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Posted at 10:42 AM ET, 08/12/2008

In Praise of Robert Downey Jr.

A lot has already been said in praise of Robert Downey Jr. He's the ultimate comeback kid, giving hope to fallen stars and recovering addicts the world over. And, although in the picture above he couldn't possibly look more like Wayne Newton, it is nearly impossible to snark at this guy -- who has gone from less than zero to iron man (literally and figuratively) over the course of his 20-some year career.

Though he came of age on film in schlocky teen fare like "Weird Science" and "Tuff Turf" (and we all know "Pretty in Pink's" Duckie Dale was just a cheap RDJ rip-off) it wasn't long before Downey was leaving peers like Anthony Michael Hall behind to take on more challenging roles and garner critical praise. Parts with more heft and less box office punch, like "Restoration" and "Chaplin," marked Downey's emergence as a real actor. Still, as successful as he was on-screen, Downey's off-screen addictions undercut his career gains at every turn (and carried some personal costs, like the loss of long-time girlfriend Sarah Jessica Parker).

Clean now for a little more than five years (thanks Burger King), Downey has made giant-size strides in the past few -- pleasing both critics (in indies like "A Scanner Darkly") and studio execs and fans with his winning turn as "Iron Man" Tony Stark. But despite all the accolades and steady work now coming his way, Downey remains grounded. Following "Iron Man's" mega-success, Downey was quick to dial back what he saw as a budding ego trip:

"Suddenly, for a minute, I felt like everyone needed to take a knee and listen to what I had to say, because I f--kin' made it, and my way works and all this stuff. Then I go home and I go, 'Oh my God, what's happening to me? I gotta get grounded here.'"

I'm not sure how much today's post will help with keeping him grounded, but hey, we like to give credit where due around here. And because it's a slow August day and the biggest thing shaking in the celebrity world is Jake Gyllenhaal's abs, let's pause and take a moment to heap praise and adulation on Robert Downey Jr., man of iron -- and irony.

By Liz Kelly  |  10:42 AM ET, 08/12/2008

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