Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey Reveal How They've Successfully Balanced Romance and Work

Star and producer of The Judge cover The Hollywood Reporter

By Zach Johnson Oct 01, 2014 6:45 PMTags
Robert Downey Jr., Susan Downey, The Hollywood ReporterCourtesy The Hollywood Reporter

Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey are the yin to each other's yang.

Before The Judge hits theaters, the power couple covers The Hollywood Reporter's Oct. 10 issue. In a rare joint interview, they reveal why their polarity makes them perfect partners in business and in life.

The couple met in 2003 while Susan was producing her first movie for Joel Silver. Given that she'd been working at his Silver Pictures since 1999, she knew that Gothika could be her big break. As such, she was focused on work, not romance. "We were up in Montreal prepping for Gothika, and we had lunch with the director and Halle Berry," Susan recalls of their first encounter. "Everybody else ordered Japanese, but Robert told us how oatmeal was the 'superfood.' He brought his own packets of oatmeal to have at lunch. And he had this box of various herbs and stuff. And then he started doing these yoga moves."

Susan adds, "I mean, he was interesting, but weird."

Robert's weirdness, as it turned out, won over the producer.

Within three months, Robert proposed. He wasn't yet divorced from model-singer Deborah Falconer, whom he wed in 1992 after 42 days of dating. Eventually, however, Susan agreed to marry him. She made him wait two years and insisted that her fiancé get sober, or she'd break up with him for good. "Addiction was so foreign to me," she says. "I was incredibly ignorant of the hold it had on people."

"Thank God for that," the actor says. "If she knew the depths of my depravity, we would not be sitting here." Robert, 49, and Susan, 40, got married in a Jewish ceremony in the Hamptons in August 2005.

Susan, who is pregnant with a baby girl, says she was "very focused, driven, rigid, work-oriented" before meeting Robert. "I didn't care about having a family or making a home. I didn't think about kids. It's not that I didn't want those things; I just didn't think about them. And then I had someone who came in as a tornado, this creative, beautiful ball of insane energy and passion. And it completely opened me up."

Their careers flourished, and out of necessity, they instituted a two-week rule: Never spend more than a fortnight apart. When they built their own production company, Team Downey, in 2010, however, they modified it a no-week rule. "Our feeling was, if we wanted to spend time together, have a life together, then we should just go ahead and make movies together," Susan says. Her husband, half-jokingly, adds, "Susan holds one pillar and I hold the other, and this creative arc of tension just flows between us."

They found success with the Sherlock Holmes and Iron movies, and they plan to do even more together. "Before I met Susan, I didn't even know what producers did, except yell at you when you
did something they didn't like," the actor confesses. "Now that I understand what they do, she's the only one I want."

In many ways, Robert and Susan balance each other out.

"She's still the person who always knows the most direct route from A to B," Robert marvels. "If you're trying to get through traffic from Malibu to Burbank, or wherever, she'll beat nav every time. She must have the most branched neural pathway system in history." Susan says humbly, "I like traffic patterns."

Robert has no problem mixing business with pleasure. "I see it as a part of several different therapeutic interactions that we are constantly engaged in. It's another form of co-parenting. We co-parent our children, our relationship, our business. It's all the same," he explains. "It's all part of the therapy of life."