Over the weekend, Robert Downey Jr. shared candid details about his journey before he ascended to fame, including the financial struggles and various jobs that paved his way to stardom. Among one surprising admission, the acclaimed actor confessed to a moment of indiscretion in his past, where he took items from an employer.
Downey Jr. was honored with the Maltin Modern Master award at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, where he reflected on his illustrious five-decade journey in Hollywood, marking a career filled with remarkable achievements and enduring success.
In a discussion with film critic Leonard Maltin at the event, Downey delved into whether he had ever contemplated pursuing any professions beyond acting.
“Well, I worked at a sandwich shop. I worked at a shoe store, but I had sticky fingers and I got fired after two weeks. This is before those closed-circuit cameras where they monitor who might be sitting. … I was not very good at it,” Downey Jr. said.
“And I worked in clubs and I worked at Thrifty’s in Santa Monica. I made it to busboy, but I didn’t really have the panache to be a waiter, I was told, so I had to resort to theater.”
Downey Jr.’s career has been marked by critical and popular success, as well as by struggles with addiction and legal issues. He was born to underground filmmaker Robert Downey Sr. and actress Elsie Downey. Growing up in a creative environment, he made his acting debut at the age of five in his father’s film “Pound” (1970).
In the 1980s, Downey Jr. began to build his career with roles in a variety of films, showing a broad range of acting skills. He gained early attention with his roles in “Weird Science” (1985) and “Less Than Zero” (1987), where he played a wealthy drug addict, a role that eerily foreshadowed his future struggles with substance abuse.
The 1990s saw Downey Jr.’s career continue to rise with critical acclaim for his performance in “Chaplin” (1992), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Despite his professional success, his personal life began to unravel due to his addiction to drugs, leading to numerous arrests, rehab stints, and legal battles throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.
After hitting rock bottom and serving time in prison, Downey Jr. managed to turn his life around in the mid-2000s with help from his friends in the industry, a commitment to sobriety, and a resurgence in his acting career. His comeback was solidified with his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, beginning with “Iron Man” (2008).
The role catapulted him to international fame and made him one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors.