Robert Downey Sr, the celebrated filmmaker and father of actor Robert Downey Jr, has died at the age of 85.
Downey’s wife told the Daily News he died on Wednesday morning (7 July) in his sleep, at his home in New York City. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for more than five years.
Downey is best known for his anti-establishment work in films such as the 1969 Putney Swope, a satire of the advertising industry, and the 1972 western Greaser’s Palace. He also acted in films including Boogie Nights and Magnolia.
Robert Downey Jr paid tribute to his father in an Instagram post on Wednesday, writing: “Last night, Dad passed peacefully in his sleep after years of enduring the ravages of Parkinson’s... He was a true maverick filmmaker, and remained remarkably optimistic throughout. According to my stepmom’s calculations, they were happily married for just over 2000 years.”
The actor also shared words of support for his stepmother Rosemary Rogers-Downey, telling her: “You are a saint, and our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
Born in June 1936 in New York City to a model and a restaurant and hotel manager, Downey turned to filmmaking after serving in the US Army.
“I’d rather do that than work,” he told The Village Voice in 2016 of his film career, “I got out of the Army and stayed with my sister in the Village for a while. She said to me, ‘A couple of blocks around that corner, there’s a thing called the Threepenny Opera. You might like it. It’ll give you something to do.’ I went over, and whoa. Somebody could do this?”
He began acquiring acting and directing credits in the 1960s. Putney Swope served as a breakthrough, despite starting out – as Downey told The Village Voice – as “a film that nobody wanted”.
His 1970 film Pound marked the first acting credit of Robert Downey Jr, his son with Elsie Ann Downey, as Puppy.
In recent years, Downey was seen in the 2011 comedy Tower Heist, and made an appearance on Saturday Night Live in 2015.
The filmmaker was married three times. After his first two unions, he tied the knot in 1998 with Rosemary Rogers, a music producer and author.