ROBERT DOWNEY JR. - THE MAN OF IRON
Title: ROBERT DOWNEY JR. - THE MAN OF IRON
Have you ever been picked on by a bully? If you’ve ever been picked on by anyone, then you know how emotionally weakening it can be to deal with someone who gets his kicks out of seeing us miserable. But dealing with a physical bully is one thing. However, what if the bully is not someone, but rather, something inside you? How can you face such a ridiculing opponent when it’s part of who you are? How do gain the emotional strength needed to carry on with your life? In the world of Hollywood, Robert Downey Jr. has faced a similar struggle and has made history as perhaps “Hollywood’s biggest comeback” ever.
Downey is one of the highest paid actors in the business, and, according to Medium, has a net worth estimated to be over $260 million US dollars. Though Iron Man introduced him to a newer generation of pop culture, Robert has had many critically-acclaimed roles in the industry, including his famous portrayal of “Charles Chaplin” (1992) and appeared to work together with a group of actors better known as “the brat pack” in several moderately successful John Hodges films.
Throughout most of his career, Robert has struggled with his own ‘bully’– addiction. Downey mentions in multiple interviews how he was first introduced to his first marijuana joint at the age of 6. If the age surprises you, then you should know that you will be equally surprised when I tell you that the man who introduced Robert to drugs was his father. Because his father was also a filmmaker, he had easy access to narcotics such as alcohol, cocaine, and marijuana, which were described by Robert himself to be lying around the house. Downey Sr. never denied his actions. He merely justified them by saying he gave him the joint ‘as a joke’ (yeah, very funny…). By the age of 8, Downey was already addicted to drugs and alcohol. Imagine! An 8-year-old child addicted to narcotics!
An early introduction to drugs, a successful career in Hollywood, and a great source of income set Downey spiraling down a path of destruction. And doing illegal drugs does not come without legal problems. From 1996 through 2001, he was arrested multiple times for drug possession and other legal issues and even spent some time in jail for his mistakes. By the early 2000’s, his career as an actor was in jeopardy, and no one wanted to insure him for work due to his well-known problems.
Robert ended up seeking help after his last arrest in April 2001. In a 2004 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Downey admittedly said (reminiscing about his decision of getting sober): “I don't think I can continue doing this. I reached out for help, and I ran with it.”
Robert was reintroduced to making movies thanks to the help of actor Mel Gibson, who ended up paying for his insurance for the film The Singing Detectives (2003). From that point on, Robert had been sober for some time and promised to stay sober. In 2007 Downey was cast for the leading role of the Marvel franchise Iron Man. This was a big deal for Robert, because, even though he had started in other films in the mid 2000s, such as Gothika and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, this was the film that got him noticed by a broad spectrum of audiences who were not fans of his previous movies, and much less, his shady past. As a result of Downey’s personality and often improvised scenes, Iron Man became a commercial success, raking in worldwide revenue of almost $2-1/2 billion (with a ‘B’) US dollars.
Because RDJ is such an inspiration for anyone who aspires to kick any damaging habit, it is time to introduce this month’s “List of Morality.”
“Remember that just because you hit bottom doesn’t mean you have to stay there.” Once you sought out for help, You may find it hard to get back on your feet (or you may not). If you do, remember that you have already hit ‘low.’ That means the only way to move now is ‘up.’ Once you realize you’ve already been through so much, what else can stop you from becoming a success?
“I think that we all do heroic things, but (the word) hero is not a noun, it’s a verb.” Hero as a “verb” sounds like an American linguist punchline for comedy, but what RDJ is trying to say is that we all need to conquer over whatever we face. Whatever it may be that wants to take over your life, whether it is an addiction or other diseases, a major legal problem, dysfunctional family, relationship problems, etc. Sometimes one needs to “hero-it” out and overcome.
“The lesson is that you can still make mistakes and be forgiven.” As you’re trying to recover your life, you need to accept that your mistakes are done and over with. Once done, they are done and gone. You cannot turn back time. The only thing to do is work with what you have, learn from your mistakes, and avoid repeating them. Rather than filling yourself with guilt, remember that you are already taking the next step towards beating a bully and achieving full recovery: you’ve accepted what you’ve done, and you are trying to move on by doing better.
In the case of RDJ, the ‘bully’ was his addictions. By his admission, he made a lot of mistakes in the process. One thing we can admire about Robert, though is his willingness to accept he had a problem, get the help he needed and develop the iron-like strength to make one of the biggest Hollywood comebacks in history.
Addiction is not the only bully that some of us may face. Bullies may come disguised as different things wearing many different masks and make us deviate from what we want to achieve. It may be small personality flaws that have gotten us into big trouble. It may be certain insecurities that have cost us relationships or our spending habits have gotten us into financial difficulty. Just like RDJ, the key is to acknowledge we have a flaw and that we have made a mistake to begin the fixing process. Is it easy to recognize we’ve made mistakes? No, it's not easy.
Nevertheless, a famous man once said: “Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them,” (Bruce Lee). Once you have admitted that there is a “bully” inside you, the hero inside of you, or better yet, the “Iron Man” inside of you can now be unleashed. With the right support system, you can develop iron-like strength that will set you on the road to a prosperous and productive future, finally free from, the bully inside.
Robert Downey Jr. Documentary on: