Much like the character he played in the Iron Man movies, Robert Downey Jr. had something of a legacy to live up to when he entered his chosen profession. Robert Downey Sr. was also an accomplished actor, writer, and director. He wrote and directed the satirical Putney Swope and appeared in To Live and Die in L.A. The elder Downey had been battling Parkinson's Disease for the last five years and it's now being reported that he has lost that battle. Robert Downey Sr. has died at the age of 85.
Robert Downey Sr. never really saw mainstream film success as a writer and director. At least, not in the way that his son would eventually become a global superstar as an actor. However, his films, often satirical and somewhat absurdist, certainly found their audience. While Downey did most of his well-known work in the 1960s, he continued working as a writer and director through the 1990s, and even took the occasional acting role right up to the modern day. His last credited appearance on the big screen was as a judge in the Ben Stiller/Eddie Murphy comedy Tower Heist.
In addition to his famous son, Robert Downey Sr. is survived by his wife, author Rosemary Rogers, who informed the New York Daily News of the director's passing. While the death of Downey may not be considered a shock since he had been battling Parkinson's Disease, it's never easy to deal with the loss of a husband or father.
Putney Swope will likely be the film that Robert Downey Sr. is most remembered for. The 1969 satire saw an African-American man become the head of a Madison Avenue advertising firm. The movie is on the National Film Registry and is part of the Criterion Collection. The character of Buck Swope from Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights is named in homage to the film, and Robert Downey Sr. appears in the film as well.
It's clear that growing up as the son of Robert Downey Sr., was something for an adventure for the man who would become Iron Man. However, in 2014 Downey Jr. admitted that he expected to direct himself one day, like his father, and he looked forward to being able to use his father's experience when that time came. Downey said...
I feel like that cycle of me being engaged enough just doing what I’m doing, that is coming to an end. And the nice thing is, when I get to that next cycle, I’ll have a great reference and sounding board in Senior.
Robert Downey Jr. was announced to take the director's chair for the pilot episode of a new TV series back in 2016, but the show has seemingly stalled. If and when the younger Downey does take on directing, he will follow in his father's footsteps, but he'll have to walk that path alone.