Robert John Downey, Jr. (born April 4, 1965) is an American actor. Downey made his screen debut in 1970 at the age of five when he appeared in his father's film Pound, and has worked consistently in film and television ever since. During the 1980s he had roles in a series of coming of age films associated with the Brat Pack. Less Than Zero (1987) is particularly notable, not only because it was the first time Downey's acting would be acknowledged by critics, but also because the role pushed Downey's already existing drug habit one step further. After Zero, Downey started landing roles in bigger films such as Air America (1990), Soapdish (1991) and Natural Born Killers (1994). He played Charlie Chaplin in the 1992 film Chaplin for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Between 1996 and 2001, Downey was frequently arrested on drug-related charges and went through several drug treatment programs, but had difficulty staying clean. After being released from the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in 2000, Downey joined the cast of the hit television series Ally McBeal playing the new love interest of Calista Flockhart's title character. His performance was praised and received accolades, but his character was written out when Downey was fired after two drug arrests in late 2000 and early 2001. After one last stay in a court-ordered drug treatment program, Downey finally achieved lasting sobriety and his career began to take off again. He appeared in semi-independent films such as The Singing Detective (2003), Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), and A Scanner Darkly (2006). He also had supporting roles in the mainstream films Gothika (2003) andZodiac (2007). In 2004, Downey released his debut studio album The Futurist.
In 2007, Downey was cast as the title character in the comic book adaptation Iron Man. The film was a huge success; the opening weekend for Iron Man is still in the top 20 openings of all time.He reprised the role of Tony Stark in the 2010 sequel, Iron Man 2, and will again in 2012 in The Avengers and in the third movie of the planned trilogy, Iron Man 3, due to open in 2013.In addition to receiving commercial success, Downey's performance in the first Iron Man film received rave reviews. Downey was nominated for, and won, a number of end-of-year awards from critics and film associations around the world. Downey's other 2008 films included Charlie Bartlett and the Ben Stiller-directed Tropic Thunder, in which he portrayed an Australian method actor overly engrossed in his role as an African-American soldier. He received his second Oscar nomination for the film in the category of Best Supporting Actor. In 2009, Downey starred as the titular lead character in Guy Ritchie's adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, released Christmas 2009. Soon after, Downey won aGolden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for that portrayal of the famous detective.
Downey was born in Manhattan, New York, the younger of two children.His father, Robert Downey, Sr., is an actor, writer, producer, cinematographer, and director of underground films, and his mother, Elsie (née Ford), is also an actress and appeared in Downey Sr.'s films. His father is of half Irish and half Russian Jewish ancestry, and his mother is of German and Scottish descent.His father was born "Robert Elias" but changed his last name to "Downey" (after his stepfather James Downey) when he was a minor and wanted to enlist in the Army.He and his older sister, Allyson, grew up in Greenwich Village.
As a child, Downey was "surrounded by drugs".His father, a drug addict, allowed Downey to use marijuana at age six, an incident which his father has said that he now regrets.Downey stated that drug use became an emotional bond between him and his father: "When my dad and I would do drugs together, it was like him trying to express his love for me in the only way he knew how."Eventually, Downey began spending every night abusing alcohol and "making a thousand phone calls in pursuit of drugs".