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Photo/Video: Robert Downey Jr., Alex J. Berliner/ABImages/Hollywood Insider YouTube Channel

Robert Downey Jr. is one of Hollywood’s greatest actors and a personal hero of mine. So why not give you the most interesting and unique facts about this awesome box-office star? 

#1 Robert Downey Jr. – Born into Hollywood

Downey was destined to be a part of showbiz as his parents were successful actors. Robert Downey Sr. was an actor, producer, and filmmaker, while Downey’s mother, Elsie Ford, was an actress and regularly collaborated with Downey Sr.’s films. Downey Jr. began his career at the age of five, appearing in his father’s film, Pound.

#2 Celebrity Connections

Downey isn’t just the son of two Hollywood stars, but he is related to both Harry Connick Jr. and Barbara Walters. It’s a small world after all. 

#3 Like Father like Son

Downey’s drug addiction is one of the more well-known aspects of his life. What’s even sadder is his introduction to those drugs. RDJ began taking heavy drugs as a child because of his close relationship with his father who was also an addict. Downey Sr. regularly would share his drugs with RDJ which led to the long-lasting demons he dealt with for the majority of his life after. 

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#4 The Ballet Man

Because his father was busy moving around for his films, Downey Jr. went with him and wound up spending a year in England during the 1970s. During that year, Downey took ballet classes at the famous Perry House School in London. 

#5 Is He Brat Pack?

Downey’s career was bolstered by appearing in multiple 80s classics. He was a classic high school bully in John HughesWeird Science and held a lead role next to 80s star Molly Ringwald in The Pick-Up Artist. Though it’s debated if he should be a part of the famous brat-pack, it’s generally agreed upon now that he is, and I agree. 

#6 Robert Downey Jr. Could’ve Been Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink is pretty iconic. And things might have turned out totally different had Molly Ringwald gotten her way. Ringwald felt that if Downey, a guy she actually liked, had been cast in the lead role of Duckie, she would have enjoyed the original ending (shots fired). We know this because the actor who got the role, Jon Cryer, mentioned it at a screening of the 80s classic in 2008. 

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#7 Barred Education

Downey was a high school drop out and thus never graduated from high school, but he actually studied and earned his GED during one of his stints in jail.

#8 Short Stint on SNL…

Yes, RDJ made it to SNL, but it was short-lived. During a rough stretch for SNL, the series received a lot of negative reviews and the majority of the cast was fired, including RDJ who wasn’t very good on the show.

#9…But One of Two To be Nominated for Best Actor

Despite the short stint, Downey is one of two SNL alum to get a Best-Actor nomination at the Academy Awards for his mesmerizing portrayal of Charlie Chaplin, a performance that holds as RDJ’s best in his esteemed career. 

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#10 Charlie Chaplin Connection

Coincidentally, Downey had purchased the former home of Charlie Chaplin just a few years prior to landing the role of the silent film legend in Chaplin. It was clearly fate for RDJ to land his best role.

#11 The Queen Approves of Robert Downey Jr. 

His performance in 1992’s Chaplin is widely considered his best performance and was even snubbed for an Oscar that he deserved. Not only is it iconic, but he received the royal stamp of approval from Queen Elizabeth herself, who praised his perfect turn as the iconic film star after attending the London premiere. 

#12 An Iconic Downfall…

After continuously falling to drugs and other substances for years, the addictions caught up with RDJ. He was arrested multiple times and did prison time during the 90s and the beginning of the 2000s. Suddenly he was a washed-up actor with seemingly nothing left in the tank. 

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#13 …To An Even Greater Comeback

Downey fought tooth and nail to climb his way back into Hollywood, and it is one of the greatest modern stories out there. From The Singing Detective, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Zodiac, Tropic Thunder, and of course, Iron Man, Downey went on a string of hits from 2003-08. He rained down success on the entire public and industry to a point where no one could ignore the resurrection that was RDJ. Top that off with mega box office numbers, an Oscar nomination, and a Golden Globe for Best Actor, and you’ve got one of cinema’s, heck, America’s greatest comeback stories. 

#14 Almost, Woody

Director Woody Allen had reportedly wanted Downey for his 2005 film Melinda and Melinda. But Downey couldn’t be in the film because of his dark past. Like many directors, Allen wasn’t able to get the film insured in order to cast Downey (insuring is necessary whenever a lead actor with legal issues is cast, which is hard as most producers don’t want to take that chance), and Allen was forced to cast someone else.

#15 Mel is There To Help

Just like with Woody Allen and every other director, every movie project passed on RDJ, getting to a point where it seemed RDJ’s career was a lost cause. Then Mel Gibson, one of Downey’s best friends, decided to shelve out his own money to ensure RDJ in the film The Singing Detective. The film didn’t receive great reviews. However, RDJ was praised for his performance and in hindsight, was the role he needed to begin getting the industry to trust him again. (Side note: Mel and RDJ are such good friends, RDJ asked that it be Gibson to present RDJ with the American Cinematheque Award in 2011.)

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#16 Kisses to Stardom

After his star was lit with The Singing Detective, that star rose with the crime film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, starring alongside Val Kilmer. It’s a unique buddy-buddy noir film that many forget RDJ was in. It wasn’t Iron Man that made Downey a big name again, it was his charming lead performance in this underrated crime film.

#17 Protesting?

The great director David Fincher is a bit of an eccentric. On the set of Zodiac, he got a little too into the new use of digital filmmaking. This meant taking much longer to get through any said day as he was a perfectionist. This didn’t exactly sit well with the cast. Downey, being stuck on set and needing to use the bathroom, peed in jars and left them on set as a shaking of the fist at Fincher’s perfectionist behavior and attitude.

#18 Salary in Iron Man

For the first Iron Man, Downey only made $500,000 for his performance (right?) This was because of his drug-ridden past and legal issues, which meant Marvel was taking a huge risk hiring a washout to lead their brand new film series. The eventual mega-success meant Downey could demand more, including $10 million for the sequel, a whopping $50 million for The Avengers, and a mega load, $150 million for the combo of Infinity War/Endgame. It must be nice. 

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#19 No More Mr. Goody Two Shoes

When preparing for his role as Tony Stark in Iron Man, Downey met with director Jon Favreau in discussing the arc they wanted to take the hero on. Downey was concerned they’d follow the cliche’ of the hero becoming a nice guy with strict morals and zero development after that turn. He wanted to add more comedy while making Stark a man with questionable morals and ethics, creating a complex character with serious ego problems. This move was gold and allowed Stark to stand apart, becoming the icon he is today. 

#20 Comedy Gold?

Comedies don’t normally get noticed by Oscars. They couldn’t-not-look when RDJ took on a controversial role in the comedy Tropic Thunder. He’s “a dude, playing a dude, disguised as another dude.” And if the awe dropping role of The Joker hadn’t been that same year, Downey would have had a serious chance to take home the Oscar for Best-Supporting Actor. But the nomination is impressive enough. 

#21 Robert Downey Jr. is a Fighter

Once Downey was able to make his said comeback, he decided to learn the martial art known as Wing Chun. Downey attributes this art as what helps keep him sober and does it regularly even now. 

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#22 Film Company

In 2010, Downey and his wife and film producer Susan Downey co-founded the production company Team Downey. Team Downey released The Judge in 2014, which starred Downey alongside Robert Duvall who received an Oscar nomination for his performance.

#23 From Bomb to Success

Though RDJ has been in his share of bad movies, he dodged a bullet when he was tentatively planning to star in the 2011 film Cowboys & Aliens. However, the success of the first Sherlock Holmes led to a fast track development for a sequel in 2011. This forced RDJ to (smartly) choose the ladder. The western/sci-fi film bombed, while the second Sherlock film has been a success. In fact, the film has aged very well over the last nine years, with many fans and critics flipping from disliking the sequel to holding it with equal standing to the first. 

#24 Because of My Presence

When Captain America: Civil War was announced, fans went wild. However, it was reported that Tony Stark wasn’t going to have a major role which was a shock, as Stark and Steve Rogers are the focal points of the comic book storyline. Downey convinced Marvel to give him a bigger role, along with a bigger payday, making the movie equal parts Captain America AND Iron Man. His raise gave him $40 million upfront (plus backend) for his involvement in the film. Not only that, his contract stated that another bonus would be given to him if the film grossed more than the second Captain America film, as his contract stated his presence was the reason the movie was successful. Was that the case? Yeah, I’d say so. 

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#25 A True Hero

He’s a hero on and off-screen. In March of 2015, Downey presented a seven-year-old die-hard fan Alex, a child with a partially developed arm with his very own bionic Iron Man styled arm.

#26 Robert Downey Jr. Is One of The Most Profitable Box Office Stars

From 2012 to 2015, Downey ranked #1 on Forbes’ list of the highest paid actors. More so, Downey’s 2010s resurgence has him officially as the 6th highest-grossing actor in history (though most rank him fifth, as number one is Stan Lee, who only makes cameos) with a worldwide gross of over 15 billion. 

#27 Loves Comic-Con

Downey loves putting on costumes and being a part of the craze that is comic-con. Thanks to his success as Iron Man, whenever he goes, he says he feels like the “mayor of comic con.”

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#28 He Can Sing

From a music video with Elton John, to an album, and a film literally called The Singing Detective, RDJ is a talented man who can sing, dance, and act. The trifecta all in one. 

#29 Nails the accents

Though his Welsh accent in Dolittle left much to be desired, Downey has received acclaim for his Aussie accent in Natural Born Killers and Tropic Thunder, English accent in Chaplin and the Sherlock Films, and even a comical African-American accent in Tropic Thunder. He has shown an ability to adapt and transform and not just be a snarky detective or billionaire.

#30 Car Enthusiast

Robert is a lover of hot motor vehicles. A Corvette, Bentley, Volvo, a Mustang, Audis, a Porsche, and a Mercedes. When you got the cash, why not spend it?

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#31 Dynamic Duo

More than just the company named after the two, RDJ and Susan are a power couple who do everything together. They realized what they could accomplish and how effective they were when working together on Sherlock Holmes. A year later, Team Downey was founded and they’ve never worked separately since, making their marriage, friendship, and partnership front and center.

#32 Crowd Pleaser

Clearly, he’s a charismatic fellow after taking home three People’s Choice Awards for Favorite Actor and Favorite Action Movie Actor, each for his performance as Tony Stark in multiple Marvel films.

We, at Hollywood Insider, would like to wish continued success to Robert Downey Jr., we hope your comeback story is an inspiration to all.

By Merrick Sinclair

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