If there is a biopic in the future about Robert Downey Jr, it would not be boring by any stretch of the imagination. Depending when you look at his life as he approaches age 53 in April, you can see him as a young man with no potential, an aspiring actor, a hopeless drug addict, or the result of a lifetime of hard work and persistence. For Downey, Jr. it has not been the straightest of roads that resulted in him amassing a net worth in excess of $260 million.
How much potential does a high school dropout have? Whatever your view, that is Downey Jr.’s starting point in his acting career. He did it to become an actor, bypassing the more traditional method of going to college to study theater or the Fine Arts. History will show that if you have a natural talent in acting or any other field of endeavor, persistence and hard work will win out in the end. He was 20 when he landed a significant role in the movie First Born alongside of the in-demand actress Teri Garr.
His career picked up steam as he landed the role of Ian in Weird Science (the movie whose only character you remember is Kelly Le Brock). After appearing in 16 episodes of “Saturday Night Live” he would began to get critical recognition for his acting talents by being nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Charlie Chaplin in the movie Chaplin.
It is not uncommon for successful people, particularly those in Hollywood, to find that fame and fortune leads to one kind of addiction or another. Downey Jr.’s success was interrupted early in 2000 by his drug addiction. Drug addiction usually leads to serious financial problems, and Downey was no exception in this case. It took 3 years from him to fully recover and get his acting career and personal finances back on track.
This prelude was necessary because it is important you don’t see Downey as a person who made wise financial investments or prudent decisions in the early part of his life and acting career. If we are going to be blunt about it, he fell flat on his face and wasted his considerable talent on pursuing the results of success (money) rather than the success itself. That $260 million net worth was actually the result of what we will call Robert Downey Jr., Act II.
Compared to his early successes that almost justified his dropping out of high school, climbing back into starring roles would take a while – more than 5 years. It is understandable that producers and directors would hesitate to stake their success on a former drug addict not far removed from rehab. But in 2008 Downey got the chance to play his now famous and iconic Iron Man role in Iron Man. What is somewhat odd about this time of his life he was getting critical acclaim for his role in Tropic Thunder, a movie ironically that was about a fading actor who Downey helps, being a successful 5 time Oscar winner (Kirk Lazarus) and serious method actor. But it would be the Iron Man franchise that would land him the serious money.
The money he earned for Iron Man ($500,000), Iron Man 2 ($10 million), and Iron Man 3 ($50 million) would be the gateway for him to amass his current $260 million net worth figure. If you are wondering why such a low salary for the first Iron Man installment, it is because he was considered to be a high risk actor. This was one time he had to prove something to someone other than himself. Obviously he did, and his market value went off the charts, becoming the second highest paid actor in 2017.
His Iron Man character is considered to be by many the backbone of the Marvel Comic Universe, and the Iron Man character has become an actual marketing brand (of which we are reasonably certain adds to his $260 million value). The word is that he is getting a cool $80 million a year from Marvel to continue in his role. For his role in Avengers: Age of Ultron he was paid $40 million, twice as much as runner up Scarlett Johnson.
As for his future earnings, the rumors going around Comic Con was that he would be paid $200 million for Avengers: Infinity War I and II, which has a projected budget of $1 billion to produce.
For most of us it is almost impossible to envision ourselves making that kind of money. And money is usually what people focus on when it comes to a measurement of success. Downey came to a crossroads several times in his life, and so far he seems to have made the right decisions to pull himself away from the edge (with a little help from his friends), pick himself up, and move forward. The lesson he learned is that talent that is wasted on pursuing money ends up cheating everyone, including yourself. Yes, $260 million is a ton of money, but he could easily double that in a single year. That is an amazing journey.