Robert Downey Sr., an actor and prominent part of New York’s underground film movement in the 1960s, and father to Robert Downey Jr., has died. He was 85.
Born Robert John Elias Jr. in New York in 1936, he took the surname Downey (from his stepfather) when he enlisted in the Army. He began his film career writing and directing anarchic comedy shorts including Ball’s Bluff, plus indies such as Babo 72, Chafed Elbows and No More Excuses.
1969’s Putney Swope brought him to the attention of a wider audience, with the story of Swope (Arnold Johnson), a Black advertising executive who surprisingly and accidentally becomes the agency’s new chairman of the board. The satire inspired future generations of independent filmmakers and in 2016 was selected for the United States National Film Registry.
His career also included a prodigious future film output, directing episodes of shows such as The Twilight Zone and 2005’s documentary Rittenhouse Square.
As an actor, he appeared in a variety of films and series, including Tower Heist, Magnolia, Boogie Nights, The Sunchaser and To Live And Die In LA.
RDJ paid tribute to his late father in an Instagram post.
Downey Sr. is survived by his children, Downey Jr. and Allyson Downey, and by his third wife, author Rosemary Rogers.