The Woman Behind The Burger King Incident That Saved Robert Downey Jr.’s Career

Truth rating: 10
Robert Downey Jr in a black suit standing with Susan Downey who wears a black jumpsuit on the red carpet.

By Brianna Morton |

Robert Downey Jr in a black suit standing with Susan Downey who wears a black jumpsuit on the red carpet.

(Getty Images)

Robert Downey Jr.’s famous struggles with drugs made the actor tough to insure. His widely publicized run-ins with the law weren’t a good selling point, either, but the talented actor rose above his struggles with addiction. Downey was able to do so with the help of Susan, his wife.

After being released from court-ordered rehab in 2002, Downey was largely viewed as unemployable. He scored a role in the movie Gothika by agreeing to withhold part of his payment until filming had concluded. It was on set of that movie that Downey met his future wife, who worked for Dark Castle Entertainment as a producer at the time.

Susan was as clean-cut as Downey was notorious for his wild antics. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Susan admitted that, at first, she didn’t feel much of an attraction. “I thought he was a brilliant actor, but it didn’t go beyond that. I saw him more like a professor or someone’s older brother,” she said. One dinner date, however, changed her tune.

It wasn’t long before the two were officially dating. The romance moved fast, Susan revealed, “More than anything, I never doubted it. There was something in my gut that knew really quickly. I knew three months in that this was it.” Six months after their first date, the pair was engaged.

Robert Downey Jr.’s Final Barrier

Like any new lovers, Downey and Susan were caught up with the excitement and joy, but the Sherlock Holmes actor wasn’t totally over his addiction struggles. Downey’s so-called “Darth Vader side” still occasionally reared its head. “I did meet Darth Vader, for like a minute,” Susan revealed, “right after the movie wrapped, and I said immediately, ‘This isn’t gonna work.’ I made it clear that to stay with me, nothing could happen.”

The ultimatum stuck and in 2003, after a visit to Burger King, Downey threw the drugs he’d stashed in his car into the ocean, deciding right then that he was done with them for good. Susan takes partial credit for Downey’s choice to quit. “I think he saw what we had. There was something magical there, something we couldn’t put our finger on,” she said. “He always says that we became this third thing when we got together — something that neither of us could have become by ourselves — and I think that’s true.” Perhaps that’s why the famous couple decided to work together and co-found Team Downey, a production company.

Though working together makes the couple happy, it also opens them up to rumors from tabloids. For instance, OK! reported that Downey and Susan were having marriage problems over the move Dolittle. The outlet claimed reshoots were behind tensions in their marriage, but Gossip Cop found several inconsistencies with their story. We also reached out to a source close to the situation, who informed us the tabloid’s claims were utter nonsense.


Cutter, Kimberly. "Susan Downey: Iron Woman." Harper's Bazaar, 9 Dec. 2009.

Shuster, Andrew. "Robert Downey Jr. And Wife Susan Having Marriage Problems Over ‘Dolittle’ Movie?" Gossip Cop, 1 Jan. 2020.