Genius. Billionaire. Playboy. Philanthropist. How often is it that an actor is the real-life embodiment of the superhero they portray? OK, maybe not an exact embodiment, but if there was ever a role tailor-made for an actor, it's Tony Stark and Robert Downey Jr. The man is a class act who truly cares for his fellow actors. He's displayed incredible generosity: earlier this year he celebrated his birthday by throwing a viewing party of the then-just-released Captain America: The Winter Soldier for some of the luckiest kids in the country...
...and last year gave one lucky 5 year old boy a solid-gold and diamond Iron Man helmet. He is regarded as one of the most down-to-earth and respected actors in Hollywood today, and we have him to thank in part for the enormous success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However it wasn't an easy path for Mr. Downey. He's battled addiction and rehab, he's been fired and arrested, but he fought his way out and back to the top, and today he is one of the most successful actors alive.
Robert Downey Jr. was born to Robert(Sr.) and Elsie Downey in Manhattan. He was introduced to the various cinematic arts from a very early age thanks to both his parents being heavily involved in theater and cinema. Downey grew up studying at New York's Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center, but moved to California after his parent's divorced. He dropped out of high school to focus on acting full time, and throughout the 80's and 90's he starred in a variety of films, including Tuff Turf and Weird Science in 1985...
...and debuted on Saturday Night Live in the same year as part of the new cast. However poor ratings led to his replacement.
Downey launched back onto the silver screen with The Pick-up Artist and Less Than Zero in 1987, True Believer in 1989, Air America in 1990...
...in which he starred alongside Mel Gibson, and the two acting legends have been friends through thick and thin ever since. In 1992 Downey starred as the title character in the biopic Chaplin. His portrayal as the silent film legend earned him an nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Throughout the next several years Downey kept building his resume' with features like 1994's Natural Born Killers, as well as Richard III and Home for the Holidays in 1995.
In 1996 Downey began a long string of drug related arrests and rehab visits. He was arrested in 1996 for possesion of heroin, cocaine and a .357 Magnum while he was driving on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. His habit of missing mandatory drug tests (and one instance where he broke into and fell asleep in a neighbors house while under the ifluence of an illegal substance) led to 6 months of jail time and later a year in California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison. When he was released in 2000 he appeared on Ally McBeal, and his performance earned him an Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe. However he was arrested once more in 2000 when his hotel room was searched. The final straw was an arrested that occured when Downey was found wandering barefoot in a Los Angeles suburb and tested positive for cocaine. He was fired from Ally McBeal, despite his character's positive effect on the show's ratings. He also lost a role in America's Sweethearts as well as the lead in Mel Gibson's stage production of Hamlet, which was canceled as a result of Downeys incarceration. After a couple of years of rehab and therapy, Downey returned to the media world sober and ready to take back his stardom. He appeared in Gothika in 2003, released his album The Futurist in 2004, and starred in 2005's crime drama Kiss Kiss Bang Bang as a crook who accidentally stumbles into an acting gig as a detective. Fun fact: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was written and directed by Shane Black, who would later go on to direct Iron Man 3.
In 2006 Downey appeared in the poorly-received Disney comedy The Shaggy Dog, but bounced back the next year when he appeared in the dramedy Charlie Bartlett and as journalist Paul Avery in Zodiac, a crime drama exploring the events surrounding the mysterious serial killer of the 60's and 70's.
A Hero Is Made
In 2008, Downey began the road which would lead to his status as an A-List mega star when he appeared as (and absolutely nailed the role of) Tony Stark in Iron Man.
The critical acclaim both Downey and Iron Man received solidified his new-found prestige, which was only reinforced by his appearance as Kirk Lazarus, an Australian actor playing an African-American character, in Ben Stiller's action-comedy Tropic Thunder...
..and in 2009 he claimed another franchise title role when he appeared in Sherlock, a portrayal of the fictional detective that earned him a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture.
Though we didn't know it yet, Marvel was planning a massive cinematic event, and Iron Man was just the beginning. Downey appeared as Tony Stark in a post-credits scene of The Incredible Hulk which came out the same year. Downey continued to star as the eccentric hero throughout the next few years, including starring in Iron Man 2 in 2010, The Avengers in 2012, and Iron Man 3 in 2013.
While Downey has signed on to appear in 3 more Avengers films as well as Captain America: Civil War due out in 2016, it is not yet certain whether we will see him again in Iron Man 4. He's certainly been a busy man: alongside his Marvel features he starred in 2010's comedy Due Date alongside Zach Galifianakis, he reprised his role as Sherlock Holmes in 2011's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, appeared in Jon Favreau's Chef and most recently in his self-produced drama The Judge. He is currently slated for the four aforementioned Marvel movies and a third Sherlock Holmes film.
So what's your favorite Robert Downey Jr. film? Are you excited for The Avengers: Age of Ultron? What do you think Iron Man's role will be in Captain America: Civil War? Sound of in the comments, and thanks for reading!