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From rising star to Hollywood poison to international superstar — all in the span of two decades — Robert Downey Jr. has had a roller coaster career and one hell of a life.
The son of an underground filmmaker, Downey Jr. bounced from city to city growing up, instilling a movement in the future star. By the time he was 17, he had dropped out of high school and moved to New York to become an actor. And today, more than 30 years later, Downey Jr. has ridden one wave after another — some nearly catastrophic — that have made him Hollywood’s highest paid actor and one of its most beloved stars.
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From his upbringing by his father to his unbelievable “Avengers” paycheck, here are some things you probably don’t know about Robert Downey Jr.
1. Acting is in his blood. He’s the son of director Robert Downey Sr. and actress Elsie Downey and made his debut in his father’s film, Pound (1990). Robert played a puppy.
2. Robert Elias Jr.? His family name was Elias until his father changed it to Downey in the 1950s.
3. The future action star studied ballet at the age of 10.
4. Bright lights, big city! When Robert was 16, he quit school and moved back to New York to start his acting career. His first gigs were in off-Broadway plays.
5. In the early days of his career, the struggling actor waited tables at a SoHo restaurant.
6. He became one of the members of the infamous ‘80s Brat Pack. Fellow Brat Packer Anthony Michael Hall is his eldest son Indio’s godfather.
7. Pretty in Pink’s Molly Ringwald has revealed that she pushed for Robert to get the part of Duckie in the hit 80s flick, but producers decided to give the role to Jon Cryer instead.
8. He has a younger sister named Allison, who spent some time as an actress before turning her attention to writing.
9. One of his first loves was Sarah Jessica Parker, who he met while being an extra on the set of Girls Just Want to Have Fun . The lovebirds were together for seven years beginning in 1984 before they split over his alcohol and drug use. “She tried to help me,” he has said. “She was so miffed when I didn’t get my act together.”
10. Live from New York, it’s Robert Downey Jr.! The actor was a cast member on the 1985 season of Saturday Night Live.
11. Robert married his first wife, singer Deborah Falconer after dating for just 42 days. They have a son Indio, now 21.
12. The actor wrote and starred in his first documentary The Last Party in 1993.
13. His father exposed him to drugs when he was six years old and he got addicted to them by the age of eight. He spent four months in jail in 1997 and another year in 1999 for drug possession.
14. We swooned for him as Calista Flockhart’s love interest Larry Paul on Ally McBeal. Robert won a Golden Globe for the role but was written off the show in 2001 because of his personal issues.
15. It isn’t easy becoming a member of Hollywood’s 20 Million Club (stars who earn more than $20 million per film), but Robert did just thanks to the success of the Iron Man franchise.
16. Tinseltown loves a comeback story and Robert has thanked Mel Gibson for reviving his career. Mel cast Robert in a small role in 2003’s The Singing Detective.
17. Robert met his now-wife Susan in 2003 on the Montreal set of the movie Gothika. He credits her for helping him maintain his sobriety.
18. After a two-year engagement, Susan and Robert married in the Hamptons (a favourite vacation spot of Robert’s) in August 2005. They have two children – a son Exton, 3, and a daughter, Avri, who was born in November 2014.
19. Gothika producer Joel Silver gave the toast at their wedding. The two would go on to collaborate on the Sherlock Holmes franchise.
20. In interviews, he refers to Susan as “the Mrs.” and has her named tattooed on his arm.
21. Robert has courted the Academy twice. He was nominated for a best actor for Chaplin in 1993 and best supporting actor in 2009 for Tropic Thunder.
22. Coincidentally, the star purchased the former home of Charlie Chaplin a few years prior to landing the role of the silent film legend.
23. That’s what friends are for! Elton John cast him in the music video for his 2001 song “I Want Love.”
24. Robert believes he was born to play the part of Iron Man, telling Esquire, “I think Iron Man wound up being the first time I screen-tested since Chaplin. As far as I was concerned, it was destiny.”
25. He’s a hero off-screen as well. In March 2015, he presented a seven-year-old fan named Alex (who was born with a partially developed right arm) with his very own bionic Iron Man arm.
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26. The Iron Man movies have already grossed more than $2 billion worldwide at the box office – a number that will grow should Robert sign on for a fourth installment.
27. Call him Old MacDonald! At his $13 million dollar Malibu mansion, he has two goats and some alpacas.
28. Some people collect stamps; Robert collects cars. He has a Corvette, Bentley, Volvo, a Mustang, some Audis, a Porsche, a Mercedes and more!
29. He has a sweet (and a salty) tooth. “I would have Domino’s pizza with pasta carbonara inside every slice. And at night I would have Neapolitan ice cream until I felt absolutely toxic,” he admits to Vanity Fair.
30. Team Downey, he and his wife’s production company, produced their first film in 2014. The Judge , starring Robert Duvall, who received a best supporting actor nomination.
31. The couple created their production company so that they could work as a unit. “Our feeling was, if we wanted to spend time together, have a life together, then we should just go ahead and make movies together,” Susan tells the Hollywood Reporter.
32. Two of Downey’s films, ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Iron Man 3’, have earned over 1 billion dollars each. He tops the Forbes list of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors with an estimated 75 million dollars in earnings between June 2012 and June 2013.
33. Team Downey’s next project, Yucatan, is based on the lost works of iconic actor Steve McQueen, which he penned in the 1960s prior to his death in 1980.
34. The big time ‘yogi’ is also working towards a black belt in the Chinese martial art of Wing Chun.
35. Robert loves his sunglasses! He is hardly seen without a colorful pair of specs and is said to be partial to the Ray-Ban brand.
36. He never graduated from high school but earned his GED during one of his stints in jail.
37. He is still close friends with childhood friend Kiefer Sutherland, his costar in the 1988 film 1969.
38. During a Reddit chat, Robert said that he would be up for a guest appearance on Marvel’s small screen series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. , “Nothing is impossible. But there might be a fair amount of red tape involved in something like that. I love Clark Gregg, and am pleased the show is doing so well.”
39. He’s multi-talented. Robert can sing as well as act. In 2004 he released a jazz album entitled “The Futurist.”
40. Robert has said that his favourite actor of all time is Peter O’Toole.
41. His love for his mother, who passed away in 2014, was immeasurable, tellingThe Telegraph, “My ambition, tenacity, loyalty, moods, grandiosity, occasional passive aggression and faith, that’s all her.
42. His nickname is Bob.
43. His performance in 1992’s Chaplin received the royal stamp of approval from Queen Elizabeth herself, who attended the London premiere in Leicester Square.
44. He might play a super hero on screen, but Robert recalls the moment he realized that he isn’t invincible, telling Deadline, “I was doing a wire jump [on the set of Iron Man 3 ] and I got to the top of the stairs and I tripped, and banged my ankle. Susan came around the corner, she goes, “All right. Are you finally going to accept the fact that you’re injured and that you’re not a kid. Just look at you on the floor there. Look at you!”
45. Robert recently raffled off a chance to spend the day with him in support of a charity close to his heart, the children’s hospice Julia’s House.
46. In October 2011, Robert’s friends, including Jennifer Aniston, Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson and Michael Douglas, paid tribute to the actor during a ceremony celebrating his American Cinematheque award.
47. During a sit down on Late Night with Seth Myers, Robert reveled that he loves attending comic conventions, saying, “I feel like I’m the mayor of Comic-Con. My normal life seems incredibly dull and passive. But when I’m at Comic-Con, I’m a deity.”
48. His acting legacy was memorialized in 2009 during a Hand and Foot Ceremony outside LA’s famed TCL Chinese Theatre.
49. Iron Man director Jon Favreau cast Robert in his 2014 film Chef and said that his pal’s only flaw is, “he can’t cook.”
50. His drug-related problems increased from 1996 to 2001, leading to arrests, imprisonments and rehab visits. He was fired from the TV series ‘Ally McBeal’ after two drug arrests in 2000 and 2001. Downey Jr. began to rebuild his career after emerging clean and sober in 2003.
51. Once broke into his neighbor’s home in intoxicated condition with the thought that the house was his own and fell asleep on the bed.
52. He is a martial artist and he devotes much of his free time to his practice of Wing Chun.
53. The people love him! He has taken home three People’s Choice Awards – all for his work as Tony Stark aka Iron Man.
54. Robert Downey Jr. is the first and, so far, the only actor to win a Golden Globe for portraying Sherlock Holmes. He also won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in ‘Ally McBeal’ in 2000.
55. He was included in People magazine’s annual list of Sexiest Men Alive in 2009.
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