Robert John Downey, Jr. (born April 4, 1965) is an American actor whose career has included critical and popular success in his youth, followed by a period of substance abuse and legal troubles, and a resurgence of commercial success in middle age.
Making his screen debut at the age of five, appearing in his father’s film Pound (1970), he appeared in roles associated with the Brat Pack, such as the teen sci-fi comedy Weird Science (1985) and the drama Less Than Zero (1987). Other films he has starred in include the action comedy Air America (1990), the comedy Soapdish (1991), and the crime film Natural Born Killers (1994). He starred as Charlie Chaplin, the title character in the 1992 film Chaplin, which earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
After being released in 2000 from the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison where he was on 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 musical comedy crime film The Singing Detective (2003), the supernatural horror film Gothika (2003), the crime comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), the animated science fiction thriller A Scanner Darkly (2006), the mystery thriller Zodiac (2007), and the satirical action comedy Tropic Thunder (2008), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Beginning in 2008, Downey has portrayed the role of Marvel Comics superhero Tony Stark/Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, appearing in several films as either the lead role, member of an ensemble cast, or in a cameo. He played the title character in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (2009) and its sequel (2011).
Downey has starred in several movies that have each grossed over $500 million at the box office worldwide. Three of those films, The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Iron Man 3, each earned over $1 billion. For three consecutive years from 2012-2015, Downey has topped the Forbes list of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors, making an estimated $80 million in earnings between June 2014 and June 2015.
Downey was born in Manhattan, New York, the younger of two children. His father, Robert Downey Sr., is an actor and filmmaker, while his mother, Elsie Ann (née Ford), was also an actress, who appeared in Downey Sr.’s films. Downey’s father is of half Lithuanian Jewish, one quarter Hungarian Jewish, and one quarter Irish, descent, while Downey’s mother has Scottish, German, and Swiss ancestry. Downey 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 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 aged 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 and Kiefer Sutherland, who shared the screen together in the 1988 drama film 1969, were roommates for three years when he first moved to Hollywood to pursue his career in acting.
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.
In 2003, Downey met producer Susan Levin, an Executive Vice President of Production at Joel Silver’s film company, Silver Pictures on the set of Gothika. 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. A tattoo on one of his biceps reads “Suzie Q” in tribute to her.
On July 9, 2014, he announced via Facebook and Twitter that he and his wife were expecting a daughter in November. In November 4, Susan gave birth to a girl named Avri Roel Downey.