From Drug Addict to Hollywood’s Highest Paid Actor

Robert Downey’s Jr’s Climb from Rock Bottom

The Downey mug shot collection from 1996–2001.

“Taking drugs to me is like have a shotgun in my mouth with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of gun metal”. — Robert Downey Jr. An infamous quote from Downey to a judge during one of his many court appearances for drug charges.

On July 18, 1996, thirty-one-year-old Robert Downey Jr, while high on narcotics, discreetly slips into his neighbor’s Malibu home, descends a few flights of stairs, and takes a nap in their eleven-year-old son’s empty bed. He was found later that evening, mostly unresponsive, by the startled homeowner. Later that night, he was arrested for suspicion of trespassing and being under the influence of a controlled substance. In Downey’s defense, the home owner Lisa Curtis reported, “he laid his pants neatly over a chair and tucked himself into the sheets before falling asleep”. “He got real cozy,” Bill Curtis reported. This was only a few hours after authorities filed a felony charge for Downey being in possession of heroin and cocaine in relation to a speeding arrest on June 23, 1996. He was also facing a misdemeanor for driving under the influence and having a concealed weapon during the same incident.

Just picture thirty-one-year-old Downey under the influence of drugs and alcohol, in possession of his personal stash of cocaine and heroin, racing his truck down Sunset Boulevard with a concealed .357 Magnum handgun. That’s a perfect representation of his life in one incident.

Over the next few years Downey continued with his drug use and heavy alcohol consumption. He repeatedly failed to show for multiple court ordered drug tests. In 1999, he received a sentence to a three-year prison stint but ended up serving only a year at California Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison. In 2001, Downey is found wandering around Culver City, California barefoot and was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence. He was later court ordered to a rehab center and was fired from all his current acting jobs.

Downey getting the cuffs from Dr. Stash.

It’s now early 2000’s. Downey is washed up, unemployed, broke, and untrusted by the movie, theatre, and television industry where he grew up and previously thrived. Downey went from an established young actor in the 80’s landing roles in critically acclaimed films, to a household name synonymous with reckless, law-breaking behavior and drug addiction.

After he finished rehab, Downey was unable to get hired by anyone in Hollywood due to insurance companies refusing to insure him. He was a high-risk actor and with his struggles with addiction being headlined news for years, practically no one in the industry believed in him. Film makers and producers thought he would relapse, not show up, or be unable to remember his lines. They did not want to suffer the financial blow to production if Downey relapsed. However, Mel Gibson having been through similar addiction issues, choose to give Downey another chance in the 2002 in the film The Singing Detective. At great financial risk, Gibson underwrote Downey’s insurance coverage and essentially agreed to pay any insurance claims if Downey did end up failing.

Fortunately, Downey came through and thus starting to turn around his acting career and secured his sobriety.

Although Downey was in many critically successful and profitable films in the early 2000s following rehab, 2008 provided Downey with an opportunity that would not only advance his career beyond all scope of imagination, but impact big budget cinema forever. After around thirty years of acting Downy had been in an array of different films and shows, but had never been the star in a big blockbuster. That was all about to change. Downey landed the role of Tony Stark in the upcoming Marvel film Ironman, which was the first film of the current Marvel cinematic universe. Downey became the face a multibillion dollar, multiple decade spanning series of films that have been some of the highest grossing films of all time.

Robert Downey Jr. front and center, as Tony Stark in Avengers, which grossed $1,518,812,988.

Downey went from earning eight cents an hour scrubbing pans in the LA Country jail to the highest paid actor in Hollywood for many consecutive years. With Tony Stark leading the Avenger’s into the Infinity War series, and likely crushing box office records in the coming years, it does not seem as though Downey’s considerable paychecks, fan base, and success will be dwindling anytime soon.

Robert Downey Jr. next to some of the most beautiful people in the world and Scarlett Johansson.

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2.Fair, Vanity. “Robert Downey Jr. Speaks About His Addictions.” HWD, Vanity Fair, 23 Sept. 2014, Accessed 10 Sept. 2017.

3.Fisher, Luchina. “Robert Downey Jr. Talks About Addiction and Passing It to His Son.” ABC News, ABC News Network, Accessed 10 Sept. 2017.

4.Hedegaard, Erik. “To Hell and Back With Robert Downey Jr.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 21 Aug. 2008, Accessed 10 Sep MailOnline, Paul Scott for. “From washed-up drug addict to the $100m man: How Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr turned his life around from prison and cocaine.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 24 May 2013, Accessed 10 Sept. 2017. t. 2017.

5.“Robert Downey Jr.”, A&E Networks Television, 28 Apr. 2017, Accessed 10 Sept. 2017.

6. “Robert Downey Jr.’s Incredible Comeback from Addiction.”, 13 July 2016, Accessed 10 Sept. 2017.

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