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Robert Downey Jr., once an honorary member of the infamous 1980s Brat Pack, was born into the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Indulged at home and introduced to both film and drugs by his father at the ripe old age of seven, Downey would take both to the edge. Nominated for an Academy Award in 1992 for his performance in the film Chaplin, this talented but troubled young man would soon see his career successes overshadowed by the excesses of his personal life.

The hand of destiny attached itself to the strong arm of the law in 1996 when Robert Downey Jr. was stopped for speeding and police found heroin, coke and an unloaded .357 Magnum in his car. This fateful event would begin a series of arrests and court appearances that would eventually send him to prison and lead him to say ,”I’m feeling a little nostalgic and I see myself—and a lot of my issues—as being stuck in the 80s a little bit. So I want to quote Donna Summer: ‘enough is enough.’”

Astrologically, what brought Downey to his knees was a series of life-changing transits that coincided with the chaotic events of the last four years, revealing that destiny often trumps free will. And it’s not over yet.

Boys Just Want to Have Fun

Downey was paroled from prison on August 2 after an appeals court ruled he had actually served four months more than needed. With typical Aries speed (Downey is an Aries), he wasted no time. He had been out of prison just two weeks when he bounced on stage to sing with Sting at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and committed to star in eight upcoming episodes of Ally McBeal.

Robert Downey Jr. was born on April 4, 1965, at 1:10 pm in Manhattan, New York. His Sun is in Aries, the sign of youthful exuberance and the celebration of life. Surrounded by both Venus and Mercury in Aries, it anchors a whirlwind of self-seeking energy that lives in the moment, leaps before thinking and has a foolhardy disregard for authority or consequences. Fueling his unbridled celebration of life is the self-indulgent hedonistic nature described by his Jupiter (big and expansive) and Moon (habits and needs) conjunction in Taurus (sensuous pleasures). Additionally, Neptune, the planet of dreams, illusions, film and drugs is opposite the Moon, drawing Downey to experiences that transcend the ordinary world.

Commenting on Downey’s drug use, a friend from his teenage years says,” I don’t think it was the pressure that drove him to use. He doesn’t have any pressure, he just parties.” It would be easy to dismiss Downey as a spoiled brat. Certainly, much of his horoscope could be interpreted as the recipe for a self-indulgent party boy with an insatiable appetite for anything and everything that gives pleasure in the moment. But Downey’s self-centered hedonism is much deeper, darker and more complex.

Flirting With Death

Downey has Mars, Pluto and Uranus (all retrograde) conjunct in Virgo. This combination reveals him to be a self-effacing (Virgo) man whose actions are directed inward (Mars retrograde) and toward a desire to penetrate to the core of every experience in a compulsive (Pluto) and experimental (Uranus) need to eliminate, purify and perfect (Virgo) himself. Though his complusiveness and his reckless desire to flirt with the agonies and ecstasies of life may be central to his powers as a “liberated creator,” turned inward (Mars retrograde), they speak of the sadistic pleasure (Pluto) he gets from inflicting pain upon himself. Or in Downey’s own words, “It is like I have a shotgun in my mouth, and I’ve got my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of gun metal.”

The Dark Night of the Soul

Astrologers use words such as power, passion, intensity, transformation, death, rebirth and metamorphasis when describing the action of transiting Pluto. One thing is certain, Pluto is ruthless. The seemingly endless barrage of life-changing transits by Uranus, Neptune and Saturn to Downey’s horoscope over the last four years seem to have been orchestrated to disrupt, restrict, humble and weaken the head-strong Downey and bring him to his knees in preparation for the greatest challenge of his life, transiting Pluto square Mars, Saturn, Uranus and its own natal position.

Once in each lifetime, a person is compelled to look at their life from the inside out. Resist and your world is inverted, death seems near and you enter a void of meaninglessness out of which arises questions about who you are and what life is all about. As Pluto squares its natal position, destiny challenges you to redefine who you are and find meaning in your life.

For Downey, whose natal Pluto is conjunct both Mars and Uranus and opposite Saturn, this is a painfully significant, long and drawn out transit that officially began in early 1999 as transiting Pluto moved to square his Mars, and will not end until late 2002, when Pluto moves away from its final square to itself. During this time, the "powers that be" (Pluto) will force Downey to change his self-destructive actions (square Mars retrograde), to discipline and accept responsibility for himself (square Saturn) and to diametrically change his lifestyle (square Uranus). It won’t be pleasant, it won’t be easy and it definitely won’t be fun.

Fate and Free Will

One could reasonably argue that Downey could have exercised free will, moderated his excesses and avoided the humbling events of the past few years. But as we all know, change is difficult, and life is seldom reasonable. However, with the bat out of the cave, Downey’s choices are clearly defined. Fate has given him a glimpse of the future his excesses would bring. The question now is: Having been given a glimpse of the future, will he exercise his free will and find the courage to redefine his life and resurrect the creative promise he once revealed?



Pat Lantz is a practicing astrologer currently researching the use of astrology as a developmental tool with infants and toddlers. Contact Pat to participate in this study or for information about developmental astrology.

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Other StarIQ articles by Pat Lantz:

  • The Infant, the Moon, Mom and Emotions   9/8/2012
  • Ashley Judd: The Best Is Yet to Come   5/28/2001
  • Rosie O'Donnell: The Aries "Queen of Nice"   4/26/2001
  • The Terrible Twos   4/13/2001
  • Haley Joel Osment: Fate, Luck and Opportunity   2/4/2001
  • Winona Ryder: Audrey Hepburn of the 90s   1/11/2001
  • Lara Flynn Boyle and Jack Nicholson   12/15/2000
  • Defiant Prayers Kick Off High School Football Season   10/18/2000
  • The Televangelist and the Transvestite   10/6/2000
  • Richard Cheney: A Saturn-Ruled Aquarian   8/24/2000
  • Bruce and Demi: Love Dies Hard   8/11/2000
  • Alan Greenspan’s Opus   8/9/2000
  • Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: Echoes of Camelot   8/3/2000
  • The Supremes: Where Did Their Love Go?   6/16/2000
  • Travolta’s Alien Nature   4/28/2000
  • Jefferson and Clinton: Saints or Sinners?   4/6/2000
  • Charles Schulz Bids Adieu   2/13/2000

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