Robert Downey Jr. has been acting forever. From a very young age he’s had parts in his father, Robert Downey Sr.’s movies. Born to a director and an actress, he seemed destined for a career in showbiz. And what a career it’s been. Beginning with his dad’s movie Pound in 1970, he made his big screen debut as a puppy. And from there, little by little, his career started to take off. Robert Downey Jr. has held a few different positions in Hollywood, and has gone from one of the lowest to highest paid actors of all time. This is The Amazing Evolution of Robert Downey Jr. in Movies.
Venturing outside of his father’s films, Downey Jr. was cast as cool guy Ian in the 1985 classic Weird Science. The actor was also a part of the cat of Saturday Night Live for a while before signing up to play Julian - the coke-addicted teenager from 1987’s Less Than Zero. The movie was based on the Brett Easton Ellis novel of the same name, and gave him the opportunity to flex his dramatic chops. Suddenly people were saying “holy shit, this kid can act.” Good thing, too. Because he was on his way to working with one of the most in-demand actors of the time. Someone who would turn out to be a very important ally down the road.
Working with Mel Gibson on 1990’s Air America, the two actors became fast friends. As Billy, Downey played a young pilot who loses his license during the Vietnam War era. As a result, his job opportunities are minimal. So when he’s recruited to fly delivery planes in Laos, he accepts. The only downside is that his peers and bosses are actually all dangerous criminals. And what started as a neat employment opportunity quickly erodes into a life-threatening situation.
As a director, Richard Attenborough told the stories of important historical figures. Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, and Ernest Hemingway to name a few. But it was when he sought to tell the story of comedy legend Charlie Chaplin that he crossed paths with Robert Downey Jr. The role required versatility; someone who could nail Chaplin’s comedic timing as well as his tortured soul. Audiences were taken aback by what the actor could do, and were in awe of the physical resemblance between the two men. The academy took notice, too. And come award season, his performance earned him a nomination in the Best Actor category.
Over the decade that followed his Oscar nom, the actor went through struggles in his personal life. Some of them got him in trouble with Hollywood, and as a result his reputation came under fire. After all the negative press, filmmakers were reluctant to cast Downey Jr. But if you take a look at his IMDB page, it appears as though he never stopped working, even if there is a noticeable difference in the quality of his characters. In 2003, a good word from old friend Mel Gibson went a long way. In talking with the team behind The Singing Detective, Gibson suggested they also cast RDJ, and vouched for his friend in a big way. Which some people argue was the turning point of his whole career.
Cited among lifelong fans as their favorite RDJ performance, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was the birthplace of a brand new kind of sarcastic wiseass. And if you haven’t seen it, you really should. Directed by Shane Black and co-starring Val Kilmer, the movie is a twisting murder mystery with some of the most epic and witty exchanges of all time. And if you can keep up with the back and forth, you’ll probably agree. The 2005 comedy seemed to soften audiences up a little, and the actor’s career picked up steam and hasn’t stopped since. In his work as Harry Lockhart, RDJ proved that he could handle the kind of dialogue that requires a sharp tongue. Good thing, too. Because perfectly timed rants happen to be the main export of the next big character heading his way.
Without a question, the actor is a household name because of his work as Tony Stark a.k.a Iron Man. The relatively niche character is now a veritable worldwide phenomenon, and audiences will flood the theatre every single time the Avenger appears on the big screen. That’s good news for everyone. Fans get more of what they want, the studio gets to expand the cinematic universe, and the actor gets to keep playing a character he clearly loves. It’s a good thing that playing Stark has been such a positive experience so far, since Iron Man still has a few more appearances to make.