After gaining a starring role in legal comedy Ally McBeal, his career and personal life hit rock-bottom, being fired from the show for his drug addiction despite boosting ratings for the series and garnering critical attention, winning a Golden-Globe for best supporting actor in a mini-series or television film. After spending 6 months in Los Angeles County jail for missing a drug-test in 1997, Downey checked himself into rehab for a year. In this time, he was fired from his second television show, God, the Devil and Bob, taking a voice-role as the devil for the NBC series. Not only did Downey’s addiction affect his own career, but others including Mel Gibson, who had to cancel his stage production of Hamlet in 2001 due to his incarceration.
Robert Downey Jr. gained popularity in the 80s, starring in John Hughes’ comedy Weird Science before giving a harrowing performance as a drug-addicted teenager in the adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel Less than Zero. Downey’s career continued to surge when he was nominated for an Oscar for Chaplin in 1992, all whilst battling his struggle with drug addiction since childhood.
Despite being caught in a seemingly hopeless situation, both personally and in his career, Downey emerged as a new person following his ability to remain sober in Hollywood. His career resurged upon being cast as wealthy tech-mogul and industrialist turned superhero Tony Stark in Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, the first in the solo trilogy.
Downey emerged as the leader of the Avengers, starring in 11 Marvel movies, excluding the upcoming Black Widow standalone movie, and becoming one of the most recognisable characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Within the same year as his Marvel debut, Downey starred in Tropic Thunder, a satirical action-comedy co-starring Ben Stiller and Jack Black. Tropic Thunder demonstrated Downey’s comedic ability in the film-within-a-film, portraying an Australian method actor who undergoes a radical transformation to portray an African-American soldier. The role earned Downey his second Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor, alongside much critical and fan adoration.
Within a year following his emergence as Iron Man, Downey portrayed another hero in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, cementing Downey’s status as a leading man. As an actor who has battled intense drug addiction and career failures, Downey’s story proves it is possible for an actor’s career and public image to resurge with dedication. Now credited as being the reason for the billion-dollar franchise that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Robert Downey Jr’s fall from grace to becoming one of the most respected actors of his generation proves not all Hollywood scandals will kill an actor’s career for good.