Robert Downey Jr turns 50! Fifty things you should know about him

Updated on Apr 04, 2015 06:38 PM IST

Join us as we list 50 things we bet you didn't know about RDJ to celebrate our sexy brown-eyed Tony Stark's landmark birthday.

Hindustan Times | By

It's a great day folks! Robert Downey Junior (RDJ) turns the big 5-0!

Yes, the man who made Iron Man a global smash, the one and only reason Marvel rules the movies (Fact: There'd be no Avengers, no nothing without his charisma and acting chops), and the actor with the most controversial but hilarious comic talent out there (Who can forget his hysterically inappropriate Golden Globes 2011 speech, where he'd joked about how female actors do their best job after they have slept with him), has hit the half-century mark.

Let that sink in.

Now, as you stare at this bonus picture of our dearest superhero and think he's clearly aging backwards, we want to take a moment and appreciate RDJ's evident talents, as well as his many ups and downs. Join us as we list 50 things we bet you didn't know about RDJ to celebrate our sexy brown-eyed Tony Stark's landmark birthday. Here's to him riding high (on life, not drugs).

Let's begin from the beginning.

1 RDJ was born on April 4, 1965 in New York City.

2 Entertainment is in his blood. An early start it was for RDJ who began acting at the age of five, when he played a puppy in the film Pound (Which was directed by his father Robert Downey, Sr. pictured below).

3 His father, Robert Downey, Sr., is an actor, writer, producer, cinematographer and director who wrote and directed a number of underground films back in the early 1960s, including the cult classic Putney Scope. RDJ grew up taking part in his films, beginning with 1970's Pound.

4 Now, the first thing we know most of you didn't know about RDJ is that he had an early start with drugs too. He was introduced to drugs at around the same time most kids are starting the first grade. He said once in an interview that his father offered him a marijuana joint when he was eight. But more on the drugs later.
5 Coming back to his childhood: RDJ studied ballet at the Perry House School in London at the age of 10. *Super aww*, right?

6 He's an Elias. His real family name is Elias, his father changed it to Downey (his step father's name) so he could enlist in the army.

7 His parents divorced when he was only 11-years-old.

8 Not surprisingly, The Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows actor moved around a lot. He grew up in numerous places around in the United States and Europe - Greenwich Village, New York; Connecticut; Paris, France; London, England; Woodstock, Vermont; Santa Monica, California.

9 RDJ attended Stage-door Manor Performing Arts Training Center in upstate New York and Santa Monica High School in California, though he dropped out in 1982 (aged 17) to become an actor.

10 His first jobs included bussing tables at Central Falls restaurant, working in a shoe store, and performing as 'living art' at the notorious underground club Area.

11 Downey Jr. is 5'8? / 1.73 m tall.

12 RDJ got his big break at 20 when he joined the acclaimed Saturday Night Live sketch comedy team. But his tenure was short-lived. He was fired due to bad audience ratings a year later.

13 Downey's first leading role on the big screen was a charming womanizer in The Pick-up Artist (1987), a romantic comedy co-starring Molly Ringwald that was written and directed by James Toback.

14 His breakthrough performance came in 1987 with Less Than Zero (1987), in which he co-starred with Andrew McCarthy. Downey played the party loving, cocaine-addicted Julian Wells in the film.

15 Unfortunately, that movie triggered a need for drugs. "Until that movie, I took my drugs after work and on the weekends," he later explained. "Maybe I'd turn up hung-over on the set, but no more so than the stuntman. That changed on Less Than Zero. I was playing this junkie-faggot guy, and, for me, the role was like the ghost of Christmas future. The character was an exaggeration of me. Then things changed, and, in some ways, I became an exaggeration of the character. That lasted far longer than it needed to last."

16 Known in his early years for abusing alcohol and heavy drug use, it led to many courtroom visits and even prison time. Robert cleaned up his act in 2003 when he had a sudden epiphany, which lead him to throwing all his drugs into the ocean.

17 Once broke into his neighbour's home in intoxicated condition with the thought that the house was his own and fell asleep on the bed.

18 He dated Carrie Bradshaw for seven years: RDJ met Sarah Jessica Parker on the set of Firstborn, when they were both just 18. They lived together for some time before breaking up in 1991. They lived together for eight years.

19 Downey has since admitted that his behaviour was to blame for their separation. "I liked to drink, and I had a drug problem, and that didn't jibe with Sarah Jessica, because it is the furthest thing from what she is," he told Parade in 2008. "She provided me a home and understanding. She tried to help me. She was so miffed when I didn't get my act together."

20 RDJ later married Susan Downey in 2005. They met on the set of Gothika. She was one of the movie's producers.

21 Though she thought him weird and turned him down twice, they've been married for nine years (They married on August 27, 2005) and have one kid with another on the way. He credits Susan with helping him finally bid farewell to his addictive habits and The Judge is the first film released by their production house. And, clearly, they're an adorable couple.

22 He and Susan (pictured below) had a son named Exton on February 7, 2012 and a daughter named Avri on November 4, 2014. He also had a son named Indio with Deborah Falconer, whom he was married to from 1992 to 2004.

23 On July 9, 2014, he announced via Facebook and Twitter that he and his wife were expecting a daughter in November. On November 4, Susan gave birth to a girl named Avri Roel Downey.

24 His second wedding ceremony in 2005 was attended by 150 guest, including Keanu Reeves, Billy Joel and Sting.

25 His friends call him Bob.

26 He's wanted the Mandarin to be an Iron Man movie villain from Day 1: RDJ told Jon Stewart on The Daily Show that he begged Marvel president Kevin Feige to make the Mandarin his nemesis in the first Iron Man movie, but Feige wanted to wait for the right time to introduce the legendary character.

27 He won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Ally McBeal in 2000. He also won another for Best Actor for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in 2009.

28 RDJ's first Academy Award nomination came from his portrayal of film legend Charlie Chaplin in Richard Attenborough's 1992 biopic Chaplin.

29 He was let out of rehab for one day to shoot the Elton John video I Want Love.

30 RDJ kept a lot of the authentic vintage clothing he wore in the 1992 movie Chaplin.

31 Peter O'Toole is RDJ's favorite actor.

32 He sings: And I don't just mean for fun. Downey released an album titled The Futurist, back in 2004. It debuted at an underwhelming 121 on Billboard's albums chart, selling just 16,000 copies its first week.

33 But forget the stats, judge for yourself with Broken, the second track off the album and the theme to Downey's 2005 film Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang RDJ has always had a talent for singing. Besides releasing his own album, he also really sang while he starred on Ally McBeal. 34 He was even featured on the Ally McBeal Christmas album.

35 He was labeled the Sexiest Lawyer by People Magazine in 2000 for his role in Ally McBeal (1997-2002).

36 He underwent daily drug tests when starring in Two Girls and a Guy (1997) in which he filmed for only 11 days.

37 He collaborated with contemporary artist Sam Taylor-Wood to make an art video entitled Pieta which then was included in Taylor-Wood's 2001/2002 exhibition of Mute at the White Cube 2 art gallery in London.

38 RDJ said once that tuna melts were once his hangover cure.

39 He is the only SNL actor to have been nominated for an Oscar. Although numerous SNL cast members have made scores of films both during and after their tenure at SNL, they have rarely found any favor with the Academy. At least four ex-cast members have been nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar (Joan Cusack, Dan Ackroyd, Albert Brooks, and most recently Downey himself), yet RDJ is the only one with a Best Actor nomination, given in 1993 for his brilliant starring role in Chaplin.

40 He is a martial artist and he devotes much of his free time to his practice of Wing Chun.

41 RDJ participated at a concert held by Jazz at Lincoln Center, the not-for-profit arts organization, together with Lyle Lovett and Tom Jones on June 6, 2005.

42 In 2006, RDJ released a solo album in 2004, titled The Futurist. Although he had contributed music to both film and television, the album marked his debut as a singer/songwriter and it featured, in his words: "highbrow pop with jazz and classical influences."

43 He could've played Duckie in Pretty in Pink.

44 He was included in People magazine's annual list of Sexiest Men Alive in 2009.

45 Jail time: RDJ has been arrested many times for possession of marijuana, cocaine and heroin and has been in and out of rehabs. He served almost a year behind bars at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison in 2000.

46 He was considered for the role of Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), but it eventually went to Sam Rockwell.

47 RDJ bought Chaplin's house in 1988

48 In 1988, a few years before taking on the role that brought him so much acclaim, RDJ was living large as a young, rich and successful Hollywood actor. That year, Rolling Stone published a profile that at times reads as disturbing in light of what was known about his lifestyle. In it, his publicist revealed that he was in the process of buying a Spanish-deco home that had originally been built for Charlie Chaplin.

49 RDJ once shared a house with fellow actors Kiefer Sutherland and Billy Zane.

50 The last thing you didn't know about RDJ is what he's got buried in his backyard. Following his filming of Chaplin, RDJ buried the clothes he'd worn during the filming of 1987's Less Than Zero as a means of symbolically cutting ties with his debauched Brat Pack past. He related the aftermath to GQ in 1993, saying: "The next day I was, like: 'F**k, why did I do that?' But four days later, I felt something drift away. (The burial) represents acknowledging how a lack of self-nurturing leads to gruesome results. It's one thing to see the train coming, and another to get out of the way."

RBJ is a legend. Deal with it!

(Inputs from:,, | Pics and GIFs: Instagram, AP, Twitter, Giphy, Tumbr)

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    Sanya Panwar is an online journalist with Hindustan Times. She writes on health, wellness, travel, fashion, relationships, films and pop culture.

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