The record-shattering opening success of The Avengers, which sold more than $200 million in theater tickets in the United States and did about $640 million in business worldwide during opening weekend, is further evidence of an amazing fact: Robert Downey, Jr. not only rules Hollywood, but he’s staged an even more impressive turnaround than General Motors.
Consider this: Since 2008, nine movies featuring the 47-year-old actor have grossed more than $1.5 billion in the U.S. alone, and his name on the marquee is perhaps the surest guarantee of a box-office smash. That’s an astonishing run, especially because it wasn’t that long ago — 2001, to be precise — that Downey seemed destined to become fodder for those “Whatever Happened To…?” articles in the supermarket tabloids. His drug addiction and erratic behavior earned him a prison stay and led producer David E. Kelley to fire him from what seemed like his last chance for resurrecting his career, a supporting role in the hit TV series Ally McBeal. Downey sank so low that despite his enormous talent, he was virtually unemployable.