Robert Downey Jr.'s career on high-flying track in "Iron Man"

Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:30pm EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It took comic book heroics and major studio clout but when "Iron Man" debuts in movie theaters this week, Robert Downey Jr. will have completed a roundtrip from showbiz boy wonder to fallen star and back again.

Downey, 43, is happy about it, not so much for being back in business because, in recent years, he has been working steadily in many low-budget and independent movies.

Rather, he is happy because he is back in a starring role in a big Hollywood flick -- the first major release of the summer season -- with the kind of marketing muscle that means "Iron Man" will be seen by millions of fans.

It is the kind of attention he has not enjoyed in years.

"You want to reach an audience and you want some surety that all your work did not all go for naught," Downey told Reuters. "'Iron Man' has this big, gigantic PR (public relations) machine. It's been a wild ride and I feel we made a quality product."

Downey was born to act. He is the son of New York filmmaker Robert Downey Sr. who began his career in his father's films and grew up to claim a spot on TV's "Saturday Night Live."

By 1987, he had burst onto the Hollywood scene as a highly touted young actor in "Less than Zero." In 1992, at age 27, he was nominated for a best actor Oscar for his portrayal of screen legend Charlie Chaplin in "Chaplin."

Then, Downey's life spiraled downward from alcohol and drug abuse, and in 1997 he was jailed for violating probation on drunk driving, drug possession and a weapons charge.   Continued...

<p>Actor Robert Downey Jr of the U.S. arrives for the premiere of "Iron Man" at the Leicester Square Odeon cinema in London April 24, 2008. REUTERS/Stephen Hird</p>