When Did Robert Downey Jr. Start Acting and How Did He Become Famous?

Robert Downey Jr. is one of the most successful and likable stars in Hollywood. His 10-year stint as Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has solidified him as a bankable actor and gained him millions of fans across the globe. For fans of Downey’s older work, it may seem like he has been in the industry for ages, but it has been a long road for the actor to get to where he is today. Let’s take a look at when Downey Jr. got his start and the role that made him famous.

Robert Downey Jr. was only a young kid when he got his start

Believe it not, Downey Jr. landed his first acting role nearly 50 years ago playing Puppy in the film Pound. But even diehard fans likely won’t recognize the star in his first role, considering he was only 5 years old when the film debuted. Pound was written and directed by Robert Downey Sr., so we’d be willing to venture that there was a little favoritism in the casting.

After his debut performance, the future star landed a few small roles, but it wasn’t until 1985 that he started to get his first taste of success. It was then that the actor landed a role that many aspiring actors only dream of landing, a spot on the Saturday Night Live cast.

After ‘SNL’ Robert Downey Jr.’s career took off

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From the time of his departure on SNL to the early 2000s, Downey Jr. was in high demand. His first gig after SNL was as Derek Lutz in Back to School. In 1987, the actor starred as Julian in Less Than Zero. In the film, Downey Jr. played a rich boy who struggled with drug addiction. The role earned him critical praise and as well as attention from Hollywood execs.

Five years later, Downey Jr. played Charles Chaplin in the biopic Chaplin. The film earned the actor his first Oscar nomination.

Over the next several years, Downey Jr. appeared in several more movies, eventually landing a recurring role on the hit legal drama Ally McBeal. The actor played Calista Flockhart’s love interest Larry Paul. Though the role earned the star a Primetime Emmy and was popular among fans, behind the scenes, the actor was struggling.

Drug addiction threatened to end Robert Downey Jr.’s career

In 1996, Downey Jr. was pulled over for speeding. Cops found drugs and a gun in his car. The actor was put on probation, but in 1997 he was sentenced to 180 days in jail for missing several drug tests.

Downey Jr.’s legal troubles continued and he was sentenced to another year in jail, this time undergoing drug treatment while incarcerated. Just a week after being released, the actor landed his role on Ally McBeal. But the job wasn’t enough to keep him from drugs and Downey Jr. was fired from the show after he was found wandering the streets barefoot and high on drugs.

How Robert Downey Jr. finally put drugs behind him

After several stints in rehab and jail, it looked like there was no saving the actor or his career. Downey Jr. was spiraling and Hollywood was no longer willing to take the risk. But then, Downey Jr. met producer Susan Levin.

Downey Jr. credits Levin with helping him kick drugs for good. Levin reportedly told the actor that she wouldn’t marry him unless he gave up drugs for good. Downey Jr. ditched the drugs and the couple married in 2005.

Throughout Hollywood, Susan Downey is known as the “Miracle That Saved Robert Downey Jr.,” And a miracle is truly the only word you can use to describe the turn that the actor took after meeting his wife. In 2008, Downey Jr. landed the role that would make him one of the highest paid men in Hollywood: playing Marvel’s Iron Man, a role that he would go on to play for the next decade.

Downey Jr. has gone on to star in many critically acclaimed movies and has earned another Oscar nomination for hisrole in Tropic Thunder, truly turning his life around.  Now that he is wrapping up his time in the Marvel universe, we can’t wait to see what the actor has in store for us next.