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Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Downey Jr's drug-hit career
Downey Jr arrives at the awards with Calista Flockhart
Downey Jr with Ally Mcbeal star Calista Flockhart
Robert Downey Jr has spent the last few years living in the California branch of the last chance saloon.

Time and time again he has crossed the line between rehabilitation and relapse and it is only his undoubted acting talent that has sustained him in the eyes of his peers.

His most recent return to acting in Ally McBeal last year, after serving almost a year in prison for breaking probation terms, offered hope that he had finally turned the corner.

Downey Jr
Downey Jr one a Golden Globe for Ally
A Golden Globe for best TV supporting actor in the series showed his enduring appeal but within a few months he was playing a familiar role.

The star was arrested in November last year after an anonymous 911 call led police to a room at a Palm Springs hotel where they allegedly found Downey with cocaine and methamphetamine.

Downey's drugs problems are well documented but he has always relied on the support of his friends and colleagues.

Recent arrest

But after his most recent arrest in Los Angeles, their patience seems to be at an end.

Downey has been dropped from All McBeal and now faces two court hearings.

Ally McBeal
Downey Jr has been dropped from Ally McBeal
He was born in New York in 1965 to his avant-garde film director father of the same name.

His film career began very early - at the age of five he played a puppy in his father's satirical film, Pound.

He said in a recent interview with film director Mike Figgis that he decided to become an actor aged seven or eight.

"We were doing this play in the classroom," he said.

'Confidence'

"I made my entrance into the classroom and I think I said: 'Yield the castle now, Lady Roxanne.'

Downey Jr
Downey Jr was jailed in 1999 for breaking his probation terms
"And people liked that fact I had the confidence to say that. It just worked, I felt confident."

With 50 film credits to his name, he has gained the reputation of an actor whose screen presence and talent are undeniable.

The actor grew up among the liberal community of Greenwich Village, and left school before graduating.

By the age of 20 he did a season of Saturday Night Live, the late-night live sketch comedy show.

By 1984, he was playing major roles in films including First Born, where he met his now former partner Sarah Jessica Parker.

Debt-ridden

He stood out as a debt-ridden cocaine user in Less than Zero in 1987, and was also one of the many actors in Robert Altman's acclaimed Short Cuts in 1993.

Robert Downey Jr
His performance in Wonder Boys pointed to rehabilitation
Official recognition came when he was nominated for an Academy Award for his physically demanding title role in Chaplin in 1992, depicting the silent star from youth through to old age.

Downey's son, Indio, was born to the actor his now ex-wife Deborah Falconer in 1994.

In the same year he played a news reporter in Natural Born Killers, the violent film about two psychopathic serial murderers.

Notable credits

Other notable film credits came from his starring performance in Two Girls and a Guy, with Heather Graham and Natasha Gregson Wagner.

Other recent roles include an artist diagnosed with Aids in Mike Figgis' 1997 One Night Stand, and as a literary editor in the quirky Wonder Boys, starring Michael Douglas.

Despite the successful career and the acting plaudits he has never managed to survive his own capacity for self-destruction.

In 1996 he was convicted for driving while under the influence of drugs and for possession of a concealed weapon.

Just a month after being arrested from jail he was found passed out in a house close to his home in Malibu.

Despite time in rehabilitation, often interrupted by drug binges, his problems continued and he was jailed for a year in 1999 when he violated the conditions of his probation.

For the next six months at least he will stay in a live-in drug treatment centre - whatever happens after that is entirely in his own hands.

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See also:

27 Apr 01 | TV and Radio
Ally creator 'furious' at Downey Jr
28 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Downey Jr pleads not guilty
11 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Downey Jr lands McBeal role
12 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Further drugs charge for Downey Jr
03 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Downey Jr freed from prison
06 Aug 99 | Americas
Addicted Downey Jnr jailed
29 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Downey Jr arrest boosts ratings
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