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The fall and rise of Robert Downey Jr

Updated: Sep 28, 2019

Featured in Issue 4, Masquerade Magazine –

Alone in a room…

a spinning room that just won’t stop. A room where the strippers have fled, there’s coke on the table and a gun on the floor, the previous 4 days a blur. What has happened, how did it get to this? It must have been good or it wouldn’t have lasted 4 days, would it!

I would love to know what was going through Robert Downey Jr’s mind in the brief moments just before the police came knocking on his Palm Springs hotel room door in 2001? He’d only been out of jail a year, and had just won a Golden Globe for his performance in Ally McBeal, his life was back on track. So why did he find himself in this situation yet again? 

Renowned for fully immersing himself in his movies characters and the extreme lengths he would go to conjour a great performance, why should we be surprised when he applied the same enthusiasm to his drug addictions. 

Described by many as the most gifted actor of his generation, Downey Jr has had one hell of a roller coaster ride. From his early acting accolades to his many incarcerations Robert has seen all the highs and lows Hollywood has had to offer. You watch him on-screen and quickly realise what a fantastic actor he is, when interviewed you cant help but warm to him, he comes across as a very likeable guy, so it was saddening to see his total demise in front of a world-wide TV audience.

When ‘Ally McBeal’ broke for Thanksgiving in 2001 he checked himself into a Palm Springs hotel for a 4 day bender that included alcohol, drugs and strippers. Following an anonymous 911 call police were called and found him with 4oz of cocaine, a firearm and a ‘wonder woman’ costume that must have been left behind by one of the strippers who just managed to get out before the police arrived. He was arrested and convicted again. Looking back, he claims that his performance on ‘Ally McBeal’  was overrated and that “It was my lowest point in terms of addictions. At that stage, I didn’t give a fuck whether I ever acted again.”

Most addicts use drugs as a sort of ‘safe haven’ where their problems and troubles cannot invade, but with Downey Jr the reasons for his habit were unclear. My own opinion is that he actually enjoyed taking drugs, and he didn’t stop until he himself, from within said ‘no more’. 

I have seen so many promising actors fail to conquer their demons, (Belushi, Phoenix, Ledger), that to see an actor overcome them is refreshing. His scrapes with the law have given him a sort of twisted kudos other actors will never experience no matter how much they can pull at the box office. For instance; Tom Cruise’s crazy outburst on Oprah and his views on Scientology only seemed to alienate him from the public, whereas (with his problems now firmly behind him) Roberts appearance on the show, you got to know him, you felt for him, you forgave him. Now viewed like some celluloid version of Keith Richards, Robert Downey Jr suddenly became cool! 

And it showed, in ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ (2005) he was most certainly back with a bang bang!

He was soon announced to play Marvel superhero ‘Iron Man’ in 2007, to which he ended up giving an excellent portrayal. The film was a massive box office success and he enlisted a whole new army of admirers. At this point in his career it seemed there was nothing he could not do… then came ‘Tropic Thunder’.

There was much controversy over his portrayal of ‘Sgt. Osiris’ in Ben Stillers 2008 comedy. ‘Sgt. Osiris’s’ character played by white Australian ‘Kirk Lazarus’ dons ‘blackface’ for a role that was written for a black man. There was talk of the film having racist undertones. why a black man wasnt hired to play the part and the internet forums were ablaze with scathing criticism of the whole thing. The storm eventually blew away and praise was heaped on him for such a convincing role. He received his second Oscar nomination for his performance (the first being for ‘Chaplin’ in 1992), which he lost out to ‘Heath Ledger’ for ‘The Dark Knight’.

Today he’s not shy to talk about his past, he is a very intelligent, articulate man who has a lot to say. He especially likes to talk about his acting and methodry. When interviewed you see the sorrow in his face for the hell he has survived, but you also notice his eyes light up whenever he’s asked a thoughtful, intelligent question. As a result you get to know his inner most thoughts. If you asked him what his favourite colour is you would no doubt get a sarcastic, witty answer, which would be just as acceptable as he is an extremely funny guy who engages his audience whether on-screen or stage.

Iron Man 2 will no doubt be the biggest hit of the summer and Robert Downey Jr will play a huge part in that success. His incredible personal journey has made him the person he is today and I suppose if you look at his life in an offset kind of way, you could be tempted to quote the late, great comedian ‘Bill Hicks’ in saying that ‘drugs had a positive effect’!

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