Robert Downey Jr. – Journey from a Drug Addict to the Highest paid Actor
“If you can’t fly then run, If you can’t run then walk, If you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
There is one another Junior – Robert Downey Jr., who stood from rags to riches and now acclaimed to be the highest paid Hollywood actor by the well celebrated Forbes magazine. Looking at his past years, who would have thought that a drug addict’s life can actually be an inspiring story for others? Robert is one studded name in Hollywood, who was once a pizza pan scrubber in LA County prison’s kitchen earning a meagre eight cents an hour. The same man, consecutively for three years from 2012-2015 topped the Forbes list of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors and boasts a stratospheric $80 million payday, which is more than any other leading actor on the planet.
Downey started his acting career at the age of 5, well he was surely a child prodigy which made him bag a series of roles in various movies from 1970 to 1991. But, Sir Richard Attenborough’s 1992 biopic ‘Chaplin’ escalated his career to a new height making him a nominee for the Academy award for Best actor. His performance in “Chaplin” made him a star within a fortnight and brought him in line of the riches. He was touted as one of the best actors in that generation and directors were lining up to sign him. But little did we know that this wall of fame was a short-lived dream, as the actor couldn’t control his sudden surge of narcotics and plummeted his career to the world of drug addiction.
Before all this success of Junior, he was actually murdering his own career for the love of heroin, marijuana and cocaine. Downey was an exceptional actor and had a great career from 1983-95, he performed a variety of roles and was greatly appreciated for them. Robert was serendipitous to have worked with big names of Hollywood, and he got fine with his character and bank balance with every cast he played. Although this heavy surge of dollars to his account and fame in his corner, Robert’s drug addiction went sky-high.
But where did this addiction come from? , Well as a child Downey was always “surrounded by drugs”. His father was a drug addict, and surprisingly he allowed Downey Jr. to have a taste of marijuana at the age of six. Downey started enjoying it and considered it to be an emotional bond between him and his father. Eventually, this gateway drug opened him to other chemical narcotics and all he needed was money to pursuit them, which came rolling his way from his acting career.
It was the year 1996, and by this time Downey was completely in control of drugs. He was performing unconsciously and his love for drugs surpassed his acting talents shattering his career. After this the saga of conviction began; Downey was arrested numerous times on multiple drug charges between 1996 and 2001. He was found under the influence of a controlled substance namely Cocaine, Heroin or Valium every time he was arrested. Directors and Producers were now moving away from Downey Jr. and his crazy addiction debarred him from career-defining roles. It was evident from a hearing in 1999 that Downey wanted to quit drugs but he just couldn’t. He quoted: “It’s like I’ve got a shotgun in my mouth with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gunmetal.”
But as they say, “There is always light at the end of tunnel”. A fine morning came for Downey too after spending 5 long years battling his drug addiction, abuse, arrests, rehab, and relapsed. He stood up and decided to get a hold of his career, he was finally ready to work and forward from drugs. He returned to mainstream cinema with Joel Silver’s Gothika, who actually kept 40 percent of his pay as insurance fearing his earlier behaviour. Since then, these clause became a part of his every contract. Downey was now back, and he didn’t back out from any of his roles and no complaints about his addiction showed up. Although, Downey was completely off the drugs now, but he was struggling still to get a blockbuster break in his career.
Well 2008 was the year which marked history in his life, Downey blew up every poster with his fist clenching ‘Iron Man’. This Marvel studios film proved to be a mega-hit covering a huge sum of overseas market. Also, came with it was ‘Tropic Thunder’. Stars were in the side of Robert and the very same year he signed a deal with Marvel Studios to star in Iron Man trilogy and appear in other Marvel movies that had Iron Man’s role. This was not just the end as in 2009, he grabbed the title of Guy Ritchie’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ making it another mega-hit franchise.
Well, as for now Robert Downey Jr. is a widely acclaimed actor moniker as Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, two of the most loved and appreciated characters of English Cinema. Downey’s life is truly an inspiring note, as this Iron Man never gave up throughout the bumpy ride, which nearly ended his career. Robert was considered an outcast in Hollywood or his behaviour, he battled all through his addiction, scrubbed pans, but his consciousness kept alive the actor inside him. No need to mention again that, he never looked back from then and gave huge blockbusters one after another. He also conquered the highest paid actors list in the world. But apart from all this, he created an inspirational reference for the coming generations.