Robert Downey Jr. was born April 4 1965. He started his screen debut at the age of five. Downey was born in Manhattan, New York City, New York. His father Robert Downey Sr., is an actor, writer, producer, cinematographer and a director of underground films. His mother is Elsie 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. Surprisingly, his father, a drug addict, allowed Downey Jr. to use marijuana at age six, an incident which his father has said that he now regrets. During his childhood Downey had minor roles in his father’s films. 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. 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.
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.'”
In October 2011, Robert Downey Jr. was being honored at the 25th American Cinematheque Awards. Downey chose Mel Gibson, fellow actor and good friend, to present him with his award for his life’s work. After Gibson’s introduction, Downey did not discuss himself, instead he explained why he chose Gibson, and continued to utilize his air time by saying a few kind words about Gibson, his recently down-trodden friend. After relaying how Gibson immensely helped him through his hardships, Downey addressed his fellow entertainers directly, “I humbly ask that you join me, unless you are completely without sin, and in which case you picked the wrong (explicative) industry, in forgiving my friend of his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate that you have me and allowing him to continue his great and on-going contribution to our collective art without shame.” After the speech, the two friends hugged onstage, to thunderous applause.
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.”
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 $585 million worldwideand 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.