Robert Downey Jr. seems to be on top of the world. Marvel and the Iron Man movies made him one of the world's highest-paid stars, and he's a fan-favorite for his dry humor and interesting acting choices. But thinking that his life is all sunshine ignores the facts about Robert Downey Jr.'s time in prison.
Why was Robert Downey Jr. in jail? The short answer: drug abuse. In the early 1990s, Downey was tipped for super stardom; he had even been nominated for an Oscar for his staring role in Chaplin. But a wild life filled with drug abuse and addiction was catching up with him. The next several years were marked by numerous arrests and time behind bars.
Luckily, Downey's life seems to be one hell of a comeback story. He managed to take Hollywood by storm once again, and is now one of the most bankable stars working today. These Robert Downey Jr. stories from behind bars show just how far he's come.
Downey was first arrested in 1996 for possession of heroin, cocaine, and an unloaded .357 caliber Magnum revolver. He was then arrested two weeks later when he broke into a neighbor’s home in Malibu while under the influence of drugs. Downey spent some time in prison in 1997 and 1998, was placed on probation, and ordered to undergo drug counseling.
However, a missed drug test proved to be his downfall: it landed him in the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and state prison in Corcoran in 1999.
Downey was released in 2000. But three months later, he was arrested again in Palm Springs for possession of cocaine and valium. He was released on $15,000 bail the following day.
Downey served his time in a minimum-to-moderate security prison. It's adjacent to the maximum security California State Prison, Corcoran, which was holding notorious criminal and cult leader Charles Manson at the time.
In prison, Downey was put on kitchen duty, were he earned eight cents an hour either dishing out food or washing dishes. Downey shared a few of his workday experiences with Vanity Fair, describing how a huge bag of gravy burst on Thanksgiving and he was charged with cleaning it up, and the time he found himself standing in "500 pounds of slop."
"It is at these moments - these points of acceptance - that you realize that human beings can do f*cking anything," he said.
In a Vanity Fair profile, Downey told interviewer Steve Garbarino numerous tidbits about his time behind bars, including his prison nickname:
"'They call me Mo’ Downey!' He imitates a prison baritone voice right out of The Green Mile. 'Like, You Mo’ Downey now. You just can’t make this stuff up.'"