The role Robert Downey Jr’s drug-addict father played in sending him off the rails
Robert Downey Jr was only six yrs aged when he took the initially move on his chaotic path to drug addiction and jail.
His father had noticed him sipping a glass of white wine throughout a poker night time at the household residence in New York. But in its place of quickly extracting the glass from his younger son’s palms, he handed him a cannabis joint and advised him to puff on that instead. This sort of was cult movie-maker Robert Downey Sr’s unorthodox method to childcare.
Considerably less properly acknowledged than his Hollywood-star son — who overcame his demons to develop into the world’s greatest-paid out actor — Robert Downey Sr was a maverick director who was also a hopeless drug addict for considerably of his lifestyle.
Years later on, he admitted he experienced designed ‘a awful, stupid mistake’ in providing his 6-year-old son medication. On the other hand — as a new documentary, three many years in the creating, reveals — it was in holding with a chaotic and irresponsible parenting type.
When he wasn’t handing his son narcotics, Downey Sr was taking minimal Robert off to observe X-rated movies and even casting him — from the age of five — in his very own disturbing and far from child-helpful flicks. Home life involved ‘growing up in a spouse and children exactly where absolutely everyone was executing drugs’, according to Downey Jr.
The younger of two small children, Downey Jr was born in Manhattan, New York City, in 1965 and raised originally in the bohemian neighbourhood of Greenwich Village, wherever he states he was ‘surrounded’ by medications at house
Is it any marvel, some might check with, that the future Iron Person star went off the rails so spectacularly?
He places that extremely question to his ailing father in ‘Sr.’, a new Netflix documentary the star has made about his turbulent romance with his father and his weird upbringing.
The movie throws a revealing new light on a deeply troubled but self-confident actor who, in 1999, explained to a choose that, thanks to his father providing medications to him, he’d been hooked considering the fact that the age of 8. He added that his dependancy to cocaine and heroin was ‘like I have a shotgun in my mouth, and I’ve bought my finger on the result in, and I like the flavor of the gun metal’.
In July 2021, Downey Sr died aged 85 from Parkinson’s disease. Whilst they show a deep affection for every single other — and Downey Jr avoids outright recriminations — the section his father played in his devastating own complications is all much too very clear.
Referring to his dismal upbringing, Downey Jr says at a person level: ‘I think we would be remiss not to focus on its outcome on me.’
His father, ashamed, mumbles back: ‘Boy, I would certain appreciate to overlook that discussion.’
The young of two kids, Downey Jr was born in Manhattan, New York Town, in 1965 and raised originally in the bohemian neighbourhood of Greenwich Village, where he claims he was ‘surrounded’ by medications at residence.
Robert Downey Jr was only six many years aged when he took the very first step on his chaotic path to drug habit and prison. He is pictured above in court docket in 1999
His parents ended up disciples of the 1960s counterculture and created underground movies, his mother, Elsie, showing up in whatsoever her partner manufactured — as soon as taking part in all 12 of the feminine characters.
Despite the fact that he motivated a era of younger filmmakers, Downey Sr’s films ended up hardly ever commercially effective and the family members lived hand-to-mouth in a cramped transformed loft.
His father claimed he manufactured an X-rated bonkbuster, The Sweet Odor Of Sex, only to spend the healthcare expenses for the boy’s birth.
Robert Jr was only five when he experienced his initially onscreen job. This was for an absurdist comedy, Pound (1970) — in which the forged performed stray puppies waiting around to be set down. Downey Sr normally produced no allowance for five-year-old Robert’s age in the single line he scripted for him. ‘Have any hair on your balls?’ the boy asks a bald-headed man.
Two many years later on, a seven-12 months-old Downey Jr would surface in a different of his father’s deranged films, a western named Greaser’s Palace. In this, his throat was cut by a Christ-like preacher and he had to look at as his possess mom — also forged in the movie — was viciously beaten.
The new documentary consists of a clip of a unusual interview, seemingly from the 1990s, in which Downey Sr admits: ‘A large amount of us thought it would be hypocritical to not have our young ones participate in marijuana and things like that. It was an fool go on our areas to share that with our kids. I’m just happy he’s listed here.’
Asked if he was at any time apprehensive that his son — who is following to him in the interview hunting distinctly the worse for wear — might not endure, he replies: ‘Many moments.’
The spouse and children moved at least a dozen instances — to London, New Mexico, Los Angeles and Connecticut — as the moms and dads pursued their careers at the cost of their children’s instruction.
His mom and dad have been disciples of the 1960s counterculture and manufactured underground films, his mom, Elsie, showing in whichever her partner made — as soon as actively playing all 12 of the feminine people
In LA, household pals these types of as Jack Nicholson, Peter Sellers and Alan Arkin consistently frequented a property in which hashish, Downey Jr says, ‘was a staple, like rice’.
In time, the director’s cult following drew the interest of the major Hollywood studios — and the loved ones moved to California so he could make a 1980 comedy termed Up The Academy. This depicted the outrageous antics of a group of misfits at a navy college. It was a flop, but not ahead of Downey Sr experienced tried using to transform the key people to be ten-yr-old little ones. The studio instructed him he was insane.
‘Some male reported: “If you maintain talking like this, we’re going to hearth you and you are not likely to get the final reduce, no subject what happens,” ’ he remembers in the documentary. ‘I mentioned: “OK, just as extended as I get remaining lower on the cocaine.”
‘And that was practically the conclusion of me out there.’
His son interjects: ‘You did not give a mad ****, did you?’
Sooner or later, says Downey Jr, drug-getting turned the only way his befuddled father realized how to hook up with him. ‘When my father and I would do medications collectively,’ he spelled out in a 1988 interview, ‘it was like him trying to categorical his adore for me in the only way he knew.’
His mother and father divorced in 1978 — when Robert was 13 — and he at first moved with his father to Santa Monica, California.
At higher university, his drug and alcohol issues escalated as he partied with the Hollywood brat pack. His fellow pupils there, such as Sean Penn, Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez, were being now stars and Robert was established to be a single, way too.
At 16, he dropped out of university to pursue performing. At 18, he was forced to fend for himself when his father lower him off fiscally.
Downey Jr returned to New York to try his luck on the phase. He quickly discovered not only get the job done but romance when — right after a fling with long run Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei — he commenced a critical partnership with fellow solid member Sarah Jessica Parker, then also 18, and some decades from stardom in Sexual intercourse And The Town.
They lived together for five many years ahead of Downey Jr’s drug dependancy ruined their connection.
By then, nonetheless, he had discovered his breakout purpose, enjoying — what else? — a drug-addicted abundant child in the 1987 film Much less Than Zero.
The roles flooded in, together with one co-starring with Mel Gibson in the 1990 action-comedy Air The united states, and an Oscar-nominated performance as Charlie Chaplin in 1992’s Chaplin. Downey Jr married model Deborah Falconer in 1992 and they had a son, Indio.
Meanwhile, his father’s 2nd spouse, actress and author Laura Ernst — whom he married in 1991 — proved to be his salvation. He gave up medications to search following her when she was identified with motor neurone condition she died aged 36 in 1994.
‘It was time to mature up, to think of somebody else 1st,’ he admits.
But there was no salvation still for his son as his drug utilization and chaotic conduct only greater.
His father joked — with some cheek in the instances — that he held track of his son by looking through the scandal-packed Nationwide Inquirer.
There was a good deal to report. In 1996, Downey Jr was arrested for dashing although drunk and possessing heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and an unloaded gun. The next month, even though awaiting trial, his neighbours known as the law enforcement just after identifying Downey Jr had wandered into their property in a druggy haze and handed out on their 11-year-aged son’s bed.
The very same yr, his spouse, Deborah, last but not least gave up on his drug-bingeing and left him. A decide purchased him to go into rehab. But he escaped, was recaptured and despatched again, with Downey Jr admitting he was ‘the poster boy for pharmaceutical mismanagement’.
He frequently skipped court docket-purchased drug assessments and was in and out of jail — 2 times waking in a pool of his individual blood following other inmates attacked him — before a decide at last dropped endurance with the star’s entitled conceitedness and jailed him for a few yrs in 1999.
Even following finding out in 2000 and profitable a Golden Globe for his effectiveness as Calista Flockhart’s boyfriend in Tv set legal drama Ally McBeal, he continued to get into problems. Law enforcement observed cocaine and methamphetamine in his hotel place and, even though on parole, he was uncovered wandering around LA, barefoot and significant.
Fired from Ally McBeal, he went back into rehab. Finally, in 2003, he fulfilled producer Susan Levin on a movie set. She told him she would marry him — which she did in 2005 — only if he promised to stop drugs for fantastic.
He went into treatment which includes a 12-action programme, took up meditation and kung fu, and now says the strongest drug he consumes is caffeine.
His movie job in no way looked back again. In 2008, Downey Jr was decided on to play billionaire inventor Tony Stark, alias Iron Gentleman, in the initially of Marvel Comics’ wildly prosperous Iron Person videos. The actor, who as soon as gained 8 cents an hour scrubbing pans in jail, has made £355 million from the franchise.
It is an astonishing tale of redemption — worthy by itself of a Hollywood film. The question is, would any of it have happened if Downey Sr hadn’t offered his six-12 months-previous son that initial cannabis joint all individuals decades in the past?