And then came his Academy Award-nominated performance as Charlie Chaplin in Chaplin. His performance spans Chaplin's life from a youth to an old man, and he gets everything right: the accent, the humor, the pathos and the physical comedy.
And Then ...
Drugs. Lots of drugs. Downey was arrested a string of times from 1996 to 2001 and soon became a semi-blacklisted liability. He took work where he could find it, whether that be Ally McBeal, where he was fired due to more drug arrests, or Elton John videos.
But Then ...
With sobriety came success. First there was the criminally underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and then ... Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes. Who knew that Tony Stark and the world's greatest detective were both so much like Robert Downey Jr.?
But I don't really mean that as a dig, because everyone loves the hell out of Downey in those roles. And his sobriety is the key -- not just because it removes the liability of employing an addict, but because it makes him safe for consumption. We all love to invite the life of the party to our happenings: They're charming and funny and a good time. At first. But we never ask them back, because by the end of the night they've vomited on the rug, dripped blood in our bathroom and stolen our grandmother's engagement ring to pawn for drugs.
A reformed Downey means that we get to see our favorite lovable bad boy again, knowing that he'll be a blast but does not require us to hide the good silver. And now that he's got enough money to do all the blow in the world and apparently isn't doing all the blow in the world, maybe he'll get a chance to make some great non-popcorn movies, too.