Celebrity money gurus: Robert Downey Jr

Robert Downey Jr is the best-paid actor in Hollywood. How does he do it?


The 85th Academy Awards - Press Room - Los Angeles

Robert Downey Jr has been named the highest-earning actor in Hollywood by Forbes magazine, for the second year running. Between June 2013 and 2014 he raked in an extraordinary $75 million. It's not something that anyone would have seen coming when he hit rock bottom 15 years ago.

So how has he become so successful, and what can we learn from him?

1. He has become indispensable to his employers

It would be incredibly difficult for Marvel to continue with any of the franchises he features in without Downey Jr - which could bring Iron Man and the Avengers to a close. His Marvel movies have made $4 billion at the box office, and Iron Man 3 made $1.2 billion, so the film company understands the need to keep him on board. It gives him the power in negotiations about fees and royalties, and he was said to have used the success of Iron Man 3 to hold out for more in negotiations over the Avengers films.

Many people who are trying to get on will spring straight to the stage of asking for a promotion or a pay rise. However, Downey Jr shows us that the first step is to excel, and become indispensable, so you have the power in the negotiations.

2. He didn't give up when things were bad

This level of success was unthinkable back in 1999 when he was imprisoned on drugs and weapons charges. It was also quite stretch in 2001 when he was fired from TV show Ally McBeal. However, by 2003 he was clean and back at work, working his way up to increasingly high-profile projects. By 2005 he was leading major studio projects again, with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. And five years later he was Iron Man.

Very few people will sink quite as low or rise as high as this, but we all have times when our careers are not going quite the way we would like them. Downey Jr is living proof that by persevering and proving our worth, we can work our way back into a better position.

3. He has solid working relationships

To get back into major films after sinking as low as Downey Jr did required an enormous amount of faith from directors. One of the first to take the step was Mathieu Kassovitz, directing him in Gothika in 2003, followed Shane Black, putting him in the lead role of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2005. This faith was rewarded, and Downey Jr has gone on to work with Black again on the latest Iron Man film. He also has a long-standing working relationship with Jon Fevreau, who directed him in the first two Iron Man films - and who he helped to make his own smaller film, Chef.

Having a good working relationship with your boss is just as essential for all of us. This doesn't mean sucking up to them or trying to be their friend: you need to show them your worth, build their trust in you, and deliver every time. It means that whenever they have a new opportunity at work, yours will be the first name that springs to mind.

4. He has a support network

Downey Jr credits the strength, support and wisdom of a few close friends for keeping things on track since his return to the spotlight. He has spoken before about how Jodie Foster warned him when he was going off the rails, and has been there to support him since. He claims that people fall into two categories - those who support one another through thick and thin, and slimy snakes. He says that falling into the first category, and surrounding himself with others from the same category, is the secret of his success.

We can't all call on Jodie Foster, but the support network is crucial to many successful people. Those who have caring responsibilities swear they can only manage with the right support, while those who have made it to the top often credit a mentor. Ask yourself whether you have the support you need at work and in life - and who you can turn to in order to improve your network.

5. He works hard

When people say this about actors it often raises eyebrows, because even those who are said to relentlessly churn out movies often spend the best part of every day sitting around waiting for things to happen. However, Downey Jr isn't content with simply acting, he also has a production company which he runs with his wife, and is continually developing multiple projects on several platforms.

Hard work is not the secret of success: there are plenty of people grinding out long weeks with little reward. However, anyone who wants to get on needs to understand that hard work is always part of the package. There's only so far that skill, talent and luck will take you.

Robert Downey Jr. Tops Forbes' List Of Highest-Paid Actors