Robert John Downey Jr is an American actor who was born on April 4, 1965 in Manhattan, New York. He is the younger of two children. His father, Robert Downey Sr., is an actor and filmmaker, while his mother, Elsie Ann (née Ford), was 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 had 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. He allowed Downey to use marijuana at age six, an incident which his father has said he now regrets. Downey later 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 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 in the 1988 drama 1969, were roommates for three years when he first moved to Hollywood to pursue his career in acting. His 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. For three consecutive years from 2012 to 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.
Making his acting debut at the age of five, appearing in his father’s film Pound (1970), Downey Jr. 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). He starred as title character in the 1992 film Chaplin, which earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor and won him the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. 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. This earned him a Golden Globe Award. His character was written out when Downey was fired after two drug arrests in late 2000 and early 2001. After his last stay in a court-ordered drug treatment program, Downey achieved sobriety.
Downey Jr.’s career prospects improved when he featured in the mystery thriller Zodiac (2007), and the satirical action comedy Tropic Thunder (2008); for the latter he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Beginning in 2008, Downey began portraying the role of Marvel Comics superhero 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. Each of these films has grossed over $500 million at the box office worldwide; four of these—The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Civil War—earned over $1 billion. Downey Jr. has also played the title character in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (2009) and its sequel (2011).
Downey started dating actress Sarah Jessica Parker after meeting her on the set of Firstborn. The couple later separated due to his drug addiction. He married actress/singer Deborah Falconer on May 29, 1992, after a 42-day courtship, their son, Indio Falconer Downey, was born in September 1993. 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 their son 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 in August 2005, in a Jewish ceremony at Amagansett, New York. A tattoo on one of his biceps reads “Suzie Q” in tribute to her. Their first child, a son, was born in February 2012, their second child, a daughter, was born in November 2014.
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. Gibson said 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, Downey was being honored at the 25th American Cinematheque Awards; Downey chose Gibson to present him with his award for his life’s work, and used his air time to say a few kind words about Gibson and explain why he chose him to present the award.1