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Robert Downey Jr. On Dating Sarah Jessica Parker, Parenting And Drug Use

First Posted: 04/24/2008 5:12 am Updated: 06/04/2012 1:48 pm

Robert Downey Jr. is on the cover of Parade this weekend in advance of his big-budget flick "Iron man," and inside he talks about his previous relationship with Sarah Jessica Parker, his long battle with drugs and being a parent. From the press release:

"Five or six years ago, I saw the writing on the wall. I knew the party was over," actor Robert Downey Jr. tells PARADE for this Sunday's issue. "It was time for me to come out of the Dark Ages and get real."

For much of his adult life, Downey, 43, was caught in a ruinous cycle of drug addiction, imprisonment and disgrace. Downey claims that by 8 he already had used drugs with his filmmaker father. When he later dropped out of high school and moved to New York, his father wouldn't support him. "That's part of education," he observes, "the moment when your dad says, 'The gravy train is done.' "

Downey's reputation as a party boy didn't stop him from getting major films, but his self-indulgence subverted his relationship with actress Sarah Jessica Parker. "I was so selfish," he admits. "I liked to drink, and I had a drug problem, and that didn't jibe with Sarah Jessica, because it is the furthest thing from what she is. She provided me a home and understanding. She tried to help me. She was so miffed when I didn't get my act together.

"I was making money. I was mercurial and recklessly undisciplined and, for the most part, I was happily anesthetized," he says. "Sarah Jessica would pull me out of a hangover, and we'd go pick out furniture together. She is a force of nature!"

He and Parker stayed together for seven years before she broke up with him in 1991. "I had very much this post-adolescent, faux nihilistic, punk-rock rebellious attitude," he says. "I thought my way was so much cooler than people who were actually building lives and careers. I was in love with Sarah Jessica," he confesses, "and love clearly was not enough. I was meant to move on. And, after some heartache, she was meant to find her home with a great star." Describing Parker's husband, actor Matthew Broderick, Downey adds, "He is a lot more gifted and grounded than I ever was. They have a great kid."

Shortly after his breakup with Parker, Downey married his first wife and had a son, Indio, now 14. "Our marriage and having a child probably kept me from going off the rails completely," he says, "but it wasn't enough to right the ship." By 1996, Downey's drug use became public with his arrests for drug, gun and DWI offenses.

"You use whatever rationalization you can to justify the fact that you're not living truthfully," he observes about substance abuse. "You make this death machine seem glamorous so you can get on to the next moment. But it isn't glamorous, and it isn't fun.

"People rise out of the ashes because, at some point, they are invested with a belief in the possibility of triumph over seemingly impossible odds," Downey says. Meeting his current wife, producer Susan Levin, helped his recovery. "She told me, 'I'm not doing that [drug] dance with you. I'm drawing a line in the sand here.' She was absolutely clear about it. That doesn't mean that other women, business associates, movie directors, insurance companies, judges and law enforcement hadn't been clear about it too. It was that, before I met Mrs. Downey, I just didn't give a goddamn. What changed is that I cared.

"I'm learning the business of building a life. Instead of getting instant gratification by getting high, I push my nose as far into the grindstone as I can. The honey, the reward, is the feeling of well-being, the continuity, the sense that I am walking toward a place I want to go."

Downey stars as a comic-book superhero in his new movie, Iron Man, opening May 2. "Look at this!" Downey exclaims delightedly, picking up a plastic doll of himself in Iron Man armor. "I've done something most people thought I'd never do. I've become a leading-man superhero in a big action movie!

"I went after Iron Man because Keanu Reeves got The Matrix, and Johnny Depp got Pirates," he says. "I'm looking at all these posters of the movies I've seen with my son, and I'm thinking, 'Damn! I could do that!' "

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Filed by Katherine Thomson  |