The Redemption Of Robert Downey Jr.

In the 1987 film Less Than Zero (loosely based on the Bret Ellis novel of the same name), Robert Downey Jr. played a character that was alternately pathetic and contemptible: a young drug addict whose life had spiraled out of control, who was forced into extreme acts of degradation, and who was headed nowhere but the city morgue. It was a lurid 1980s melodrama, but one that contained the seeds of prophecy.


The young acting prodigy, mid-1980s.

As the 1980s rolled into the next decade, Downey’s own life began to resemble a real life version of Less Than Zero. He had long flirted with drugs (perhaps the product of his bohemian upbringing by his Greenwich Village parents), but his addiction began to consume him. His family had moved from New York to California in the late 1970s, but Downey dropped out of high school and moved back to New York to study acting.

He landed a few roles here and there, sustained by his natural ability, and became a familiar young screen presence by the mid-1980s. By general consent, he was one of the most promising acting talents of the 1980s. He always brought a freshness and likeability to his roles, and even mediocre films (e.g., 1987’s True Believer) benefited from his charismatic mix of innocence and mischief.

Without doubt, Downey had immense talent. One has only to see his 1992 film Chaplin to be awed by his incredible gift for improvised mimicry; even a ponderous bore like Two Girls And A Guy (1997) somehow seems to be worth watching just to see Downey chatter away.

But talent is not enough, and by the early 1990s, things started to go seriously downhill. A mix of professional setbacks and addiction problems overwhelmed his fortunes. The commercial failure of his 1990 film Air America was a hard blow, and a fast marriage (after knowing his bride for only 42 days) to Deborah Falconer did little to abate his seething demons.

Rock bottom

By the mid-1990s, Downey was a full-blown drug addict. His stints in and out of LA County Jail became legendary, with a predictable cycle of probation violations, remands to custody, and contrite apologies to judges.


Downey’s drug addiction nearly destroyed him

He seemed like a cautionary tale for misspent youth and squandered talent. Nearly everyone, it seemed, expected to see his name the obituary section of the LA Times sooner rather than later.

In 1999, he was sentenced to three years in a state-run addiction facility; released soon after, he became a cast member to the TV show Ally McBeal, where he was nominated for a Golden Globe award. Despite his personal problems, no one doubted his talents.

Yet he relapsed into drug abuse and was fired from the show. By this time, he was considered such a risk that few producers would touch him; his personal finances edged ever closer to bankruptcy.


But despite all of the drama and the antics, there was just something endearing about Downey. He was likeable. Perhaps this is one of the secrets of his redemption. Even in his darkest days in the early 2000s, no one (as far as this writer is aware) ever uttered a word of malice against him, or wished evil on him.

What other actor, for example, could have pulled off a role using blackface, as he did in Tropic Thunder (2008), without a word of criticism from the press?

Slowly, things began to get better for him after 2003. Mel Gibson gave him a chance when few others would, when he cast Downey in his 2003 film The Singing Detective. Gibson had to underwrite Downey’s insurance personally for this role, as no agency was willing to touch him at the time.

A marriage to Susan Levin followed in 2005, and in that year he began a serious addiction treatment program. It worked. Perhaps there just comes a time, in the words of Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx, when “you just get tired of being sick and tired.” He credits his wife’s influence with being a major factor in his recovery.

It would also be difficult to overemphasize the role of Downey’s martial arts training in speeding his recovery. Around 2004-2005, he discovered Wing Chun kung fu, and found that it offered a form of “high” that he could get naturally; he took to it with a passion that dwarfed nearly all his other interests.

His kung fu workouts are intense and demanding, and are an integral part of his life now. At fifty years old, he looks at least ten years younger than his age.


But further glory was shortly to come. In 2008 he landed the role to the film Iron Man, and the rest, as they say, was history. The film was a smash hit, and the perfect vehicle for Downey’s mix of genial humor, physicality, and flawed humanity.

Several Iron Man sequels have cemented his place at the top of Hollywood’s A list. He also took on a memorable series of roles in the “Sherlock Holmes” films of British director Guy Ritchie.  It was an incredible transformation, nearly miraculous in scope and execution.

He has signed the first $100 million dollar movie contract in history, and his know to be a hard bargainer for his roles. Clearly, Downey knows his worth and is not afraid to stand up for himself.

Lessons for all of us

It is an incredibly inspiring story. How did Downey do it? It was a mixture of natural talent, good fortune (Mel Gibson taking a chance on him, his discovery of kung fu, his decision finally to quit drugs, and his landing the right roles), and his own innate likability.

He has a charismatic intensity that few other actors have. The same inner intensity that enabled his addictions was, paradoxically, the source of his redemption. The Downey story teaches us that it is never too late to change, and that if the will is there, good things will eventually happen.

He has come a long way since his rock-bottom days in LA County Jail, fighting for his survival. “I would never tell you,” he told one interviewer, “the worst things that have happened to me [in jail].”

Read More: The Mystery Of Human Destiny

86 thoughts on “The Redemption Of Robert Downey Jr.”

  1. I’ts quite remarkable what you can get away with as long as you are likeable and charismatic.

      1. Habeas corpus.
        “In 2009, American researchers performed DNA tests
        on a skull Soviet officials had long believed to be Hitler’s. The tests revealed that the skull was actually that of a woman less than 40 years old.”

        1. Hah, you don’t really think the Soviet’s would give up a prize like that? Hitler was hated by the Soviets more than he was hated by us. I’ll bet you that Stalin and every leader until Gorby used it for some obscene human bodily function.

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      2. Well I wouldn’t say that. He was in WW1 and saw battle I believe. Perhaps he was just a really, really bad shot or something?

        1. Several battles over several years. I understand he was wounded twice and earned several medals for bravery. He walked the walk.

    1. “charisma” comes from the root word “Charm” which means to Control
      C-Harm. … It’s a mind-control mechanism some call it “game”
      “harm” in charm lol
      The word “cunning” comes from the word cunt and “genius” from the word genital
      Sword, = Word. A “weapon” to write something is to “spell” it. language is the transmission of symbols which hold power
      put “s” infront of “word” you get sword
      Sound and symbolism controls the world
      The word “Author” = “Authority” he who wields the pen the “author” is the authority, hence all dictators were brilliant orators/oracles.
      Evil and good, Add a d infront of “evil” you get “devil” remove an o from “good” you get “god”
      “1300, “incantation, magic charm,” from Old French charme (12c.) “magic charm, magic, spell; incantation, song, lamentation,” from Latin carmen “song, verse, enchantment, ”
      “Sense of “pleasing quality” evolved 17c. Meaning “small trinket fastened to a watch-chain, etc.” first recorded 1865. Quantum physics sense is from 1964. To work like a charm”
      Charm = sense of “pleasing quality = “Charisma” = to cast a mind-control spell on the opponent for power

      1. Or ancient greek “charisma” which means talent.
        Indo-european languages have similar word roots.

    2. Yes, how many other people would get that many chances. Makes you wonder about Hollywood. Anyway, I’m glad he got his shit together.

      1. Maybe he occasionally judiciously did “embarrassing things” with influential people, and has proof…

    3. Robin Williams is a good and recent example. His Sin was forgiven by a lot of people.

  2. I know it’s not “red pill” or “manosphere,” but I’ve read he also credits the stability of his wife and their marriage as being the big difference.

    1. I also don’t think Mel Gibson gets the credit he deserves. In the official theology, Mel Gibson is a “horrible person” who breathes fire and eats babies. The reality is something quite different.

      1. Mel Gibson is definitely a stand-up guy for doing it (not a bad movie, either). I doubt many dudes in Hollyweird would have put themselves out for someone else quite like that.

      2. Welll Mel Gibson has tried hard to offend almost everyone. He doesn’t deserve the bad rep for the truth value of his behind the scenes comments or even his ideology, he deserves it for being a big mouthed idiot. But who knows, maybe he didn’t care about the consequences so in that case he got what he wanted and so did everyone else

      3. During his infamous rant he called the cop that pulled him over ( a chick) “sugar tits” . Dude is an Aussie badass

      4. Mel made the bad mistake of being a typical Hollywood star and thinking you can do whatever you want with no repurcussions. The other mistake was being outspoken about the jewish mafia of Hollywood. Carear suicide no matter how talented you are.

      5. Things is, i see the mainstream supposedly singing praise to Downey for kicking his drug habit. But would they sing praise for him if he recovered from his addictions yet did not have the financial success in hollywood? If he was drug-free Downey but worked at Home Depot would people give a shit? I’m quite certain the answer is “no”. It is nice to see someone pull himself out of a potential early grave, but it is his 100 mill contract the public is REALLY praising.

  3. My wife thinks he’s a narcissist and an asshole. Being a narcissist and asshole myself I would have to agree.

    1. Most drug addicts are narcissists or they turn into narcissist during the slippery slope of continues drug consumption.

  4. the evil mel gibson helped him??? Downey is half jewish, I thought Mel was a hater???

    1. How can you be “half jewish”? That sounds like being “half Christian.” You either practice or you don’t. It’s not like a race where you can be “half black” and there is a quantifiable amount of DNA from the African side.

      1. One of Downey’s parents is Jewish. I didnt know being jewish was all or nothing…

      2. You can actually determine whether you have one jewish european grandparents from your DNA. Studies have been made. Being a jew carries with it an ethnic component, usually

      3. ” It’s not like a race where you can be ‘half black’ and there is a quantifiable amount of DNA from the African side.”
        Jews are an ethnic group, some of whom practice Judaism (there are atheist Jews, Buddhist Jews, etc), and while not all Jews who practice Judaism are ethnic Jews, it is probably 99% (the other 1% or so being converts who are now considered ritually “Jewish” and whose bloodlines will probably merge into ethnic Jewish families).

        1. “Jewish” is not an ethnic group. You may be thinking of “Semites” which is from the middle east. That is why Jews and Muslims look alike, they are the same race from the same area (broadly speaking).

        2. The muslims in that area are Arabs and jews do not look like arabs. The original inhabitants of African and the mid east were Ice Age Caucasians who migrated into an empty area 10k years ago at the beginning of modern history and when the pop. of the entire world was 1 m. The few negroes were all the way over on the west coast and were of no consequence. it took them thousands of years to increase and migrate across Africa and then north into Egypt and other White areas.It wasn’t until about 3k years ago that there were negroes in the area and they worked as field hands and were known as beasts of the field in the Bible and you got the death penalty for having sex with one.
          The Arabs are really a new race in the world (India as well) and came about when the Whites on the Arabian peninsular and other places had sex with the newly arrived negroes.The reason that the Hebrew tribes never became these mixed race Arabs is because in 600BC they were deported by the white Assyrians to the north. The ones that sort of stayed behind in Canaan were mixing now with Canaanites who had been shagging their negro servants and fast forward to the time of Jesus (an aryan from the still pure tribe of Judah who were not deported in 600BC) they were now known as jews. Jesus hated jews because they were not of the original pure Euro Aryan blood of the original tribes of the area.At any rate as you know the Romans kicked their arse out and they went back to Kharzaria.Now, once again the ones who somehow remained in the area and due to mixing became arabs themselves but kept their Yahweh religion, these are Sephardic jews (arabs really). So these Euro tribes that we call Hebrews were from the north, stayed in the south picking up a new religion, and then back north and of course that’s a simplification.Many of these jew Caucasians moved into Europe and mixed with other whites. Some however were in Kharzaria when mongols or arabs had an influence on the population which is why some jews who migrated later into the west have darker skin and chinky eyes.

        3. Yes it is. Israel is jewish state, established with the aim of providing a homeland for the jewish people. Whether a jew practices the jewish religion is of secondary importance.

        4. The Jews I work with do not consider Jews to be an ethnic group. They consider Judaism to be a religion. And it definitely fits the definition of religion.
          Furthermore, how do you reconcile Judaism as an ethic group when you can have Jews from different countries and different races?

      4. It is exactly like an ethnic group. For some reason they began to be identified by their current religion sort of like being a Sikh is both a group and a religion.
        In the Caucasian area of west Asia where this now called jew group began they were Shaminists. Their invading cousins down south(invading other whites since there were no negroes in the area) invented the new Yahweh religion and brought that back with them along with the crap the rabbis had been writing called the Talmud.Today most jews are atheists or belong to some crackpot cult. Using the word jew is confusing since it is the word used for a cult and an ethnic group So yes, you can be 1/2 jew and half something else.And jews can be identified through DNA. The jew living in India is more similar to another jew living in Sweden than they are to the local people.

      5. Jewish law dictates that you are jewish if your mother was jewish or if you’ve converted to judaism.

        1. Before they were patriarchal. David beget Solomon who beget etc.. I don’t know when exactly they became matriarchal but they have been fucking everything up ever since. No wonder they were hounded out of every country they have ever inhabited. They were the original liberal socialist egalitarian feminists, communists in a sense who lived in their Qahal ghettos.

      6. No jews are an ethnicity, a distinct people. Whether you practice judaism or not, you are still considered a jew.
        Take a look at the nationalization Laws of Israel. The main acceptance criteria is descent from jewish ancestors.

        1. You are still a jew. Although some jews tend to discriminate among themselves. The bottom line is that you need to be able to trace a jewish bloodline on your mothers side.
          On a side note, converting to judaism is not a simple process, and there is no guarantee that the jewish community will accept your conversion.

        2. But right now being hewish is a good thing….mrmbership does have its privileges.

  5. I have property on Kauai where Ben Stiller is a part time resident so I was in his movie “Tropic Thunder.” Everyone wad happy to see Robert Downey Jr. fully recovered and I had a ball partying with Jack Black, exchanging trivia over sci-fi movies. On the last night of filming they called break time at 3 am. Everyone left for break except me, or so I thought. Ben Stiller also chose to remain. When I saw him staring at me with his usual arrogance I don’t know what he was thinking and was too tired to care so I returned the same stare as if to say “Well?” I don’t think he liked me and that’s cool, the feeling was mutual. I just wonder why such lovable guys like Downey and Jack Black are friends with this asshole. Well, that’s show biz!

    1. Only fucking pieces of shit drifters hang out with jews. That look was probably something to the effect of.
      What? Who do you think you are? You are just some POS asshole goy doing extra work on a multi-million dollar production while playing actor. I’m tired, my stomach is upset from the water and I really don’t want to look at some asshole stand in who is suffering from delusions of grandeur while here on the set.
      Jack Black is a child molester and Robert Downy Jr. is a arrogant drug addled dickhead but look how proud you are to hang with the very scum bringing down western civilization. Nice brag there asshole.

  6. Regardless of the bad decisions/actions from your past, you can still take advantage of the present time to change yourself in order to have a brighter future. It takes a lot of self discipline but with the right mindset anything is possible. It is never too late. I don’t like blockbuster movies at all but I agree that what this guy did is inspiring. Anyone realizing about their condition and making changes to set out the problem deserve credits imo.

  7. The author failed to mention one of his most underrated, overlooked roles in Wonderboys. An incredible movie that came out in 2000 staring Michael Douglas, Rip Torn and a young hot Katie Holmes. I think this movie (which Downey shot while taking a break from a jail sentence ) was the true beginning of his comeback. It’s fucking gold. And if you’re from Pittsburgh you’re going to love it even more.

  8. There are some aspects of his recovery which are not red pill but yes talk about digging yourself from the gutter to be top dog.
    However, anyone else without his skills but with similar issues would either be in prison or dead.

  9. Heart And Souls is a forgotten gem. Also his role in A Scanner Darkly was great. Great talent.

  10. He is proof that true addiction, contrary to what many in the manosphere beleive, is NOT a choice. The very notion of will-power regarding true drug addiction and alcoholism is a joke.
    He is also proof that when one hits bottom and truly surrenders to spiritual help, one can finally tap into an unlimited power source which will change one’s whole existence.
    12-steps really work when performed honestly, whole-heartedly, and continously. Granted, some people can quit one their own given some good reason. Both Downey and myself were not those people.

    1. He chose to do the drugs to the point that they consumed him. Then he chose to fight the addiction and is now not an addict. How does that prove that addiction is NOT a choice, precisely?

      1. It doesnt. If you become as seriously addicted as RDJ, you wont be able to quit through sheer self control. You can however make the choice of asking for help from the right people. This is still a choice you make on your own.
        The problem many addicts face is really overcoming their pride and asking for help. The same goes with fat people and alcoholics, they keep on insisting that they dont really have a problem, since admitting would entail that they would need to ask for help from others.
        Pride and honesty are really the root causes.

        1. I just could not resist it. I like talking about nationalist causes, but my favorite topic must be discussing obesity and other related vices.

        2. I bet plenty of fat broads would love to tie you up and help you with that problem –
          Alas, poor Jannik, plungering one fat broad after another, and yelling in impotent rage all the while, “Shame!”

        3. Now that would be one hideous sexual nightmare. BDSM and fatness are sexual categories that are virtually made for each other.
          I am sure it eventually will cure my addiction to fat shaming.

      2. Have to agree with you here. We all know that drugs are inherently addictive. To take a drug is a clear choice to risk addiction. As Ice T said:

        Nobody put the crack into the pipe
        Nobody made you smoke off your life.

        1. Aye. I question if all drugs are addictive, though some clearly are, yes. It’s my humble opinion that our society vastly over uses the word “addiction”. Most of the time when I hear “addict” I immediately recognize it as a cover word for “a boorish cad who refuses to exercise impulse control”. There are real addicts, just as there are real rape victims, and we do a disservice to real addicts by calling everything an addiction just as we do to rape victims by calling everything rape.
          Eh, off of soapbox now, carry on with your day. heh

  11. I have a lot of respect for R.D.J. His role in tropic Thunder is genius. Check out the dvd commentary on the movie.Just like he said in the movie, he doesnt drop character till the dvd credits are done. He actually plays Osiris until he “wakes up and realizes he’s Australian.Then he plays THAT character in the dvd commentary! Brilliant.Check out this extra. Obviously improvised genius while making Tropic Thunder.

  12. Dun dun dun deeeerrr … it’s pointless internet pedantry time again. “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” is a quote from the African-American civil rights and feminist activist Fannie Lou Hamer, a woman with real grievances against the men who viciously abused her. This phrase has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous, which is where Sixx would have heard it.

    1. Also another issue with the article was claiming that the media had no issue with RDJ in blackface. In fact when it leaked out that he was appearing as such there was such a backlash, that further details about it had to be released to mollify several leaders in the black community to keep the film from being scrapped.

  13. I watched a short interview with Downey and he seems like a genuinely down to earth guy. He understands how lucky he is to have had a second chance. He also knows that he is not going to last forever so he has planned accordingly by investing and not overspending.
    It’s a refreshing change from a lot of celebs who make bad choices but then act like the world owes them redemption.

  14. The story how he fought for the part after reading the script is just as redemptive!!

  15. I always knew that he would make a comeback–he was too talented to keep down–but not in the way he did. He didn’t just make a comeback, he became a superstar. Nobody could have predicted that.
    He has become less interesting because of it though. He doesn’t take challenging roles anymore. He hasn’t done anything interesting since Tropic Thunder.
    Then again, given all the shit he has been through, I can’t really blame him for riding the wave of fame.

  16. “He has come a long way since his rock-bottom days in LA County Jail, fighting for his survival. “I would never tell you,” he told one interviewer, “the worst things that have happened to me [in jail].” ”
    No telling what happened to him behind closed doors in prison. Wonder if we will see a book written by some ex-con(s) thug(s) claiming they all had a go at him during his time in lock-up…. made him dress up in women’s clothing, etc. I sure hope for his sake nothing of the sort happens. I normally think very low of celebrities today, but indeed I think Downey is quite one of the rare exceptions. Now if only I can get on the gravy train…

  17. Thank you for the wonderful read, it was a great way to start the day.
    “The same inner intensity that enabled his addictions was, paradoxically, the source of his redemption.”
    Beautifully written… I think this can be said of Mankind in general. Also, doesn’t this summarize Universal energy distribution in terms of Ying and Yang?
    Light can’t exist without Dark, Good without Evil, etc.. killer quote, I love it.

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  19. Robert Downey also makes music, i was watching kiss kiss bang bang(he’s in it) and when the credits roll this nice song plays along the credits, i googled it and found out it was from an album RJD recorded in 2004

    sounds like a mix of sting and peter gabriel, he even drops this kickass rock interlude out of nowhere (timestamp 3:23)
    short documentary about creating the song

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  21. Your right he is an ass hole that Ben stiller , a family member asked him for an autograph , why I don’t know. We’ll he singed in a rude and un-intelligible scribble . This happened in n.y were he was being used for that shitty Walter Mitty remake

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