7 Milestones in the Evolution of Robert Downey Jr.

As has been well-documented here, Robert Downey Jr. stars in this weekend's new A-list comedy release, Due Date. But I was wondering: How did Downey get to this point from his big screen debut at the age of 5? You can always trace a direct line through a handful of roles to illustrate what led to an actor's current success, but with Downey, that line has more ups and downs than most elevators in Hollywood. So let's look at seven performances -- including his very first -- that trace the evolution of one Robert John Downey Jr.

Anything to add? Do so in the comments...

Pound (1970)

Aw, look at him. He's only 5! And he's playing a puppy! Written and directed by Robert Downey Sr., the microbudget satire follows 18 dogs -- yes, played by humans -- awaiting adoption at the pound. Searing cult classic that it is, Pound's

longevity definitely wasn't hurt by featuring the first screen appearance of the future Tony Stark. RDJ himself, however, could have felt a little better about this and the other three RDS film he appeared in: "So sick, so f*cking warped," was how he characterized his father in a 1991 Movieline interview.

Saturday Night Live 1985

A lot of people forget that Downey was an SNL cast member for the 1985-1986 season. That's fine: As the clip below kind of proves, sketch comedy wasn't Downey's strong suit. It wasn't entirely Downey's fault, though. The entire cast of Lorne Michaels' first year back after a five-year hiatus was pretty dismal, and only Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller and Nora Dunn would survive for the next season. (Almost literally, the season ended with a fake fire on set with a tagline teasing viewers about who would survive the blaze. Infamously, Lorne Michael prevented Lovitz from going on stage -- "saving" him from the fire -- which angered the rest of the cast.)

The Pick-up Artist (1987)

Downey's first leading role and the first of three collaborations with director James Toback. As the title character, the actor trolls the streets of New York asking for women's phone numbers -- not for really anything more than the challenge. (A movie that also, one day, would make me think placing a fake parking ticket on my car would fool cops into not giving me a real one. Reality: It pisses them off.) Molly Ringwald plays the female lead and, although she and Downey were roughly equals at the time of The Pick-Up Artist's release, the careers of both were headed in the opposite direction: Downey's next movie was the fierce (if flawed) Less Than Zero; Ringwald's was For Keeps.

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  • Kristen says:

    You can’t forget Weird Science. I swear that movie was on repeat in my house for the longest time since I have three older brothers. Weird Science may not be a “milestone” per se in his career but it linked him to producer Joel Silver who’s gone on to produce a handful of his films. Silver’s production company also employed Downey’s wife, so I’d say the connection to that film is very substantial for him.