Robert Downey Jr. managed to do what few actors have: overcome his personal demons and even use them to become one of, if not the, most popular actors in the world. Downey was an acting prodigy, and earned early praise, most notably for his astounding performance in 1992’s Chaplin, but then was laid low by drug and alcohol problems. He began his climb back with small parts in great films like Bowfinger and Good Night and Good Luck and the massively overlooked Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, as well as contributing to David Fincher’s masterful Zodiac in 2007. However, it was the next year that his ascent culminated when he took on the role of Tony Stark in 2008’s Iron Man (a character who he essentially IS) and jump-started the most successful franchise in movie history: The Marvel Cinematic Universe. His character has been the fulcrum of that universe (he’s appeared in some capacity in nine of the 16 films at time of writing), and it’s hard to imagine what the MCU will look like when Downey finally hangs up the armor. Before 2008, Iron Man was a B-level hero at Marvel with little public recognition. Now the character is as recognizable worldwide as Spider-Man, Captain America or Wolverine.
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