy placed front and center on a franchise that is now bigger than his name but that somehow it wouldn’t probably be the same without him. The guy went from earning a single paycheck of $500,000 for his work on the first installment of the Golden Avenger to crafting out a deal that grants him an up-front payment of $50 million for participating on 3 additional Marvel Films with separate deals on the side such as his appearance on Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Born to Hollywood Royalty

You could certainly say that Robert Downey Jr. has been blessed by being at the right place at the right time, but checking back some of his life histories you’ll find that this accomplished actor didn’t walk a path full of roses to get where he is. The rocky road to stardom for Robert Downey Jr is full of thorns, and it feels like a roller coaster and not an enjoyable one at that. Born to Robert Downey Sr. and Elsie Downey in 1965, the future actor was raised in an artistic environment. His dad was a movie director that created quite a few cults classic; his mother was a screenwriter and an actress. He honed his craft the same way a runaway kid does it: by jumping in at every acting opportunity he got.

The Rise of a Star in the 80’s

With the 80’s in full swing, Robert Downey Jr. became a heartthrob for the time. He was one of the most visible faces on brat-pack era films done by trademark director of the decade, John Huges. Robert made his debut as a leading character in “Weird Science” on 1985 along with Anthony Michael Hall and 80’s staple buxom Kelly Lebrock. The film was a modest success, but it laid out the road he would take by teaming up with then-girlfriend Sarah Jessica Parker in “Firstborn” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” Robert Downey Jr. really made his mark after starring as the main character in a film known as “Less than Zero.”

The film was an adaption of a very popular novel written by Bret Easton Ellis and it was such a close reflection of the life lead by Robert Downey Jr. at that point, that nobody was surprised when the actor morphed into a drug addict and the perpetually wasted party boy that channeled all his personal demons through his acting. While “Less than Zero” didn’t earn him any nominations or awards it was enough to get him noticed by the press and critics who labeled him one of the most versatile actors of his generation? He earned meaningful roles in films such as 1969 with Kiefer Sutherland, and Air America with Mel Gibson, both of them still close friends that carry their fair share of personal demons as well.

Getting Recognition while Sinking in the Bottom of a Barrel

His breakthrough performance finally came in 1992, when Richard Attenborough chose him to play Charles Chaplin in the lauded biopic that premiered that same year. The Academy made a nod to his performance by offering him a nomination for the best actor that he lost to Al Pacino. His way to success was being paved slowly but securely in the professional front, not quite what it was happening with his personal life. As the actor has described in an interview offered to Vanity Fair in 2014, the mix of youth, adulation and severe drug addiction took their toll as he became quite the erratic fellow. By 1996 he was facing his first arrest on drug possession charges and was sentenced to rehab, something he avoided on three separate occasions. By 1999 the law was done with his shenanigans, and Robert was sentenced to 36 months in prison.
Hollywood behaves like a mysterious lady. She rewards or condemns their sons and daughters as she sees fit. Jail time is a career killer for many entertainers, but Robert Downey Jr. was an established name in the business even if his films didn’t turn great profits. He was appreciated by a part of the industry willing to give him a chance to go on and make amends. Fox was the one who extended a branch to Robert to save his career by casting him as co-lead in “Ally McBeal” in the last two seasons of the show. His mere presence revitalized the TV series in ways that FOX didn’t foresee, earning the actor a win in the Golden Globes of 2000. Sadly Robert wasn’t finished with his bad days yet, and in 2001 he was arrested again for drug possession.

Coming Back From a Dark Place to Become a Hero

After passing through the ritual of rehab properly this time around, Robert was staring at the bottom of the well. It was his long-time friend Mel Gibson who reached out to him and gave the actor another shot at acting in a small independent film called “The Singing Detective.” The actor gave such a clean and professional performance that he was offered minor roles on films that paved his way for a full-scale comeback: “Gothika” with Hale Berry, “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang” with Val Kilmer, “Good Night and Good Luck” with George Clooney. There were no small roles for Robert this time around, and his new clean slate gave him a new shot at love again by marrying Susan Levy, her executive producer on Gothika and the mother of his two kids.

Tony Stark is a character widely known to comic fans for being utterly flawed. A genius in his craft as a futurist, he can’t seem to catch a break in his personal life due in part to his poor choices. For many people out there Robert Downey Jr. landed a goldmine in the literal sense when it comes to playing Iron Man since the character seems to be an extension of his personality rather than an acting job. He has stated numerous times that such is not the case, the role, however, has allowed him to reflect about the past and how much he had come since those early days when he didn’t know how to handle fame. As a human being Robert has paid the price for his mistakes, and by acknowledging them, he feels he’s on the path to redemption.

These days Robert Downey Jr. is just happy for the opportunity to be able to keep entertaining with his films and to keep getting work, and that’s everything any accomplished actor could ever want in the end.