Actor Robert Downey Jr. was born on April 4, 1965, in New York City to underground filmmaker Robert Downey and Elsie Ford. Downey, Jr. first acted at the age of five as a puppy in his father's film Pound and would go on to act in five of his father's features. He attended Santa Monica High School, but never graduated. Before he was a member of the Saturday Night Live cast for the 1985-1986 season, Downey, Jr. worked as a waiter in New York City and claims to have once served peppermint tea to Sting. His early film work included a role in 1972's Greaser's Palace. Downey rose to prominence in such '80s films as Weird Science, Back to School, and Less Than Zero. It was on the set of his 1982 film Firstborn that he met Sarah Jessica Parker with whom he had a long-term relationship. Robert Downey, Jr.'s breakthrough performance was his Oscar-nominated turn as Charlie Chaplin in Sir Richard Attenborough's 1992 film Chaplin. His acting work has included an Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe-winning guest-starring role on Fox's Ally McBeal and the films Wonder Boys, Bowfinger, and U.S. Marshalls.
Robert Downey, Jr.'s career as an actor is well-documented, as are his run-ins with the legal authorities and the judicial system. What is not well-known by those not among his die-hard fans, is that he has significant musical talent. He has performed a large number of songs in his films, including "The Star-Spangled Banner" from the Heart and Souls soundtrack; "You Don't Know Me" from Two Girls and a Guy; "Carla" from Friends and Lovers; "I'm Just a Lonely Boy" and "Blue Suede Shoes" from The Pick-up Artist; and "The Perfect Tree" from Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree. His musical performances on Ally McBeal are among his best known: Bob Seger's "Chances Are" with Vonda Shepard, "White Christmas" with Calista Flockhart, and "Sherry Darling." Robert Downey, Jr. has also written some original songs, including "Too Much Sun" from the film of the same name and "Snake" from Two Girls and a Guy. His first properly released musical material, aside from film and TV soundtracks, was a 1993 EP of "Smile" from the Chaplin soundtrack. The song "Smile" is an original composition by the legendary early filmmaker with lyrics written by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons. "Smile" had previously been a hit for Nat King Cole and can be found on Capitol's Nat King Cole retrospective box set. Downey, Jr.'s version is more of a reinterpretation than was Cole's, with more of a modern ambient, techno sound to it. A Very Ally Christmas includes his versions of "The River" and "White Christmas." Ally McBeal: For Once in My Life features Downey, Jr. on its cover and "Chances Are," a surprising cover of Downey's own "Snakes," and a fun duet of "Every Breath You Take" with former restaurant customer Sting (which appeared in an episode of the show). Downey, Jr. performed with Sting at a benefit in Los Angeles shortly before his legal troubles. His work has shown more potential than accomplishment, in part because it has not received his full attention. This, however, may change as the actor released his full-length debut album The Futurist on Arista in 2004. ~ JT Griffith