In 1987, Robert Downey Jr. starred in Less Than Zero and won widespread praise for his portrayal of a cocaine addict. Few people knew it at the time, but Downey was already a heavy drug user himself, and by the 1990s his arrests for possession and his stays in treatment facilities became too frequent to ignore, and his once-promising career became unsustainable.
In a 1999 court appearance, the actor stood before a judge and described his ongoing drug use in alarming terms: "It's like I have a loaded gun in my mouth and my finger's on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gunmetal."
After a 2001 stint in treatment, Downey was finally able to remain sober, and he began the long process of earning his way back into the good graces of the film industry. Initially, this meant signing contracts with terms that were less than ideal, as in the case of 2003’s Gothika, for which 40% of his salary was withheld until the movie was completed. However, he proved his reliability and ongoing sobriety, and in the last few years his career has flourished. He was nominated for an Oscar for 2008’s Tropic Thunder, then portrayed the lead character Tony Stark in the blockbuster Iron Man franchise, and also portrayed the lead character in 2009’s Sherlock Holmes.