His Life Nearly Destroyed by Drugs, Robert Downey Jr. Found Love and Fought His Way to Recovery.
For too long other priorities led Downey down a darker path. The son of film director Robert Downey Sr. and actor Elsie Ford, Downey dropped out of Santa Monica High School to act, landing a gig on Saturday Night Live at 20. A slew of roles in movies like 1987’s Less than Zero followed, and in 1992 Downey landed the title role—and an Oscar nod—in Chaplin. But his struggles with drugs eclipsed his talent. In 1996 he was put on probation after an arrest for driving in Malibu with heroin, cocaine and a concealed .357 Magnum. For the next five years he was in and out of rehab and jail, doing time in California’s Corcoran State Prison in ’99 for failing to take a mandated sobriety test. In ’01 Downey was fired from Ally McBeal after another relapse.
It was a wake-up call. After another rehab stint, he slowly found his way to health by practicing yoga and kung fu, and by finding love with producer Susan Levin, 34, whom he wed in ’05. “She’s fantastic,” says Downey, who’s also devoted to his son Indio, 14, with first wife Deborah Falconer. “I’m not a walk in the park, and [Susan’s] a very complex and engaging person.” Downey, says Stiller, “talks a lot about how his wife and his son are his grounding forces.” Today his strongest drink is black tea. “My vice, it seems now, is creativity,” he says. “It’s all about living a normal, balanced life.”
Hammer (CNN Showbiz Tonight): Robert Downey, Jr. spent most of the 1990s in and out of southern California courtrooms, jails and rehab centers, hooked on cocaine, alcohol and methamphetamines. Downey couldn’t come to grips with his addiction.
Robert Downey Jr.: You know, there’s a reason it’s listed in American medical — you know, in books of disease.
Hammer: The headlines-making bouts with rehab eventually worked for Downey, who is now clean and sober and starring in movies like “Zodiac,” where he ironically plays a cocaine-addicted reporters, and in the summer blockbuster “Iron Man.”
Robert Downey Jr.: Part of that is largely a moral issue, but I think once you have an opportunity to get the help you need to get out of it, you just have to remember that sometimes that train doesn’t come back around for seven years.
Photo by Edgar Meritano, May 2008.