Robert Downey Jr.'s Highs and Lows: Drug Days a “Lifetime” Ago

Check out the star's path from bad boy to comeback kid.

30 photos
Getty Images
While now at the top of his game, Robert Downey Jr. has had many highs and lows. In a candid November Playboy interview, Downey said staying off drugs “for literally five or six years is a lifetime.”
Getty Images
Between 1996 and 2001, Downey faced sporadic drug charges, served jail time and did several stints in rehab. "I think of myself as someone who has no desire, use for or conscious memory of that life,” Downey told Playboy. “And yet I don't shut the door on it, and I don't pretend it didn't happen.”
The “Iron Man” star also revealed he enjoys watching prison shows on TV for interviews that show “someone having some catharsis.” Here's a look back at Robert Downey Jr's trip from bad boy to comeback kid.
Getty Images
Robert Downey Jr. will be reprising his role as Iron Man in Joss Whedon's adaptation of one of Marvel Comics' most beloved franchises The Avengers. Downey Jr. told a Comic-Con crowd that The Avengers will be more ambitious than last summer's blockbuster hit, Inception.
Paramount Pictures
Robert Downey Jr. received mostly positive reviews for "Iron Man 2." He will next appear in the comedy "Due Date." "My age and my recent set of experiences ... have left me feeling I'm in the zone," he told Playboy.
Paramount Pictures
Downey is also being talked about as the lead contender to play the title character in a prequel to The Wizard of Oz. With an impressive list of blockbuster movies in the last few years, Downey is proving himself to be a true leading man and a bankable box-office draw.
Warner Bros.
Robert Downey Jr starred as the title character in Sherlock Holmes. The film garnered a lot of attention, earning Downey a Golden Globe nomination before it was even released.
Warner Bros.
Guy Ritchie, the film's director, and Downey's wife have both said they see a lot of similarities between the character of Holmes and Downey himself. Despite Holmes' faults, he triumphs. So with Downey.
Getty Images
Robert Downey Jr.'s first role was as a puppy in his filmmaker father's 1970 movie Pound. Downey was five at the time and has since appeared in many of Robert Downer Sr.'s films.
Getty Images
Downey and Anthony Michael Hall became friends on the set of Weird Science and then auditioned for SNL together in 1985. They both got spots on the show during what was described as one of its worst seasons - largely attributed to the departure of producer Lorne Michaels (who came back on board several years later).
Downey met Sarah Jessica Parker on the set of Firstborn in 1984. Within weeks he moved in with her. Their relationship lasted for nearly seven years before the couple split.
In 1987 Downey played a drug addict in Less Than Zero, which was based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel. Downey was considered part of the Brat Pack, a group of young 80s movers and shakers.
Downey moved from teen angst to adult angst in 1992's Chaplin. He played the title role and received Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for his performance, but lost to Al Pacino who won for Scent of a Woman.
Getty Images
QUOTABLE: "I know very little about acting. I'm just an incredibly gifted faker."
The Oscar-nominated actor was arrested in 1996 for possession of heroin, cocaine and an unloaded handgun. Downey pleaded innocent to the drug and weapons charges.
To no avail. Downey was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to undergo mandatory drug testing. When he failed to show up for a drug test in 1997, he was sentenced to jail for violating parole.
Another missed drug test in 1999 landed Downey another arrest and court appearance.
Getty Images
In 1999 Downey was sentenced to prison for his multiple parole violations. He was sent to a special facility for inmates with substance abuse problems and was released in 2000.
Getty Images
Three weeks after he got out of prison, he was cast on Ally McBeal. But on April 24, 2001 he was arrested again for being under the influence of a controlled substance. Producers rewrote the remaining episodes and fired him from the show.
Getty Images
Still the actor triumphed. His role as Larry Paul on Ally McBeal garnered Downey a Golden Globe for Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in a TV Series in 2001.
Getty Images
QUOTABLE: "I'm not a poster boy for good behavior and recovery in Hollywood. I'm just a guy who knows he has a lot to be grateful for."
During that time, Downey's personal life had its ups and downs. Downey and his first wife Deborah Falconer had a son, Indio Falconer-Downey, in 1993. But the couple split in 2001 and officially divorced in 2004.
Getty Images
Downey released a song on the Ally McBeal soundtrack and performed with Sting and Joni Mitchell. With the release of his CD "The Futurist" in 2004, Downey officially added a singer slash to his resume: actor/singer.
In August 2005, Robert Downey Jr. and producer Susan Levin, who met on the set of Gothika in 2003, married.
Paramount Pictures
Downey's comeback started in 2008 when he played Tony Stark in Iron Man, one of his biggest box office hits to date. Director Jon Favreau said Downey "found a lot of his own life experience in [the character]."
QUOTABLE: "I've never been in a sequel and it's very daunting because I feel the expectation of the millions of people who watched [Iron Man] and enjoyed it and told me that... they expected us to not screw it up. So I actually have taken Iron Man 2 probably more seriously than any movie I've ever done."
Downey's unlikely turn as Australian actor Kirk Lazarus - performed in black face - won him another round of Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. This time he lost to Heath Ledger, who won posthumously for his role as The Joker in The Dark Knight.
QUOTABLE: "I've always felt like such an outsider in this industry. Because I'm so insane, I guess."
Getty Images
Downey's comeback - now officially cemented - has landed him a handprint spot at LA's famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre as well as on People magazine's list of most handsome men.
Getty Images
QUOTABLE: "I think you end up doing the stuff you were supposed to do at the time you were supposed to do it."
Contact Us