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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Profiles of Mike Myers, Robert Downey Jr.

Aired November 29, 2003 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANNOUNCER: Next, on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS one of Hollywood's funniest leading man brings the "Cat in the Hat" to the big screen.
MIKE MYERS, ACTOR, COMEDIAN: Hairball.

That was definitely on my paws.

ANNOUNCER: A stand-out from an early age, he grew up with three characters he brought to life.

MYERS: Yeah, Baby, yeah!

ANNOUNCER: He would become a shagadelic star, spoofing the spy movies he watched with his dad.

MYERS: I think he would love it.

ANNOUNCER: But his father would never see his son's success.

MYERS: My career was doing very well and his health was deteriorating.

ANNOUNCER: The personal side of Mike Myers.

Then, he's one of Hollywood's A list actor, an Oscar nominee, a Golden Globe winner, barely out of diapers when he made his big screen debut.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He made you like him without trying?

ANNOUNCER: But his ability was always overshadowed by his addiction to drugs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many third, fourth, fifth chances is Robert Downey going to get?

ANNOUNCER: Now, he's trying to get on with his life and his career.

ROBERT DOWNEY, JR., ACTOR: I'm here to help you. But you have to trust me.

DOWNEY: I think it's miraculous that anybody survives themselves.

ANNOUNCER: The ups and downs of Robert Downey, Jr.

Their stories now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Hi, welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn.

When it comes to crazy characters none seem too far-fetched for Mike Myers. From Austin Powers to Shrek, he has proven himself a comic chameleon. He's at it again in the "Cat in the Hat". Hollywood's big screen adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic. Meyers is, of course, the mischievous cat. Don't let his on-screen antics fool you. He is serious about his silliness. Behind the laughter there is a lot of determination, passion and pain.

Here's Mike Mockler.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MYERS: Yeah, baby. Yeah!

MIKE MOCKLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He starred in some films. He starred on TV. He played most every role in Austin 1, 2, and 3.

Mike Myers makes us laugh, doing this, doing that. Now, he's back on the big screen as -- the "Cat in the Hat."

Myers brings Suess to life. He's happy he did. He loves the blue storybook he read as a kid.

MYERS: I wanted to be "Cat in the Hat" since I was two years old.

MOCKLER: He spent hours in makeup for a role like no other. But he first met the cat on a bus with his mother.

MYERS: My mom was at a book mobile in Toronto, Canada and she read it to me in a Liverpool accent.

MOCKLER: While Myers always thought the cat's voice was a Brit.

MYERS: Why don't we take my car?

MOCKLER: A Big Apple accent he brought to this hit.

MYERS: Humongous. I prefer the term big boned to jolly.

What are we hiding from?

MYERS: A lot of cartoon cats came from New York. And a lot of cartoon animals, you know? Bert Lare (ph), the Cowardly Lion, is from New York.

MOCKLER: As we watch him on screen throw a house out of order, we start his life story just north of the border. Now we swear, no more rhyming, we cross our aorta.

Mike Myers was born 1963 and grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, a land of donut shops and strip malls that provided the inspiration for "Wayne's World".

MYERS: Later on, monkeys might fly out of my butt.

MOCKLER: The youngest of three boys, Myers' father, Eric an encyclopedia salesman, his mother, Bunny, a former actress.

MYERS: My parents were born in Liverpool, England. I grew up thinking was related to the Beatles because all my aunts and uncles talked like, Hello. How are you? Great. Ah, wonderful, love it.

My parents were huge comedy fans. Especially S&L and SCTV and Python.

PETER SELLERS, COMEDIAN: I'd like to have an argument, please.

MYERS: And Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers.

SELLERS: I am Inspector Clouseau.

MYERS: People who were funny were sort of like gods in my house.

MOCKLER: Myers was a child actor, appearing in commercials and on Canadian television, including "Range Rider & The Calgary Kid". A children's show that obviously had a limited budget.

He attended several high schools eventually transferring to Stephen Leacock for its television production class. While there, Myers appeared in high school television productions. It was a high school experience Myers would later adapt for "Wayne's World".

MYERS: It's something I've been doing since I was 12 years old. The suburban adolescent, North American, heavy metal experience as I knew it growing up in suburbs of Toronto in the mid-70s.

MOCKLER: On the day he graduated in 1982, 19-year-old Mike Myers auditioned with Toronto's Second City. The comic troupe has produced a virtual who's who of comedic actors. From Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, and John Belushi, to John Candy, Martin Short, and Bill Murray.

MYERS: I was going to go to a university called York University, it has a great film program. But on my last day of high school, my last exam was at 9 o'clock. The audition for Second City was at 12:00 and I was hired at 3:00.

MOCKLER: Myers performed with Second City's Toronto touring company for a year and a half, moved to London another year and half, where he teamed with comic Neal Malarkey then joined Second City's Chicago comic company.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The audience took to him immediately. In other words, there were five other actors on stage with him. But Michael was the only one you noticed. He totally took focus, not wanting to steal focus, but you couldn't take your eyes off of him. He was that good.

MOCKLER: Chicago had another attraction, Myers future wife Robin, whom he'd met following a hockey game.

He wanted to work in Chicago. I said, why do you want to work in Chicago? You're doing so well in Toronto? He said, because I'm desperately in love. And I would pass him by every now and then at the theater and say, are you still desperately in love? He would say yes, he was, and still is.

MOCKLER: Myers' work with Second City got him a role in a television pilot. 110 Lombard Street.

MYERS: Be careful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you want, Mike?

MYERS: Your car.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

MYERS: Ah, come on.

MOCKLER: Though the show was not picked up, Myers would soon get a bigger break, the boy from the suburbs of Toronto got a job interview with "Saturday Night Live" producer, Lauren Michaels.

MYERS: I was terrified. I really had only been in New York, like I drove through it once. It was weird talking to Lauren Michael and seeing the Empire State Building behind his head, because you only see it in movies and stuff. I had to interrupt the interview at one point. I said, I'm sorry, is that the Empire State Building? He was sort of like, well, yeah, you know?

MOCKLER: Myers was hired. And in 1989, seven years out of high school, he joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live" as a featured performer.

MYERS: I had wanted to be on the show since I was 11. So, it's kind of a dream come true.

MOCKLER: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, Mike Myers becomes a movie star but loses the man who would have enjoyed it most of all.

He never saw "Saturday Night Live" or "Wayne's World" or my wife, or our two little dogs now, all the things that, you know, make you really happy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MYERS: Working at "Saturday Night Live" is like a combination of fast food and fantastic voyage. You work all the time. There's no windows in that studio.

MOCKLER (voice-over): Mike Myers work on "Saturday Night Live" made him a star.

LEHA ROZEN, FILM CRITIC, PEOPLE MAGAZINE: He stood out from the pack on "Saturday Night Live". Part of it was he created these very identifiable, sympathetic characters you looked forward to seeing week after week.

MOCKLER: Many of those characters found their inspiration in Myers' real a life. There was Sprokets Host Dieter, whom Myers says he based on a waiter in Toronto.

MYERS: Would you like to touch my monkey?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would be honored to touch it.

MYERS: He would be taking your order and he'd be like, "Your order has become tiresome." And bolt and leave and never come back. I'd say, I'd like the BLT. "No." What do you mean no? "You don't want it." I would have to have like feta and oregano or something.

MOCKLER: There was Linda Richmond, the hostess of "Coffee Talk", a character modeled after his own mother-in-law.

MYERS: Welcome to "Coffee Talk". I'm your host, Linda Richmond.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Linda Richmond, Mike's mother-in- law.

LARRY KING, "LARRY KING SHOW": Wait a minute. You are the mother-in-law of Mike?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got it.

MYERS: Linda Richmond, it is. My actual mother-in-law.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a (UNINTELLIGIBLE). That's what he is.

KING: You married a Jewish girl?

MYERS: I did, yes.

KING: How do you like having a character based on you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I absolutely love it. It's just like butter.

ROZEN: How many other people could have taken Yiddish phrases and made them standard American vocabulary? Who hasn't described themselves as feeling a little verklempt (ph)? MOCKLER: Myers biggest breakout character however, was Wayne Campbell. The party loving host of a cable access television show "Wayne's World".

MYERS: This is Stan Makita's Donuts. Excellent munchables.

LUKE AVISON, FORMER STUDENT, STEPHEN LEACOCK COLLEGIATE INST.: One of their major hangouts this Stan Makita donut shop, right around the corner from where Mike grew up, from were we all grew up, was Tim Horton's, who is a Canadian hockey legend. But were just at home going, Oh, yeah, that's our neighborhood.

MOCKLER: Myers quickly found himself in Hollywood, turning the sketch into a full-length movie.

MYERS: Wayne's World. Party Time. Excellent.

MOCKLER: The "Wayne's World" film became and enormous hit, grossing over $200 million.

ROZEN: In most of the "Saturday Night Live" films -- and I have seen just about all of them, you really after about 20 minutes go, OK, there's no more to this. And with "Wayne's World", you were happy to see what their next adventure was.

MOCKLER: It's catch phrases...

MYERS: Schwing!

MOCKLER: Caught on nationwide.

Myers was a full-fledged celebrity, if a quiet one.

LARRY SUTTON, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Unlike the other characters on "Saturday Night Live", he's maintained a nice quiet personality. During the years when he was filming in New York, you never read about him being out at a club at four or five in the morning. Almost every other cast member you read about that.

MOCKLER: But while Myers' professional life was thriving, personally he was hurting. His father, Eric had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1987.

MYERS: He came and saw me at Second City and would heckle the people on stage. If I wasn't on the scene, he's say, Oh, get off the stage, you're rubbish, bring Michael on, he's the only funny one.

I had to explain to the cast, my dad has Alzheimer's, he will shout stuff out. They were very, very cool about it. My career was doing very well and his health was deteriorating.

There was a time when he just didn't recognize us, then there was a time he was just mute, staring out into space. I took comfort in that, because I thought in a weird way, that his soul had left his body.

MOCKLER: Eric Myers died in November, 1991.

MYERS: I think I do miss being able to report, check in, make real, you know? He never saw "Saturday Night Live", or "Wayne's World" or my wife, or our two little dogs now, all the things that, you know, make you really happy.

MOCKLER: Myers wears a remind of his father everyday.

MYERS: This is my dad's Encyclopedia Britannica Salesman of the Year ring, from 19 -- I think it's '57 -- when he came to Canada from Liverpool. He got this ring. This is my wedding ring now, because he couldn't be at my wedding, so...

MOCKLER: Worked through his pain, continuing on both "Saturday Night Live" and in Hollywood. But his movie career would stall. And 1993's "Wayne's World 2" began with script problems and ended a disappointment at the box office. Another film Myers starred in that year, "So I married An Axe Murderer" also did poorly.

ROZEN: The perception of Mike Myers after "I Married an Axe Murderer" flop was he could only do "Saturday Night Live" characters. That the audience wanted him in a presold character.

MOCKLER: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, Mike Myers walks away from Hollywood.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MOCKLER (voice-over): By 1994, Mike Myers had lost his father, made several movies in rapid succession and needed a break. He quit "Saturday Night Live" after six years on the show. For a year and half dropped out of the public eye. Instead of making movies, he visited family and spent time with his wife, Robin, whom he married in 1993. Instead of power lunches, he took power skating lessons to improve his hockey game. Along the way, came an idea for a new character.

I wrote "Austin Powers" because I was driving home from hockey practice and heard "The Look of Love" on the radio. Just all that sort of great spy stuff, you know, Ursula Andres and all the sexy stuff. I wrote a song for it. I'm going to sing it for you right now.

MOCKLER: Meyers wrote the script for Austin Powers in just three weeks. In 1997, his lost in time secret agent shot his way into theaters.

MYERS: That's not your mother, it's a man, baby.

MOCKLER: The movie was just a moderate hit at the box office but would develop a cult like following.

ROZEN: What happened was the first Austin Powers film comes out on video. People start seeing it, telling their friends, you got to rent this. The movie turned into a huge video hit. MOCKLER: Meyers followed up the spy spoof with a dramatic turn he played Steve Rubell owner of the famed New York disco, Studio 54. Though the movie flopped, Myers got good reviews.

ROZEN: Myers turned Rubell into really this almost sympathetic, in some ways tragic over-cocained figure. He was able to create a compelling character in a film that mostly seemed peopled with stereotypes.

MOCKLER: In 1999, Myers slipped back into his false teeth and shaggadelic suits for "Austin Powers 2".

The sequel was a box office blockbuster making more money in its first weekend than the original did in its entire theatrical run. For Myers, the experience of making the Austin Powers films was ...

MYERS: Groovy, baby.

MYERS: It's a like a two-month party. I had the most fun I have ever had on my life. I was very sad on the last day, it's kind of like the last day of camp or something.

MOCKLER: Myers' next role wasn't even on camera, but provided him with yet another run away hit, the animated fairytale, "Shrek".

MYERS: That will do, Donkey. That'll do.

MOCKLER: Meyers originally voiced the character with a Canadian accent then switched to Scottish when he felt it wasn't working.

MYERS: You watch it and then you'd redo it. They redo it to what you just did. An amazing back and forth. Very inspiring. I ended up really loving how long it took and how much time you get. The luxury of being able to sculpt it and shade it and do all that stuff.

MOCKLER: But Myers' reputation is not flawless. He's known as a perfectionist. And "Wayne's World" director Penelope Spheeris has publicly acknowledged tension on that set.

MYERS: This lumpiest couch I ever sat on.

MOCKLER: He's now bringing that penchant for perfection to "Cat in the Hat". It's the first time Myers and Universal Pictures have worked together since settling a lawsuit three years ago over "Spockets" a scrapped movie based on the "Saturday Night Live" skit.

MYERS: We are on a mission to get that dog and will not rest until we find the dog and destroy it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rescue it!

MYERS: Rescue it, of course, I meant rescue it, whatever.

MOCKLER: Myers says his portrayal of The Cat is an homage to late television director Bruce Paltrow. The two became friends through Paltrow's daughter, Gwyneth. MYERS: I got to know him the last two years. Ironically and sadly he died on the first week of shooting. But he's a guy who could come into your house and change everything and you'd love him for it.

MOCKLER: Myers also had an added pressure in playing The Cat, how to bring the main character from his favorite childhood book to life.

MYERS: One of the key strategies of taking the book and making it a movie, is to find out what the essence of the book is, and the book is about it's fun to have fun, but you have to know how.

MOCKLER: From a cat and an ogre, to a man of mystery and an excellent cable access host, all of Mike Myers characters seem to know just that, how to have fun.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: There is already talk of a "Cat in the Hat" sequel. Mike Myers will reportedly reprise his role when the "Cat in the Hat Comes Back, tentatively set for release sometime in 2005.

ANNOUNCER: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns, his struggle with addiction played out in public.

ROBERT DOWNEY, JR., ACTOR: I'll remember this horrible time as the good old days?

ANNOUNCER: Now, he has a new film and a bride to be. Robert Downey, Jr.'s comeback, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back to "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS."

If anyone knows the pitfalls of Hollywood, it's Robert Downey Jr. His past troubles with drugs and the law are legendary. But that was then. This is now.

Downey is out of rehab and acting again. Two movies, "Gothika" and "The Singing Detective" are currently in theaters. The recovery doesn't stop there. Downey not only says he's sober. He also appears to be settling down.

Here's Kara Phillips.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Robert Downey Jr. is one of Hollywood's most recognizable stars. Academy award nominee for his star turned in "Chaplain." The Golden Globe goes to Robert Downey Jr., Ally McBeal.

PHILLIPS: Golden Globe winner for his role in TV's "Ally McBeal." Now, after a three year absence, he's making his return to the big screen. In the offbeat musical, "The Singing Detective," followed by this thriller, "Gothika".

Downey plays a sympathetic yet skeptical former colleague of a criminal psychologist played by Halle Berry. She's committed to an asylum for a murder she doesn't remember.

ROBERT DOWNEY JR., ACTOR: Look I understand you're upset. I'm here to help you but you have to trust me.

PHILLIPS: With the actor's deep in character, filming of this movie was brutal at times. Halle Berry broke her arm during and emotionally charged scene with Downey.

DOWNEY: It was an intense couple of days, we kept cautioning each other to be careful and be careful. We almost knew together was something -- something was going to give.

PHILLIPS: For all his intensity on-screen, his life off screen has been equally turbulent?

DOWNEY: It's like I have a shotgun in my mouth and I have a finger on the trigger and I like the taste of the gun metal.

PHILLIPS: In 2002, he apparently made a dramatic change in his life.

DOWNEY: For once I had done all the work and could honestly say it was time to move on. And obviously I hadn't done something that made the judge angry and he didn't put me in jail, he took me off probation.

PHILLIPS: That July, a California drug dismissed drug charges against Downey and ended his three year probation after the actor successfully completed 12 months of treatment in a rehabilitation center.

PETER CASTRO, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR "PEOPLE MAGAZINE": It was a live-in rehab for Robert Downey Jr. And he did it for 12 months and he did it effectively and got through it successfully.

PHILLIPS: At the courthouse, Downey put a new spin to his metaphor. It's like I lost my gun license and I'm glad. Pronouncing himself clean and sober. Downey is rebuilding his life professionally. He said he is facing his addiction head on.

DOWNEY: It is a issue an problem and best dealt with with helpful distractions. And also the right amount of focus.

PHILLIPS: But rebuilding his personal life proves the greatest challenge ahead.

CASTRO: Rebuilding his relationship with his son, India (ph) right now is still very difficult for him. He said so. It's been really hard, but they're making progress. I mean, this kid knows what his father has gone through and the demons that he has, he hasn't been around for him. And obviously, there's a lot of resentment.

PHILLIPS: Since 1996, the 38-year-old Downey has starred in as many courtrooms, it seems, as movies, played by a vicious spiral of addiction and recovery. Robert Downey's colleagues are encouraged but cautious, fully aware that addiction is too often a recurring role. The Emmy winning star of "The Shield" Michael Chiklis is a recovering addict.

MICHAEL CHIKLIS, "THE SHIELD": This is no joke, not a guy screaming for attention, this is a guy who cannot help himself. I don't think anybody in the town wants to read that headline that he's died.

PHILLIPS: Clues to Downey's persistent battle with substance abuse may be found in his early years. Born in the neighborhood of New York City, Greenwich Village. 1965, a time of free expression, and experimentation. His father, Robert Downey senior was an underground film director, his mother, an actress, and from very early on, the younger of two siblings lived an actor's life. This is Robert Downey junior, making his film debut at age 5. He played a puppy in his father's 1970 movie "Pound" in which the actors played dogs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you have a choice in doing anything else besides going into acting?

DOWNEY: No. I think it was supposed to be that way. I think the very dynamics of what family I was born into played into what I was supposed to do.

MICHAEL FLEEMAN, CORRESPONDENT, "PEOPLE MAGAZINE": I mean, he was right there on the edge as an actor even as a little boy. This is what his acting began as. He wasn't doing like little commercials or whatever, he was on the cutting edge of film making from a very young age.

PHILLIPS: A year later after finishing the movie "Pound" he turned 6. It was at this tender age he was given the first taste of marijuana by his father.

ROBERT DOWNEY SR., FATHER: I never knew back then these drugs are dangerous a we all know now. I have nothing more to say. Sure, I regret it.

FLEEMAN: This is the early '70s, '60s, he is surrounded by artists, he is surrounded by drugs, he surrounded by the counter culture. This is the kind of home he grew up in.

PHILLIPS: The home he grew up in would not stay intact. By 1978, this mother and father divorced forcing the 13-year-old to move cross country to Los Angeles to live with his director father. Robert went to school with Santa Monica High with celebrity names like, Penn, Lowe and Estrevez. The young actors all walked the same hallways as Downey. He wanted what they had, early fame.

HOWARD FINE, ACTING COACH: He started at an early age and came up as a member of what we called then the brat pack. And really separated himself because of his range of talent and depth and vulnerability.

PHILLIPS: In 1982, after two years at Santa Monica High School, Robert Downey junior dropped out. He decided to pursue an acting career full time. His drug use would follow.

DOWNEY: For me, growing up in school, it was smoking pot all the time, you know. Then I went to San. Mon. High, loved the friends -- drugs in my family, drugs in a lot of my friends family, you know. Drugs in the 70's in general, at least from from where I was at. It started really young.

PHILLIPS: This is Downey 10 years later in a 1992 documentary the "Last Party," candid talk about what the years were like.

DOWNEY: My dad was an underground film-maker. My mother an actress.

DOWNEY SR.: I'm happy he's here. That's all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you ever worried he wasn't going to be here?

DOWNEY SR.: Many times.

PHILLIPS: When the story of Robert Downey Jr. continues, his role as an addict becomes all too real.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS (voice-over): At age 16, Robert Downey junior was high school dropout looking for a job. He decided to return to New York to live with his mother. He remained focused on a career in acting.

DOWNEY: I consider myself someone who needs to express them self creatively. Acting seems to be the most lucrative and attention getting way of working it out right now. So, you know, we'll see what happens.

PHILLIPS: Back in New York, Robert Downey junior quickly found work and a girlfriend. In 1983 on the set of "Firstborn," he met a striking 18-year-old girl. Her name, Sarah Jessica Parker. A romance sparked between the young couple off the set.

FLEEMAN: They lived together for several years in New York. He was a young struggling actor, she was a young struggling actress. He said amazingly, you know, they were able to get along despite his problems. He was using drugs at the time. I mean, he was still part of the party scene and everything.

PHILLIPS: After making just one movie, Downey made a jump to the small scene and comedy. In 1985, he joined NBC's "Saturday Night Live", the popular comedy sketch series. He was a regular cast member for one season.

DOWNEY: Hey, shot, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and a shotgun here for buddy here.

PHILLIPS: Downey returned to films the following year, taking on a dramatic role in the 1987 movie "Less Than Zero."

He played the troubled Julian, an out of control addict who fights to kick his drug habit.

FINE: How much of his personal life did he bring to that character, probably quite a bit. You root for him. It's the clown who suffers. Under the smile there's a pain. You get that from him. He's got a vulnerability that makes you like him. That makes you root for him.

PHILLIPS: Off screen, Downey had developed his own cocaine problem. Shortly after the movie he entered a facility for substance abuse. In addition to his drug addiction, he had to deal with the on again off again relationship with Sarah Jessica Parker. As his personal life was in limbo, his career was coming together. Later that year, Downey landed his first leading role, playing a charming womanizer in "The Pick-up Artist" directed by James Toback to back back.

JAMES TOBACK, DIRECTOR: He walked into my office at Fox, literally, a minute after we started talking, I said, you want to play the lead in this movie?

He said, sure. He made you like him immensely without trying.

PHILLIPS: He received praise for his role as the manic soap opera producer in "Soap Dish."

As "Soap Dish" wrapped, so did his seven year relationship with Sarah Jessica Parker. He soon fell in love again, this time with model Deborah Falconer. The two married in May, 1992, and had a sun, Indio a year later. At age 27, with stability in his personal life, Robert Downey Jr. prepared for the role that propelled him to Hollywood's a list. "Chaplain."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was supported by, you know something beyond.

DOWNEY: It's almost like how do you play a better person than yourself?

Not better, but lets just say, someone who walked the walk for his whole life.

PHILLIPS: Director Richard Attenborough hired Downey for the role.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) He had this passion, driving passion to do what he wanted to do. You had to believe there was a mind behind the eyes. The camera, when it comes in close and in here, you can't deceive the camera.

PHILLIPS: Robert Downey Jr. was at 3 pinnacle of his career. He received and Academy Award nomination for best actor in "Chaplain." But away from the cheers and cameras, he continued to be drawn to life in the fast lane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I read this article where you were quoted as being this bad boy Hollywood, and party goer, where is this guy?

DOWNEY: He's around. He'd be happy to jump back in at any time. I would just say that you know, how long can danger work? It ain't over until it's over. I hope it's over.

PHILLIPS: But in fact, it wasn't. When we return to the story of Robert Downey Jr., drugs land the troubled actor in prison.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEAN PENN, ACTOR: His particular case concerns me a great deal because he's somebody I know, personally care a great deal about. I think he is a poster boy for the fact that prison doesn't cure it.

ROBERT SHAPIRO, ATTORNEY: I am shocked and saddened by the sentence today. I think it is wrong. I do not think it meets the ends of justice. It does not serve the community. It certainly does not serve Mr. Downey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you character the mood of Mr. Downey right now?

DANIEL BROOKMAN, ATTORNEY: He is very optimistic. He's upbeat about this. He's committed to moving on with his life.

PHILLIPS: A life, which in recent years has been plagued with deep personal problems. His son, Indio, born in 1993 was the centerpiece of a custody dispute between Downey and his estranged wife, Deborah Falconer who filed for divorce in January 1991. The two separated in 1996.

TOBACK: The relationship I saw with him and Indio is as good a father/son relationship as I have ever seen. I mean, they have a great rapport. He treats his son with respect. But Robert Downey is not ignorant of his life, of his habits, of who he is or what he is. No one can tell him stuff he doesn't know. It's a choice he's making and free make and should be free to make except as the law steps in and says, no.

PHILLIPS: The law has certainly been Downey's shadow. 1996, the actor violated his probation when he fled from a detox center. His rehab stemming from several drugs and weapons arrest, but A judge sent him back. A year later he skipped a court ordered drug test and spent the next four months in the L.A. County jail. 1999, Downey skipped another drug test and sent back to rehab. But this time, a judge gave Downey hard time. State prison for nearly one year.

DOWNEY: You toughen up a little bit when you're in lockdown. Either that or you read a bunch of books and eat a bunch of jolly ranchers. I decided to toughen up a bit and I did.

PHILLIPS: Thanksgiving weekend, 2000, just four months after his release from state prison, Downey was busted again, this time in Palm Springs, for cocaine possession and being under the influence of drugs. He pleaded not guilty to the charges. On July, 2001 court date was set. Downey remained free, awaiting trial. Despite his legal patterns and repeated pattern of relaxing into drug use, Hollywood kept taking Downey back.

CHIKLIS: Hollywood's got a real short memory. Because you know, to a degree, it lives up to its cliche. Its vacuous.

FINE: The interesting thing, he never really had a problem in terms of his career and drugs. It was always between jobs that he would have the problem.

DOWNEY: April 2001, Robert Downey was arrested yet again, this time in an Ally outside a Culver City, California motel, allegedly under the influence of a controlled substance. Results from a voluntary urine test found Downey had cocaine in his system the night of his arrest. With a trial already pending, prosecutors chose not file additional criminal charges. But the producers of "Ally McBeal" were not as forgiving. They released Downey from the show.

CHIKLIS: I think there is a point of no return for some people. I think sometimes people go so far and do so many things, that they just feel like they can't come out. But in a case of Robert, I really don't think so. I think this guy probably has a lot of self-hate about a lot of the things that he's done. But forgiveness is a huge thing.

PHILLIPS: July 13, Robert Downey Jr's day in court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Downey, I want to tell you this is not a gift.

PHILLIPS: Days before the trial, the California legislature passed proposition 36, a law calling for treatment rather than jail time for non-violent drug offenders. Downey got three years probation and was ordered to continue his treatment.

JAMES EPSTEIN, DOWNEY'S ATTORNEY: He's very motivated to overcome the problem he has. And we're all very encouraged.

PHILLIPS: Court officials were also encouraged. At the actors hearing in 2002, positive probation reports ended his three probation.

CASTRO: It's impossible to tell with Robert Downey Jr. if this the last time because he has disappointed us so many times. But that said, he seems like he's really together and on the road to recovery finally.

PHILLIPS: Robert Downey's future seems to be looking up. In "The Singing Detective," his first feature film after getting out of rehab, he took the lead role on-screen. The film's producer, Mel Gibson, took a chance on the troubled actor.

DOWNEY: Basically, he said basicly just said well, we won't bond him, I'm just going to pretend I'm not worried. Then he pulled me aside and said, I'm pretending I'm not worried.

PHILLIPS: Then on the of "Gothika", Downey was taking a chance on love. He and "Gothika" producer Susan Levin announced their engagement at the film's premier. Though they weren't ready to show off the ring, they wanted to wait until it was resized and fit properly.

DOWNEY: Yes, it's right here in my hand. You can't see it see it. We'll be putting out a press release on the ring.

PHILLIPS: As Downey moves on with his life and career, he's dealing with his addiction to humor.

DOWNEY: And what's been funny, they say, shouldn't he move out of Hollywood, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) located in Seattle? Won't that fix it? You know, right now, the ominous feeling of, you know, I'll remember this horrible time as the good old days.

PHILLIPS: The question only Robert Downey Jr. can answer -- are there good day is ahead?

DOWNEY: Things are a little different now than the were a couple years ago. You know, I'll just keep doing what I have to do to keep it that way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: That's In addition to acting, Robert Downey Jr. is also dabbling in music. He says he hopes to record his first album soon. Downey describes his music as jazz fusion. That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us. I'll hope you back with us next week.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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