Robert Downey Jr's heart-rending bond with dad as he pays tribute with new film

Darcy Rafter September 6, 2022
Robert Downey Jr's heart-rending bond with dad as he pays tribute with new film
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images


Robert Downey Jr is getting vulnerable as he recently debuted documentary Sr. at the Telluride Film Festival as he tells the tale of his heart-rending bond with his dad during his decline with Parkinson’s Disease.

Robert Downey Jr is one of the most prolific actors around. He is best recognized for playing Tony Stark/Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is also known as the son of writer-actress Elsie Ford Downey and avant-garde filmmaker Robert Downey Sr.

Downey Jr has always had highly-publicized personal battles, including an unconventional upbringing and early exposure to a drug-ridden Hollywood lifestyle…

Robert Downey Jr’s heart-rending bond with dad

Photo by Matthias Nareyek/Getty Images

Sr. is a tribute to Robert Downey Jr’s famous dad’s success in independent film making. But it’s also an exploration of the father and son’s turbulent relationship.

The film, directed by Chris Smith, shows Robert Sr directing his final film before his death in July 2021 at 85. It also includes one of Downey Jr’s final visits to his ill father. It includes an insight into a personal video call with his therapist, mid-session.

As per People, the documentary and Downey Sr’s final film were originally two concepts but, Downey Jr’s wife, Susan, suggested the two concepts were combined into one. However, they only realized that he was making a film that would end with his father’s death “about halfway through” the process; when him and his wife were dealing with the grief of losing Susan’s father.

Downey Jr now feels the film brought him a better understanding of his childhood.

He said: “It’s not even really a movie about me and my dad anymore. It’s a meditation on a period in time in several generations. And I think that [if this] generation has a better chance of doing the ‘art’ part without all the trauma part, it would be great.”

Robert Downey Jr’s drug addiction

Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images

When the Iron Man star was six years old, he had his first sip of white wine and his father offered him marijuana. Downey Sr recalled to The Guardian over his “terrible mistake”.

He said: “And I go, “You ought to try a little of this instead of drinking.” I passed him a joint.

“And suddenly I knew I had made a terrible, stupid mistake … giving a little kid a toke of grass just to be funny.’

Despite this, Robert Jr has maintained a positive outlook on his upbringing. 

“To me, we were an artistic family trying to find normalcy,” he told Vanity Fair, before jesting that marijuana “was a staple — like rice!”

However, it led to a downward spiral of addiction, which was highly publicized over the next 15 years. The battle also placed him in rehab and also in jail. Until he finally got clean in the summer of 2003.

His mother helped him get clean from addiction: “I was in bad shape. She called me out of the blue, and I admitted everything. I don’t remember what she said, but I haven’t drank or used since.”

Robert Downey Jr’s mother, Elsie, passed away in September 2014. In a since-deleted Facebook post, Downey detailed their relationship. “She was my role model as an actor, and as a woman who got sober and stayed that way,” As per MTV.

Why did Robert Downey Jr spend time in jail?

In 1996, police found heroin, cocaine, and a gun in the actor’s car when he was pulled over for speeding, according to BBC.

Robert Downey Jr was arrested after repeatedly missing court-ordered drug tests. He was sentenced to a three-year prison stint in 1999. However, he only ended up serving a year in California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran.

A year after his mother passed away, in 2015, Governor Jerry Brown pardoned Downey’s 1996 drug conviction. He stated: “He has lived an honest and upright life, exhibited good moral character and conducted himself as a law-abiding citizen.”

He didn’t get his ‘act together’ when he dated Sarah Jessica Parker

Photo by Carolco Pictures/Getty Images

Robert Jr featured in one of his dad’s film at the age of five. Naturally, caught the acting bug at a young age. He even dropped out of Santa Monica High School in order to pursue acting. He then landed a gig on Saturday Night Live at 20.

It was then that he met actress Sarah Jessica Parker. He lived with the Sex and the City star for five years before his drug addiction ended their relationship.

“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,” Downey revealed in an interview with Parade. 

“She provided me a home and understanding.” he revealed, “She tried to help me. She was so miffed when I didn’t get my act together.”

Downey, who broke up with Parker in 1991, is now married to his second wife, producer Susan Levin.

If you’ve been affected by this story, you can contact American Addiction Centers on (877) 686-7688. Or Talk To Frank on 0300 123 6600 in the UK.

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Darcy is an experienced journalist passionate about celebrity culture and entertainment. After gaining a degree in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths University she has also become a social media specialist, always keeping informed on the latest trends. With almost five years of experience in media, her expertise is analysing platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. When she's not tracking the latest trending content, she’s watching films and eating lots of chocolate.