He made his acting debut at the age of five, playing a sick puppy in the absurdist comedy Pound (1970), and then at seven appeared in the surrealist Greaser's Palace (1972).He attended the Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Center in upstate New York as a teenager.
At that stage, I didn't give a fuck whether I ever acted again." Before the end of his first season on Ally Mc Beal, over the Thanksgiving 2000 holiday, Downey was arrested when his room at Merv Griffin's Hotel and Givenchy Spa in Palm Springs, California was searched by the police, who were responding to an anonymous 911 call.
A month later, while on parole, he trespassed into a neighbor's home while under the influence of a controlled substance, and fell asleep in one of the beds.
He received three years of probation and was ordered to undergo compulsory drug testing.
When his parents divorced in 1978, Downey moved to California with his father, but in 1982, he dropped out of Santa Monica High School, and moved back to New York to pursue an acting career full-time.
Downey began building upon theater roles, including in the short-lived off-Broadway musical American Passion at the Joyce Theater in 1983, produced by Norman Lear.