For the past few years, fans of Robert Downey Jr. have seen him hit the big screen when he appeared as Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This latest role is certainly high-profile, but Downey’s career took off long before he got his repulsors. He was even a regular on Saturday Night Live (1985-1986), though the star joked to Jimmy Fallon that it was “probably the worst season” and that he was also dubbed the “worst actor.”
While the ’80s contained roles that would help him launch his career, the following decade saw things take a turn for the worse. In 1996, People reported to readers that Downey “[become] the latest victim of Hollywood’s heroin resurgence.”
Unfortunately, Downey’s encounter with the law was not a one-time opportunity. In the years that followed, he often found himself in the courtroom. While those performances may have helped him prepare for his role in 2014’s The Judge, they were certainly troubling at the time.
Robert Downey Jr. has been arrested 6 times
According to the New York Times, Robert Downey Jr.’s father and namesake gave him his first joint when he was a little kid. This early revelation was his first step in a long battle with addiction. However, this path would not land him in prison until 1996, when he was 31 years old. People reported that the actor faced two felony counts and three misdemeanors stemming from acts like driving under the influence, possession of illegal drugs, and carrying a handgun in his truck.
Once the floodgates opened, it seemed Downey couldn’t escape. The Chicago Tribune reported that just hours after completing his initial indictment, Downey was arrested again for trespassing. He broke into a neighbor’s house while under the influence of drugs and fell asleep there. Three days later, CNN reports another arrest for Downey leaving his mandatory recovery program. According to her report, Downey was then placed on probation and sentenced to three years in prison when he also violated it.
As BBC News reported, Judge Lawrence Mira felt she had “no alternative [to jail.] We used them all.” However, after less than a year, Downey was out on bail, according to Entertainment Weekly. That bail would haunt him when he was arrested for drug possession in 2000, and again for being under the influence of illegal substances in 2001.
Robert Downey Jr. turned things around in 2003
At the beginning of his legal troubles in 1996, Robert Downey Jr.’s manager told People, “Every day I look at the newspaper and I think I’m going to read [his] Obituary.” During his three-year sentence via BBC News, Downey told the court, “It’s like having a shotgun in my mouth, with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gunmetal.” As his arrest record lengthened, Downey’s appeared Chances for recovery and a smooth return to Hollywood are dwindling, but the star was determined.
In 2003, he told The New York Times that he was done with the drugs after throwing his entire stash into the ocean. The actor gave Vanity Fair a deeper look into his process of overcoming his addiction, saying in 2014, “For some people, it’s just a function of age. It’s totally normal for people to obsess over something for a while and then just let it go.” He also speculated that he inherited his addiction from his father. Despite that, he doesn’t seem to hold grudges when he was asked about his father’s role When asked to introduce him to drugs, Downey told the New York Times, “Can’t we just put that behind us? A flip hammer.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration website or contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).