How Iron Man Propelled
Robert Downey Jr. to Financial Success

By Liz W. on March 28 2014

Tony Stark is sexy.  In Iron Man, he delivers lines like, “A wise man once asked, 'Is it better to be feared or respected?' I say, is it too much to ask for both?”  The swagger and humor he exhibits makes women melt and men glow with admiration.  How did that happen?  Robert Downey Jr. - the actor behind the Tony Stark character - was an icon in the ‘80s, to be sure.

But the years weren’t very kind to him, and after some drug problems, he fell out of favor in Hollywood.  Getting paid $75 million, the sum Forbes reported that he made from June 2012 to June 2013, was unthinkable a few years back.  How did RDJ come back from the shadows to become Hollywood’s highest paid actor?

Robert Downey Jr. was born into an acting family.  Both of his parents were actors.  His father was also a writer, producer and director, and he gave Robert his start in film at the age of five.  Robert Downey Jr. knew the right people and had many credits under his belt at an early age.  But between 1996 and 2001, the actor’s run-ins with the law were plentiful due to drug-related issues.  

Drug Addiction Problems

RDJ’s father was a drug addict, so Robert was surrounded by substance abuse at a young age.  His life spun out of control during the late ‘90s, and he was arrested numerous times for possession of marijuana, cocaine and heroin.  His personal life made it difficult for Robert Downey Jr. to secure jobs, and eventually, he left the spotlight.

After a 2001 arrest, the actor made a commitment to put his life back together.  He spent time incarcerated and in treatment centers and he didn’t want to continue along that path.  Robert Downey Jr. worked hard to clean himself up, and started seeking acting roles again.

Smart Negotiations

However, none of this catapults you to fame and fortune.  Many actors try to make it post-rehab only to find that they’ve missed their chance. Leading a cleaner life helped the actor return to Hollywood and become productive again.  However, his best financial move was to re-negotiate a contract - after Iron Man grossed $585 million worldwide - that guaranteed a percentage of earnings when he appeared as Tony Starks or Iron Man in Marvel-related movies.  

This wasn’t a small cut of the net earnings after expenses.  His agents negotiated a percentage of the box office gross amounts.  With the Iron Man franchise bringing in $2.4 billion globally, and The Avengers more than doubling that figure, that left Robert Downey Jr. with a hefty sum of money following the success of his films.  His team’s aggressive discussions helped him earn a lot more than other big-name actors like Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo.

Hollywood is not known for being forgiving.  We see actors crash and burn on a regular basis.  They beam while they’re at the top of their game only to see fortunes slip through their fingertips when fame escapes them.  Robert Downey Jr. managed to struggle through personal issues and come out on top to become the charismatic character we know today as Tony Stark/Iron Man.  

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