Watching Robert Downey Jr. in the very first Iron Man film, you’re not just watching an actor producing a definitive portrayal that is impossible to imagine someone else replacing it, you’re actually watching Robert Downey Jr. cementing his legacy as a bankable star with the very first block buster in his entire slate of movies.
But behind all the flawless dialogue deliveries, inimitable movements and the complete embodiment of his characters, there’s a haunting backstory…, of Robert Downey Jr. vs. Robert Downey Jr.
He made his acting debut at the age of five in 1970, but it wasn’t until 1985 that he got a big break as one of the young cast members on Saturday Night Live. The cast’s comedic talents were highly criticized, the show garnered poor ratings and everybody was dropped and replaced. To make matters worse, Rolling Stone gave the following review to the final product ‘Downey fail sums up everything that makes SNL great’.
A few years down the road, Downey was cast in the 1992 film ‘Chaplin’ as the titular character, Charlie Chaplin himself. Chaplin was one of those icons in the world that no one thought could be re-created on film, but here he was, portrayed by someone who didn’t really stood out as the first choice to play him by the studios that wanted either Robin Williams or Billy Crystal. They even imagined the always lovable Jim Carrey to play Chaplin, but director Richard Attenborough was adamant on casting Downey as perhaps he saw what we now get to see.
An actor portraying another actor with such unprecedented believability that Attenborough ended the film with archive footage of Chaplin himself to give you some sort of a tease comparison between Downey and Chaplin. Needless to say, Downey ended up with his very first Academy Award nomination and even though he lost out to Al Pacino that year, he solidified himself as an extravagant force on the screen.
Downey continued to garner prestige with his unusually arresting performances throughout his career, but oddly enough, even after pilling up countless movies and playing numerous memorable characters, he still hadn’t had a real block buster on his resume. Fast forward 16 years to 2008 and it was finally time for Downey to star in his very first box office shattering multi-million dollar project, Iron Man that proved to be the foundation for The Avengers that became a multi-billion dollar franchise in itself. The whole deal landed Downey topping the Forbes list of the highest paid actors for three consecutive years.
Downey is at the peak point of his life, a point where it’s hard to imagine the very same guy who got busted by the cops on numerous occasions between 1999 and 2001 for substance abuse. Unimaginably, it was the age 6 when he first experienced marijuana to which he credits his own father. Downey believed that doing drugs with his father was the only way his father knew of expressing his love for Downey.
His addiction took him through countless drug treatment programs unsuccessfully, finally confronting a judge in 1999 with the following statement ‘It’s like I have a shotgun in my mouth, and I’ve got my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal’.
In the middle of Downey’s drug crisis, his career started to tumble, but he was able to salvage it with the chance to play a key role in the 2000 hit series, Ally McBeal. Moving on to securing an Emmy nomination for his work on the show, it seemed that Downey was back, but in the April of 2001, he was arrested yet again for suspicion of being under the influence of drugs. The producers of Ally McBeal ended up having rewrites for the show and made the call of firing Downey even though his presence proved crucial for the ratings.
In the December of 2000, Downey’s stepmother gave an interview to People’s Magazine where she quoted that Downey had been diagnosed with bipolar disease and that makes it impossible for him to stay sober. Later on, in an interview to Esquire, Downey denied of ever being diagnosed and threw out any speculations of being depressed or manic.
After five years of full on substance abuse, arrests, rehabs and relapses, Downey decided to give full recovery one more shot with the following thought “It’s not that difficult to overcome these seemingly ghastly problems… what’s hard is to decide to do it.”
Downey was successful in keeping his promise and dragged himself out of his addiction for good. Mel Gibson who became a close friend of Downey’s at the time paid his insurance bond which landed him a role in 2003’s The Singing Detective which then paved his way towards now a cult classic ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’.
Downey hit the highest note in his comeback journey with David Fincher’s Zodiac and then making his way into becoming Iron Man! Downey was finally back for good!
He credits his second wife Susan Levin for being his inspiration to maintaining his comeback story on a good note, but whether it was his own will or an external human connection that led him to who he is today, there’s one quote I’ll keep in mind every time I see the ever incredible Robert Downey Jr. on the screen published in an article by Newsweek ‘’People want him to succeed…, not just for Downey’s good but as a victory for human spirit.”
There’s a very specific way with Robert Downey Jr moves and delivers his dialogues. Everytime you see him on the screen, you’re instantly mesmirized and hooked to his stories. With Avengers Infinity War behind us and Robert being one of his top stars, I was extremely enticed by telling his story.
I hope I was able to do justice to his narrative with this video and if you liked it, then share this with your friends and subscribe to my channel to stay tuned to some storytelling goodness every now and then. Also, if you love to read fiction, then I just published my very first novel on Amazon and it only costs 99 cents for which you can click the link here.
In the hopes of connecting with story lovers all over the world, this is Mr. Zeecon, in the making of a great story.
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