Robert Downey Sr.'s Cause of Death: What to Know

The death of filmmaker and actor Robert Downey Sr. saddened movie fans earlier this week. His family confirmed Wednesday that the 85-year-old, who is the father of actor Robert Downey Jr., passed away in his sleep in New York City Tuesday night. While no official death certificate has been released, Downey Jr. confirmed that his father had endured "the ravages of Parkinson's" disease for years.

Downey Jr., 56, wrote on Instagram that his father "was a true maverick filmmaker and remained optimistic throughout" [his battle with Parkinson's]. "According to my stepmom's calculations, they were happily married for just over 2,000 years. Rosemary Rogers-Downey, you are a saint, and our thoughts and prayers are with you."

Downey Sr. was an actor and filmmaker best known for Putney Swope — the 1969 film about an advertising firm the inadvertently elects Putney Swope, the firm's only Black executive, as chairman — and Greaser's Palace. He also appeared in Boogie Nights, Magnolia and To Live and Die in L.A. He also worked in the television world, directing three episodes of The Twilight Zone and acting in shows like Matlock and Tales of the City. reports that Downey Sr., who was born in Manhattan in 1936 as Robert Elias Jr., took on the last name of his stepfather, James Downey, as part of an attempt to join the military when he was underage. Though his efforts fell short, the name stuck and he carried the surname Downey throughout his illustrious career.

Along with Downey Jr., Downey Sr. also had a daughter, Allyson, whom he shared with his first wife, Elsie Downey. He and Elsie married in 1962 — welcoming Downey Jr. in 1965 — and divorced her in 1982 but remained lifelong friends. Downey married his second wife, Laura Ernst, in 1991 and remained married until her death three years later. In 1998, he married Rogers.


The New York Daily News, who first reported Downey Sr.'s passing, reports that his ashes will be scattered by his family at Rockaway Beach near Gildea's pub, where he reportedly liked to say he "misspent his youth." Rogers told The News, "Bob was a New Yorker through and through from Greenwich Village to Queens to Chelsea to Waterside Plaza, where he spent the last 23 years of his life."