Robert Downey Jr. Once Opened Up About Going to Prison and The Worst Things That Followed

Robert Downey Jr. Once Opened Up About Going to Prison and The Worst Things That Followed
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Joe Maher

It wasn't always that Robert Downey Jr. was the fan-favorite Iron Man. The actor struggled with addiction and was heavily involved in massive legal troubles in the 1990s. Downey discussed his 1999 imprisonment in an interview for Dax Shepard's Armchair Expert podcast back in June, comparing it to “being sent to a distant planet where there is no way home until the planets align.”

The Avengers actor shared, per CNN, “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 added, “There was no opportunity there. There were only threats.”



Downey Jr.'s run-ins with the law are widely known. He was caught in 1996 for possessing heroin, cocaine, and an unloaded.357-caliber Magnum, and was sentenced to three years probation as well as mandatory drug testing. After failing a court-ordered drug test a year later, he served nearly four months in the Los Angeles County jail. In 1999, he failed another drug test and was sentenced to three years in prison. Downey spent 15 months in a California state prison in Corcoran.

On Thanksgiving weekend, four months after his parole, he was arrested for alleged cocaine and Valium possession, as well as being under the influence of drugs. He pleaded no contest and avoided extra jail time after the valium charge was downgraded to a misdemeanor. In April of 2000, he was also detained after Los Angeles police discovered him roaming in an alleyway. Downey Jr., who is now clean and sober, explained how distressed he was at the time.



“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.”

Two weeks later, he was in Delano, a "receiving center where they decide where you're going to go" that he described as "arguably the most dangerous place I've ever been in my life because nobody is designated." While incarceration was "the worst thing that happened to me," Downey claimed he was finally able to adjust and live. “We are programmed to within a short amount of time be able to adjust to things that are seemingly impossible,” he said.



But Downey Jr. is also grateful for the time he spent in prison, reflecting on it as a place away from his addictions. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he shared, “When the door clicks shut, then you are safe. There is nothing aside from a rogue correctional officer that can do you harm if you have the right cellie. You are actually in the safest place on Earth. Safe from the intruders.”


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