We all know Robert Downey Jr. as Ironman, the iconic character who visits children in hospitals and helps teenagers who have a problem with substance abuse. But that isn't the most remarkable part of his life. The actor has a back story that will put Ironman's to shame. Today, he turns 53 and we've taken this opportunity to applaud his inspiring journey.
What began as an experimentation at the age of six with marijuana, when his father, a drug addict himself, offered it to him, lead to a 33-year long cycle of drug abuse. A child actor with stars in his eyes, he had already appeared in over 10 successful films and become a household name by the age of 20. Things, however, started going south when he was arrested on drug charges in 1996 including cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. He served 6 months in a county prison, causing his film career had become non-existent by then. Like many others, he could have given up and returned to the comfort of an ordinary life. But Robert was broke and life hadn't yet extinguished his fire for acting.
After spending a year in California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in Corcoran, California, Robert began scouting for acting roles. This is when Ally McBeal came as a blessing in disguise, the TV show lead Robert to win a Golden Globe and get back on the scene once again. But that wasn't the end, in 1996 when Robert was found wandering barefoot into his neighbour's house, the alarm bells began ringing. After being asked to serve 3 years in prison, he was let out of a correction facility within a year. The story goes on, after 5 years of back and forth, arrests and rehab, Robert Downey Jr. was losing movies because nobody was willing to work with the actor. To add to the situation, his then-wife Deborah Falconer decided to leave him. After a court-ordered rehab in 2001, the actor told a leading newspaper, "I said, 'You know what? I don't think I can continue doing this.' And I reached out for help, and I ran with it. You can reach out for help in kind of a half-assed way and you'll get it and you won't take advantage of it. It's not that difficult to overcome these seemingly ghastly problems... what's hard is to decide to do it."
His return to big screen happened in 2003 when his co-star and friend, Mel Gibson decided to pay for his insurance bond and landed him with The Singing Detective. Gibson said in an interview,"He was one of the first people to call and offer the hand of friendship. He just said, 'Hey, welcome to the club. Let's go see what we can do to work on ourselves.'" Post this, he was cast in several movies in supporting roles, but nothing groundbreaking came out of it and his success seemed like a far-fetched dream. But, life has a way of working itself out and that's when the now-sober actor landed the role of a lifetime.
The actor had been clean since 2003, when his now-second wife, producer Susan Levin whom he has 2 children with now, gave him an ultimatum about his drug abuse. Post which, in 2007, Robert Downey Jr. was offered the role of Ironman and he took it without hesitation. This film was exactly what his career needed, fixing his public image as well as career. It's safe to say that what Robert did for Ironman is insignificant compared to what the role did for him. This real-life superhero got a chance to prove his worth through an avenger and he hasn't looked back since. Which is obvious from the Sherlock Holmes series and it's tremendous fan-following. He now follows a twelve step recovery program, meditates and does yoga to stay focussed. Truly an inspiration.
Happy Birthday, Ironman! We're looking up to you for inspiration!
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