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Why Jodie Foster Pulled Robert Downey Jr. Aside On Their Film Set in 1995

Photo Credit: Brian To / WireImage / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Brian To / WireImage / Getty Images

Robert Downey Jr.’s struggle with addiction was well-documented in the press, and after being sober for several years, he has remained open about his journey. Actress and director Jodie Foster worked with him during some of the worst points of his substance abuse and has revealed what it was like having him on set during those times. Despite his struggles, she always had faith in him.

Foster was directing Home for the Holidays

Robert Downey Jr and Holly Hunt in "Home for the Holidays."
Downey played Tommy Larson in the film. (Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures / CaptainOT / MovieStillsDB)

It was 1995 when Jodie Foster took on her second feature film directing project. Her first was directing the 1991 family drama Little Man Tate, in which she starred, and this time it was the Thanksgiving comedy Home for the Holidays. The film starred Holly Hunter as the lead character Claudia Larson, with Downey playing Tommy Larson, her younger brother.

The film follows Claudia, a single mother who travels to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with her family. The film progresses to show just how dysfunctional her family is and closes with a heartwarming ending. It was released in November 1995 and did okay at the box office, earning $22.1 million worldwide against a budget of $20 million.

She could see his talent

Headshot of Robert Downey Jr.
Downey struggled with addiction during the film’s production. (Photo Credit: Ronald Siemoneit / Sygma / Sygma / Getty Images)

Production of the film took place at an interesting time for Foster, as it overlapped with Downey’s struggle with addiction. While he would reach the worst of his struggles in the following years, it was clear he was on a difficult path during filming. Foster noticed this in him and “took him aside” during production to talk to him about his struggles.

She said, “Look, I couldn’t be more grateful for what you’ve given in this film. But I’m scared of what happens to you next. Right now you are incredibly good at balancing on the barstool. But it’s really precarious, and I’m not sure how that’s going to end.” She knew he was talented but worried about what he was doing to himself. “What was so interesting about him then was what a genius he was—there was more creativity in his little finger than I will ever have in my whole life—but he did not have the discipline,” she explained.

She continued, “He was so out there that all of that wonderful talent was kind of just, like, flailing his arms in the water and making a big mess. But it was in there somewhere, right? Because now he is somebody who’s become disciplined almost as a way of surviving.” For her, she knew he would turn his life around, it was just a matter of when. “I have faith in people’s ability to change if they want it, and he really wanted it,” she said.

Downey got into some serious trouble after that

Mugshot of Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr.’s mug shot in September 1999. (Photo Credit: Kypros / Getty Images)

Unfortunately, it would be a while longer before Downey really made the effort to address his struggles with addiction. In fact, in the year following the film’s release, Downey was arrested for possession of heroin, cocaine, and an unloaded gun. He was given three years probation for this arrest and was then jailed for almost four months for skipping a court-ordered drug test.

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This wasn’t the end of troubles for Downey. Over this time, he breached his probation three times by failing to submit court-ordered drug tests, and in 1999, was sentenced to three years in prison. He served 15 months of his sentence and got an early release after posing bail. Eventually, following his release in 2000, he would finally go to a rehabilitation facility, and while there were some snags along the way, he ultimately became sober in 2003 and has been so ever since.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!