The career of Robert Downey Jr: Early roles, superhero blockbusters, an Oscar win and more

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Robert Downey Jr. is widely known for his role in the Marvel franchise, but his long career includes much more than Iron Man alone. 

Downey Jr. grew up in a Hollywood family, with his writer-director father, the late Robert Downey Sr., and actress mother, the late Elsie Downey.

He was introduced to the film industry very early. His first role was in the movie “Pound” at just 5 years old. The movie was written and directed by his father.

In the early years of his career, Downey Jr. was a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” from 1985 to 1986. He starred in films like “Back to School” (1986), “The Pick-up Artist” (1987) and “Less Than Zero” (1987).

In 1992, Downey Jr. was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the film “Chaplin.” After that, the offers rolled in and he appeared in movies including “Only You” (1994), “Richard III” (1995), “One Night Stand” (1997) and “In Dreams” (1999). 

In 1997, Downey Jr. went from the big screen to TV with his role in the television series “Ally McBeal.” 

Other movies Downey Jr. was in around this time include “The Singing Detective” (2003), “Gothika” (2003), “A Scanner Darkly” (2006) and “Zodiac” (2007). 

In 2008, Downey Jr. found extraordinary success as Iron Man in the Marvel franchise. There are three standalone films featuring the hero. The first two movies were directed by Jon Favreau, who also stars in the films. The third was directed by Shane Black.

Iron Man is also a hero in other Marvel movies, including the “Avengers” series.

The four “Avengers” movies – “The Avengers” (2012), “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015), “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) and “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) – also star Chris Evans as Captain America, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Mark Ruffalo as Hulk, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff.

The same year the first “Iron Man” movie was released, Downey Jr. starred in “Tropic Thunder” with Ben Stiller and Jack Black. Downey Jr. was nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in the film.

In between his time playing a superhero, he was in many other movies, such as “Sherlock Holmes” (2009) and “Due Date” (2010). 

More recently, Downey Jr. executive produced the documentary “Sr.” about his late father and starred in the 2023 blockbuster movie “Oppenheimer” with Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh, Emily Blunt and Matt Damon. Downey Jr. won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role.

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