Robert Downey Jr. opens up about drugs and the addict father who fed them to him in Netflix doc

Today, the world knows actor Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, but as any member of Generation X will tell you, there were many times in the early days of Downey’s career when we wondered if his addiction to drugs would rob us of the iconic actor’s undeniable talent.

Out of control and in and out of courtrooms, many expected to wake up to the news that yet another gifted star was found dead from an overdose.

But Downey turned his life around, and in a new Netflix documentary titled simply “Sr.” the actor opens up about the role his father — a maverick director with a string of not-very-well-known cult films that pushed the envelope into areas no child should see — played in his often chaotic life.

(Video: YouTube)

Downey Jr., born in Manhattan in 1965, was raised with drugs, the Daily Mail reports.

Downey Sr. was a hopeless addict who actually encouraged his six-year-old son, caught sipping white wine while the grown-ups played poker, to smoke marijuana instead. Dad then handed his son a lit joint.

And, as the documentary, three years in the making, reveals, that wasn’t all Sr. shared with his young boy.

Father and son outings included trips to watch X-rated films. Sr. even cast a five-year-old Jr. in his own disturbing film, Pound (1970). The plot had the cast playing stray dogs waiting to be put down.

For his big line in his very first movie, the adorable little Downey asks a bald man, “Have any hair on your balls?”

(Video: YouTube)

Said an adult Downey Jr., home life at that tender age meant “growing up in a family where everyone was doing drugs.”

In his documentary, Jr. tells his father, “I think we would be remiss not to discuss its effect on me.”

Sr. responds, “Boy, I would sure love to miss that discussion.”

The drug-fueled upbringing gave Downey Jr. all the material he needed to craft the character of “Julian” in his first major film role, the 1987 GenX classic, “Less Than Zero,” starring, in addition to Downey Jr., Jami Gertz and Andrew McCarthy.

The film chronicles the tragic downfall of a drug-addicted Julian after college graduation.

(Video: YouTube)

The director of the film, Marek Kanievska, told a 22-year-old Downey Jr. and co-star McCarthy to go out and party together to make the on-screen performance more believable.

The evening reportedly ended with Downey howling at the moon in the middle of Los Angeles’ Santa Monica Boulevard. McCarthy had to bail him out of jail.

In a 1988 interview, Downey Jr. explained, “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.”

Arrests and rehabs marked much of Downey Jr.’s early career, including a 1996 arrest for possessing cocaine, heroin, crack cocaine, and an unloaded gun while speeding down the road.

He routinely skipped court-ordered drug tests and was twice attacked by fellow inmates in jail.

In 1999, with the courts’ patience running on less than zero, the actor was jailed for three years.


The experience didn’t cure him. While on parole, he was found wandering around Los Angeles high as a kite and barefoot.

Cops found meth and cocaine in his hotel room.

After being fired from the popular television show “Ally McBeal,” he went into therapy, picked up meditation and kung fu, and turned his life on a positive track.

Downey Sr. died of Parkinson’s disease in July 2021.

According to Rolling Stone, the documentary offers “an incredible sense of candor and honesty.”

“Even a casual viewer can tell that Jr. keeps wanting to ask his dad questions that Sr. might not want to answer,” the outlet reports, “and that they both know that time is running out.”

Melissa Fine


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