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Free online course for separated parents | Opinion | Interviews | Exclusive: Robert Downey Jr – “Real happiness comes from taking care of your family”

Exclusive: Robert Downey Jr – “Real happiness comes from taking care of your family”

A Hollywood legend, Robert Downey Jr’s public and private lives have always been entwined. He’s experienced prison and drug addiction, but thanks to those who kept faith in him, has been sober for over a decade. Today, happily married to producer Susan Levin, Downey Jr is a proud father to son Indio, 22 (who was himself arrested for drug offences last year) from his first wife, Deborah Falconer, as well as Exton, 3, and baby Avri Roel. speaks to the Avengers: Age of Ultron star about growing up and getting happy… 

Actor, dad, orchestral conductor: Robert's talents knew no bounds | Image: Shutterstock 

Hi Robert. You’ve been through some difficult times in the past, do you feel everything has come together in your life now?

What’s really fascinating to me is that when I was a messed-up guy in my twenties I could never have imagined myself as a comfortably married action-movie guy in his forties, raising young children and having this very mellow life. Of course, now I’m in the process of accepting the fact that I am that guy! I’ve figured out that I can still be a bit rebellious and independent-minded without being excessive, and still feel that I have an interesting life.

Are you enjoying fatherhood this time around?

I love it. I love being with Exton and trying to communicate with him on his level. It’s not really different from how I remember being with my first son (Indio). It’s great.

Robert and Susan were prepared for their Strictly moment | Image: Shutterstock 

Has raising your children had any effect on your work?

I’ve slowed things down a bit, but I enjoy working, and I know that work is the best form of therapy for me. After years of experience, I know that my mind takes me on strange trips when I spend too much time between films. It’s always been the case that when I’m staying at home and my mind is not focused on a specific project, I get into trouble!

I love to work hard and I like to think of myself as a soldier who earned his purple heart in battle and is ready to fight again. I love being able to work with talented people and spend 16 hours on a film set, and then travel around the world to promote my films. It’s a very good life, and work is the one thing I don’t fear.

You’ve been living healthily for over a decade. How do you keep on that path?

You have to learn to help yourself, grow up, and assume responsibility for your life. It’s not a simple process. I’ve had a lot of psychiatrists tell me that ‘you can’t do it alone’ and so I’ve surrounded myself with good people to help me remain healthy and forward-looking. My wife Susan is the foundation of that process. Thanks to her I’ve been able to turn my life around in every sense. So this is a beautiful new chapter in my life, and I’ve been able to bury most of my character defects and throw myself into a space where I take pleasure and joy in basic things.

A visit to the hairdresser was always a stressful time for Thor | Image: Marvel

Was there any one turning point you remember?

No. It was an accumulation of things, and greater awareness of myself and what I was seeking. I live by certain principles and I feel I’m in the process of building a good life with Susan and being a good father. My work helps keep my focus, and I pour as much of my energy into my life as I can. It all reflects back on me and that’s my way of getting high now. I don’t need anything else.

I’ve reached a point where I know I can live this way, and I am deeply grateful for everything I have today. I was always chasing this elusive kind of joy or happiness when I was younger and I was chronically unhappy. So I learnt that real truth and happiness comes from living honourably, responsibly, constructively, and taking care of your family. I know if I follow that path, I will get to where I want to be.

What do you do to unwind when you go home?

I have a bit of a cold right now and what I do to unwind is take an Epsom Salt bath, but I also love hanging out with my kids, although there’s lots of ‘should we really watch Spongebob? Or do you maybe want to watch football?!’

Robert Downey Jr is starring in Avengers: Age of Ultron, out 23 April.

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