Robert Downey Jr. has not always portrayed the iconic character “Iron Man.” In the 1990s, the actor faced significant legal troubles and battled addiction.
In a recent discussion on Dax Shepard’s “Armchair Expert” podcast, Downey shared his experience of imprisonment in 1999, comparing it to being stranded on a distant planet until the stars align for a journey home.
“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. “There was no opportunity there. There was only threats.”
Downey Jr.’s encounters with the legal system have been extensively documented.
In 1996, he was arrested for possessing heroin, cocaine, and an unloaded .357-caliber Magnum. Subsequently, he received a three-year probation sentence and was mandated to undergo regular drug testing.
Downey Jr. violated a court-ordered drug test the following year and spent approximately four months in the Los Angeles County jail.
In 1999, after skipping another drug test, he was sentenced to three years in prison. Serving 15 months in the state prison located in Corcoran, California.
Just four months after his release, he faced arrest over Thanksgiving weekend for alleged possession of cocaine and Valium and being under the influence of drugs. The charge related to Valium was later reduced to a misdemeanor, and he entered a no-contest plea to the remaining charges, successfully avoiding further jail time.
In addition, Downey Jr. experienced another arrest in April 2000 when he was discovered wandering in an alleyway by the Los Angeles police.
Now in a state of sobriety and thriving in his successful career, Downey Jr. candidly expressed the profound turmoil he faced during those challenging times in the podcast.
“I’m gonna try to give you the flashcards,” he said. “I’m in court, I’m being over-sentenced by an angry judge, and at some point, he said something in Latin. I thought he was casting a spell on me.”
According to the Marvel star, two weeks later, he was in Delano, “a receiving center where they decide where you’re going to go” that he said was “arguably the most dangerous place I’ve ever been in my life because nobody is designated.”
“I remember walking out at one point when I hopped out of my cell to go to the shower; by the way, this would be the best soundbite, and I didn’t know it, but I was a little spun out, and I had my underwear on backward,” Downey Jr. recalled. “I remember eliciting some strong chuckles and jeers from my fellow inmates.”
And while he described being incarcerated as “the worst thing that happened to me,” Downey said he eventually was able to adjust and survive.
“We are programmed to, within a short amount of time, be able to adjust to things that are seemingly impossible,” he said.
Downey is the host of “Downey’s Dream Cars,” a docuseries debuting Thursday on Max, which is owned by CNNs parent company.