Robert Downey Jr.’s Cosmic Punishment
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Downey takes a couple more vitamins, rummages around the debris in the little black box, closes it, gives a yank at his heart-covered socks, and heads for the door. Jimmy awaits, and we head toward Santa Monica Boulevard and his conference with Ritchie.

"Meetings. I never thought I'd be in so many meetings," says Downey. He's soon off on another tangent, speed-talking about being at a dinner party at producer Joel Silver's house and talking to his Venetian chef and deciding to take his son, Indio, on a cultural vision quest to Italy, staying in three-star-or-less hotels. "Just take a week, just him and me. He's into it; maybe in a year he won't be." Downey, stretching out in the backseat, has put on a long, grandmotherly black sweater. "This is going to happen soon," he insists.

I get the sense that between the production meetings, media junkets, and the next 'Sherlock' flick, the trip probably won't happen. Somehow, Downey has lived long enough to have a "Cat's in the Cradle" moment. But like with most busy, middle-aged fathers, his heart is in the right place. The charismatic, sad, naughty, self-destructive man-child I met in 1992 is long gone, replaced by a sometimes self-rationalizing, sometimes solipsistic grown-up who now knows how to get out of the way of the truck. Something has been lost, and something has been gained.

They drop me off at my car a few minutes later. Downey shakes my hand and slides into the front seat. He gives a wave and, with a little actorly flair, puts on his seat belt. For the first time, I can imagine Robert Downey Jr. living to be a nice old man. The car drives away slowly, never crossing the center line.