To call Robert Downey Jr. a success story risks understatement of the highest order. For those of you grew up with the actor’s work, honestly ask yourself if you thought he would be alive today, much less leading a Forbes of actors who made the most money from June 2012 to June 2013.

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Following his great performance in Less than Zero (1987), Downey quickly transformed his own life into the character he played in that film. Julian Wells, a drug-addicted rich boy whose life rapidly spirals out of his control looked like the character that RDJ looked to emulate in real-life and, for that matter, real death.

Robert Downey Used Drugs With His Father At Age Six

Here is a man that once told a judge, “It’s like I’ve got a shotgun in my mouth with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun metal.” Junior claims that his struggles with addiction began as early as eight, after using drugs with his father at the age of six. Disqualifying his father from “Father of The Year” consideration, RDJ said, “When my dad and I would do drugs together, it was like him trying to express his love for me in the only way he knew how.”

The resurrection of RDJ’s career is almost the story of the phoenix that rose from the ashes and in no small part he owes it to well-known anti-Semite and heavy drinker Mel Gibson in a bit of irony. Gibson and Downey Jr. remained friends after co-starring in Air America together and it was Gibson who personally put up the bond that allowed RDJ to work on The Singing Detective, a film that continued Robert on his road to redemption in 2003.

Sweet Redemption

And what sweet redemption he has achieved. Downey tops Forbes’ list of Hollywood’s Highest-Paid Actors with an estimated $75 million in earnings between June 2012 and June 2013. The list was released today and can be viewed in its entirety here.

He’s starred in six movies that have each grossed over $500 million at the box office worldwide. Two of those films, The Avengers and Iron Man 3, each earned over $1 billion with The Avengers bringing in over $1.5 billion in worldwide box offices.

The success of The Avengers will see RDJ enjoying an even bigger payday when The Avengers 2 begins filming in February 2014. With this amount of money, there is little question that Downey will either die a rich man if he continues his sobriety, or just die if he suffers another relapse and returns to cocaine, heroin, and criminal trespassing when he passes out in his neighbor’s house again.