From A Drug Addict to The Highest Earning Hollywood Actor: Robert Downey’s Fascinating Success Story
Self-motivation is probably the best form of motivation and probably no one else knows it better than Robert Downey Junior. In 1997, he was earning 8 cents an hour for scrubbing pizza pans in jail, 20 years later he is racking average $80 M per movie; all because he decided to change his life.
After Sir Richard Attenborough’s 1992 biopic ‘Chaplin’, he was touted the greatest actor of his generation. However, no one knew that his walk of fame will fall him miserably into the deep sea of drug addiction. His father had been feeding him with drugs since he was 8 and the addiction got all time high when Downey’s career touched its peak.
Starting from 1983, Robert enjoyed a great run of his career for more than 10 years. With each movie he was getting more appreciation, more fame and unfortunately more addiction. Having no shortage of money, Downey’s drug addiction went through the rough.
Like it always happens with addicted people, Robert’s addiction started showing its bad effects on his career. Between 1996 to 2001 he was arrested multiple times for taking drugs. The list of drugs he consumed includes cocaine, heroine, valium and almost everything you can name. This crazy addiction didn’t just brought him bipolar disorder, but also kept him away from career-defining roles that he would otherwise have taken up. In a hearing in 1999, Downey quoted “It’s like I’ve got a shotgun in my mouth with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal.” His habit was getting worse and affecting directly his career.
In those five years of drugs battle, Robert lost many opportunities and reputation in the industry. After serving for years in and out of prison time and relapses, he finally decided to get a hold of his career and the journey towards growth took a pace again. Despite his drug addiction, directors were ready to take him in their films due to his acting prowess. However, now he had to provide directors with as much as 40 per cent of his pay as insurance against addictive behavior.
2004 onwards, he did a couple of movies and he was acclaimed critically. The career defining role was yet to come though. He didn’t get a major movie during that time but completely got rid of his drug addiction.
In 2008, Downey’s career took an exponential turn as his movie Iron Man was announced an international mega-hit. His Tropic Thunder also followed the same and proved a hit from the same year. With that booming hit of Marvel’s Iron Man franchise, he was also made to sign contract for Iron Man trilogy and other Marvel movies where Iron Man had his part. The following year, Robert also became part of an iconic character- Sherlock Holmes and it also proved to be a mega-hit. That was all he needed to revive his career.
Fast forward to 2017, Robert Downey Jr’s name is synonymous with Sherlock Holmes & Iron Man. Throughout his battle with addiction, he had a roller coaster ride of reputation and defamation, ups and downs that every achiever has to go through, but he never gave up. Going through everything else, he just kept doing what he was best at. Acting. For more than a couple of years after Iron Man, he kept topping the list of highest earning actors of Hollywood. But more than everything, he has become a youth icon and a hustler who inspires everyone fighting their own weaknesses.