Robert Downey Sr., Director and Father of Actor Robert Downey Jr., Dies at 85

Robert Downey Sr and Robert Downey Jr (Photo by Larry Busacca/WireImage)

Robert Downey Sr., director of the countercultural satire “Putney Swope” and the father of actor Robert Downey Jr., died Wednesday in New York. He was 85.

Downey Jr. posted about his father on Instagram, writing “Last night, dad passed peacefully in his sleep after years of enduring the ravages of Parkinson’s…he was a true maverick filmmaker.”

Downey Sr. also acted, and directed several other films that gained a cult following. But 1969’s “Putney Swope” was given a mainstream release and thus exposed his work to a wider audience, which was shocked (even appalled) by much of what they saw at the time. The devastating satire of Madison Avenue follows what happens when an African American activist is given a free hand at an ad agency.

“Putney Swope” made New York Magazine’s list of 10 top films of the year.

Downey Sr. also acted, in films including “Boogie Nights” (1997), “Magnolia” (1999) and “The Family Man” (2000).

The cult director thrived in the auteur-driven 1970s film industry with irreverent works such as “Pound,” in which humans played dogs awaiting adoption. “Greaser’s Palace” (1972) was an outrageous restaging of the life of Christ in the context of a spaghetti Western, and Time put the film on its list of the year’s top 10 movies.

In the early ’70s he worked on projects for Joseph Papp and the New York Public Theatre, and directed David Rabe’s play “Sticks and Bones” in a live broadcast for CBS in 1973. The sponsors reacted to the play’s strong anti-war sentiments by pulling out at the last minute, forcing the network to air the play without interruptions.

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SOURCE: Variety, Carmel Dagan