Robert Downey Jr. Earned a Nickname While In Prison

Though it may not always seem like it, celebrities and actors, like Robert Downey Jr., are just like everyone else. From unexpected spills and heartbreak to trouble with the law, the rich and the famous know a thing or two about being in a pickle. Not too long ago Real Housewife Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin from Full House, were in the headlines for their role in a major college admission scandal that led to both actors serving time in prison.

There are many famous individuals who have found themselves in similar situations, and Robert Downey Jr. is one of them. Take a look back at Downey Jr.’s career, the circumstances that led him to prison, and the nickname that came with it. 

Robert Downey Jr. smiling, wearing sunglasses
Robert Downey Jr. | Chris Unger/Getty Images

Robert Downey Jr.’s path to fame

In April of 1965, Downey Jr. was born. The New York City native came from a family rooted in the arts and the film industry. His father was a well-respected and renowned filmmaker and his mother was a talented actor. Downey Jr.’s family, passions, and interests led him to attend the Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center before he eventually moved to California after his parents split up. 

In 1982, Downey Jr. dropped out of high school and began pursuing his dreams. The following year he was cast as Stewart in Baby It’s You and soon after he appeared in Firstborn as Lee. Over the next few years, the actor did a lot of features on Saturday Night Live. Through the end of the 1980s, Downey Jr. was continuously landed role after role, and though the actor and his career seemed to be a success, there was a lot going on underneath the surface. 

Robert Downey Jr. earned a nickname while in prison

Downey Jr. found himself continuously running into the law. In 1996 the actor was pulled over and charged with possession of heroin and cocaine. Shortly after he was caught trespassing into a neighbor’s home while under the influence. While on probation, the actor frequently chose not to follow the stipulations and would refuse to submit to drug testing. With little to no options left, a judge sentenced Downey Jr. to serve three years in prison. 

Steve Garbarino’s Vanity Fair interview with the actor shared some insight and perspective on what Downey Jr.’s time in prison was like. Surprisingly enough, the actor seemed to be in remarkably good spirits. Amongst other things, Downey. Jr. filled Garbarino in on his day-to-day routines as an inmate and the nickname his fellow prisoners bestowed upon him. 

As he explained in the interview, “They call me Mo’ Downey! Like, You Mo’ Downey now. You just can’t make this stuff up”. The actor definitely seemed to get a kick out of it, and that was probably largely due to his perspective and positive attitude.

While in prison, Downey Jr. also shared, “All these years, my favorite thing to do in life was to be laughing until the tears well up. Now I’ve found that humor is something as valuable as an Aqua-Lung is to divers.” Well over two decades later, and many people would probably agree that Downey Jr. was spot on about that.

Robert Downey Jr.’s complex past 


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Throughout the ages Downey Jr. has taken a lot of heat and criticism for his struggle with drugs. Similarly to his father, Downey Jr. had to learn how to battle his addictions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. 

As IMDb highlighted, the peak of his drug and alcohol usage took place between 1996 and 2001. Sarah Jessica Parker dated the actor for a few years after working together on the set of Firstborn. At the time, they both were only 18 years-old, and, with time, it became clear to Parker that their relationship was not working.

The star from Sex and the City has candidly shared her experiences and thoughts on what it was like dating the actor who was actively in the throes of his addictions. In 1991 Parker finally broke it off with Downey Jr., and though he greatly credits the actor for helping him get his act together, it seemed to be a case of things getting worse before they got better.