"Susan is cut from a slightly different cloth to Deb and I, and she's provided a great new framework for a lot of things. Susan doesn't really care if this building fell down and we never did another movie again so long as we were happy and loving and together, but so long as it hasn't she's operating on the fact there's a lot of shit to get done. She is a master at it - I wouldn't be surprised if she'd built the pyramids."To this day, Downey doesn't believe in the rehabilitative effects of jail, considering its value more akin to containment. "I do think there is something divine about large-scale humiliation, but no, it never worked for me. It never produced enough of a blow back for me to catch the drift. It doesn't so much produce results as just get your attention; you become a fish in the barrel and there's really something quite beautiful about that. Jail didn't help me any more or less than anything else. But I now know I created that experience for a reason, and I'm only just starting to understand those reasons. Remember this is California, right? 'Come on vacation, leave on probation.' I mean, I can't believe I stayed out of the pen for as long as I did. And I didn't mind it inside really; it wasn't so bad."
I tell him I find this hard to believe. "Listen, a prison is just like a public [state] school. Did you ever go on a film set on location? It's just like prison. Have you ever been in a bad relationship? It's just like having a celly who wants to kill you. Have you ever been in a street fight? It's just like chow-time. Have you ever been to a rave-up? It's like a yard riot. I wouldn't wish it on anybody, but it neither fazed me, nor changed me, nor informed me - but maybe it toughened me up a little bit. It's kind of like a lazy military operation with great moments of delight and horror. Pray you avoid it."
To watch the actor, as i leave him now, discussing with a pretty young member of Team Downey who, out of the two of them, will be calling the star's mother-in-law to discuss the arrangements for a forthcoming Hawaiian family holiday, it's remarkable to think that all this - the three-storey modernist house, the two humdinger movie franchises, the action dolls, the silly-millions in the bank, the second wife who keeps him grounded (despite his protestations otherwise), the son who considers him a real-life superhero, the otherworldly introspection - so nearly didn't happen. Considering Downey's staggering acting talent, if it weren't so very nearly true, it would be laughably preposterous.
Before I leave, I ask Downey whether he ever begrudges the Hollywood elite for not honouring him with an Oscar for Chaplin in 1992. He was nominated for Best Actor but lost out to Al Pacino for his role in Scent Of A Woman. According to legend, as soon as Downey, then backstage, saw how many little gold men they were giving out that evening, his nervousness transformed instantly into flippancy at the idiocy of all the glamorous industry hoopla.
"No I wasn't hurt," he states without missing a beat, followed by a classic Downeyism. "First of all, I want to qualify that there is no physical pain by not winning something. There is psychological turmoil and lack of understanding, but what is really going on here? Because I can say that I've been stiffed. I can lie, and pretend I worry. But I don't care. I. Don't. Care. Honestly. There was a time when I thought the only way out of hell was to win a certain type of award. And then I thought, what a pitiful existence."
We walk over to the edge of his balcony where the iron, slate and concrete movie-star citadel meets real-world meandering traffic and the threat of a double-dip recession.
"Look, as long as I stick around I'm going to end up with a bunch of them anyway as they're going to run out of people to give them to. And I'm probably going to win it one year when someone else deserves to win it. Why? Because it's my time, goddamnit. And that's the way shit works around here. I'm just an uptight mutt at the top of his game. Welcome to Hollywood, bitch! I'll see you at the Vanity Fair party and I'll be holding that golden statue you deserve 'cause guess what? It happened to me too, motherf***er!"
And with that Robert Downey Jr looks at me wide-eyed and laughs so hard he can hardly believe it himself.