Robert Downey Jrs life – historic drug battles, tragic loss and finding love

Hollywood hunk Robert Downey Jr is one of the most famous actors in the world, and he's believed to be one of the highest-paid stars in the business.

He's known to many as superhero Tony Stark and Iron Man in the globally-loved Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has seen him star in blockbuster films like Avengers: Endgame (2019), the second-highest grossing film of all time.

With Oscar nods and BAFTA Award wins under his belt, the American movie star has achieved buckets of success during his decorated career.

However, his shining successes haven't come without tragic lows, and Robert has battled through historic substance abuse, show axes and career declines.

To mark the star's 56th birthday today (April 4), Daily Star has taken a deep dive into one of Hollywood's greatest of all time.

Brat Pack member

Downey made his acting debut at the young age of five in his father's 1970 film Pound, and he went on to win major film jobs in the 80s and 90s.

A major breakthrough came when he appeared in Tuff Turf alongside James Spade before playing a bully in John Hughes' high-school film Weird Science (1985).

He also starred alongside Molly Ringwald in The Pick-up Artist (1987), having been considered for the role of Duckie in Pretty in Pink (1986).

After starring in a string of coming-of-age flicks and his association with Ringwald, he was named as part of the so-called Brat Pack.

The Brat Pack was a group of young film stars who often appeared together in teen movies such as The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo's Fire during the 80s.

Its members included Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Demi Moore, Andrew McCarthy and Emilio Estevez.

However, despite their successes, some of the group's members fell victim to substances issues, and Downey was no exception.

Drug battles

Robert Downey Jr. went through a tumultuous period of drug abuse and legal troubles during the late 90s and early noughties – though he has been sober now for almost 20 years.

Between 1996 and 2001, the actor was arrested several times on charges relating to drugs such as cocaine and marijuana.

Opening up to chat show host David Letterman about his addiction, RDJ said he didn't know what the "tipping point" was when he crossed over into addiction but it was "just the culture" he was raised in.

He said: "As the AMA [American Medical Association] will say that alcoholism or addiction is essentially a brain disease, but it’s a brain disease that people don’t want to take the cure for when it’s offered, so it’s a very insidious thing."

The Avengers star was first arrested in 1996 after being found possessing cocaine, heroin and a handgun before being arrested again a month later, for trespassing into a neighbour's house while under the influence.

RDJ was placed on probation and ordered to enter drug testing, but he was eventually sentenced to three years in a California prison after missing required drug tests.

The actor spent nearly a year locked up in prison before going sober in 2003.

Going sober

Eventually, the film star managed to enter into rehab, and he has now been drug free since 2003, nearly 20 years.

In 2004, he told Oprah Winfrey: "When someone says, 'I really wonder if maybe I should go to rehab?' Well, uh, you're a wreck, you just lost your job, and your wife left you. Uh, you might want to give it a shot."

He explained that after his final arrest in April 2001, he realised he couldn't keep it up and so he reached out for help.

The star has since credited therapy, his family, meditation, recovery programs, yoga and even kung fu for helping him to overcome his drug problems.

When asked by Oprah how he was able to stick to his sobriety, he replied: "It's really not that difficult to overcome these seemingly ghastly problems. What's hard is to decide to do it."

Finding love

Downey has had a number of high-profile relationships over the years, including Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker.

The pair dated in 1984 before separating in 1991 due to his drug issues.

He then fell for actress and singer Deborah Falconer, tying the knot with her in 1992 after just 42 days.

They welcomed their child Indio Falconer a year later, but Falconer left Robert amid his legal and substance battles, finalising their divorce in 2004.

However, the star met his now-wife Susan Downey in 2003 on the set of the horror film Gothika (2003).

She turned him down at first, but sparks began to fly between the pair and they eventually married in 2005 at a Jewish ceremony in New York.

Ever the romantic, Downey had proposed to her on the night of her 30th birthday, and it turned out rather well as they went on to welcome their son Exton Elias and daughter Avri Roel.

Tragic loss

The Marvel star suffered heartbreak after the death of his father, Robert Downey Sr last year.

Iconic filmmaker Downey Sr sadly passed away in his sleep in July following a five-year battle with Parkinson's Disease.

His son penned a powerful tribute to his dad on Instagram where he called Sr a "true maverick filmmaker".

He wrote: "RIP Bob D. Sr. 1936-2021…Last night, dad passed peacefully in his sleep after years of enduring the ravages of Parkinson’s ..he was a true maverick filmmaker, and remained remarkably optimistic throughout..

"According to my stepmom's calculations, they were happily married for just over 2000 years.

"Rosemary Rogers-Downey, you are a saint, and our thoughts and prayers are with you."

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