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Robert Downey Jr. Discusses the Highs and Lows of His Career After Oscar Win

 Robert Downey Jr. is seen backstage during the 96th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California.
Robert Downey Jr. is seen backstage during the 96th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California.

Robert Downey Jr. is reflecting on the ups and downs of his career and personal life following his 2024 Oscars win.

In an interview with People for the publication's most recent cover story, the Oppenheimer star opened up about the long road that took him from a non-hirable actor who struggled with drug dependency and legal issues, to an Academy Award-winner.

"I think if you develop a moral psychology, things are a lot easier," Downey told the publication. "And I think it's hard to explain away certain behaviors when there are ways to heal. So I both have a lot of empathy for, and I also am a little bit skeptical about anyone who doesn't lean into what they can do to improve the state of their compass. That's all."

After accepting the award for Best Supporting Actor at this year's Oscars, the actor thanked his wife for "loving me back to life," as well as his long-time lawyer who he said spent many years "trying to get me insured and bailing me out."

Robert Downey Jr., winner of the Best Actor in a Supporting Role award for “Oppenheimer”, poses in the press room during the 96th Annual Academy Awards at Ovation Hollywood on March 10, 2024.
Robert Downey Jr., winner of the Best Actor in a Supporting Role award for “Oppenheimer”, poses in the press room during the 96th Annual Academy Awards at Ovation Hollywood on March 10, 2024.

Downey Jr. has been candid about his past issues with drug addiction and dependency, as well as his many run-ins with law enforcement.

In 1996, the actor was arrested for possession of heroin, cocaine, and an unloaded handgun, according to CNN reporting, and was served three years of probation and mandatory drug testing.

One year later, he skipped a drug test and spent over three months in jail. After skipping a second drug test in 1999, he was sentenced to three years in prison and ultimately served 15 months. Four months after he was released, he was arrested again for alleged cocaine and valium possession while under the influence. Downey Jr. pled no contest and one charge was reduced to a misdemeanor, so the then-troubled actor was able to avoid additional jail time.

In 2000, Downey Jr. was arrested again after LAPD found him wandering in an alleyway alone.

During a 2023 appearance on  Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast, Downey Jr. said going to jail was like “being sent to a distant planet where there is no way home until the planets align.”

“You could just feel the evil in the air, and that was no trouble at all because it was kind of like just being in a really bad neighborhood,” he said at the time. “There was no opportunity there. There was only threats.”

Robert Downey Jr. accepts the Best Actor in a Supporting Role for
Robert Downey Jr. accepts the Best Actor in a Supporting Role for

Downey Jr.'s wife of 18 years, Susan Downey, told People during the same interview that she feels like "anyone's journey, no matter how fraught or positive, whatever it is, it is your journey."

"There's nothing we would do differently," she said at the time, before adding that her husband "really does believe in giving back and he does it through his actions."

"If he sees a performance he likes, he will go out of his way to get ahold of that person, especially anyone young and up and coming," she continued. "If he knows somebody struggling, he'll reach out, so much to the point that people know to send people towards him, because he will make that time.

"It's just an appreciation for all he's gone through," Susan added, "for all the people who were there and stuck around through some of his more difficult times."