AC: Robert you found fame very early on in your career when you starred in Richard Attenboroughs film of the life story of Buster Keaton, Buster Keaton: His Life Story. Do you think that early success led inevitably to your drugs problem?
RDJ: Well I dont think it helped, put it that way. But you know, I dont think its the whole story. I mean unless youve lived in Hollywood you just dont realise what its like. I was downtown the other day and I went into Mothercare. You can buy gold cocaine straws with the Tellytubbies on them in there. Its jungle. A jungle full of drugs.
AC: I read in your autobiography, Baked on Powder that you were spending upwards of $25, 000 a week on your habit. Surely there must have been point when you thought, "What am I doing?" Didnt you?
RDJ: To be honest Im not sure how much money I was spending towards the end. If anything thats a conservative estimate. When you have so much disposable income then you start to run out of ways to spend it. If youre on drugs on top of that then all sorts of shit goes down. In 1971, Dennis Hopper got so loaded one weekend that he drove down to Cape Kennedy and started screaming that NASA had faked the moon landings and that he had the pictures to prove it. Then he offered them $500,000 to buy an Apollo lunar module and passed out. Drew Barrymore once tried to eat a live Llama. I got so bad that I was putting cocaine in everything. I was having cocaine burgers, cocaine coffee. Actually, cocaine is the only thing Ive ever found that makes Starbucks coffee taste drinkable.
AC: Your eventual arrest caused something of a media circus didnt it?
RDJ: Its funny but I dont bear any ill will towards the media at all. In fact a lot of them have been very supportive. When CBS News won a Newsy Award for the coverage of my trial they sent me a postcard that said, "We couldnt have done it without ya! Love from the CBS Newsroom" I was touched by that. I suppose when you get arrested in a motel room in a drug-induced stupor with twelve prostitutes dressed as cheerleaders you have to expect a certain level of public interest. The fact that when the police tried to question me, I told them that I could turn into a pumpkin any minute really didnt help.
AC: You were sentenced to two years in prison. As a well-known celebrity how did you find the prospect of being locked up with hardened criminals?
RDJ: At first I was fearful. I didnt know what to expect. This was something so far outside of my sphere of consciousness that they might as well have sent me to prison on Venus. Then my agent came to talk to me and she gave me some advice. That really helped me more then anything else anybody said to me at that time.
AC: And what was that?
RDJ: She looked me right in the eyes and she said, "Honey. Youve worked in Hollywood for fifteen years. You aint never gonna find a bigger bunch of crooks then the people youve been working for all this time. Go get em tiger!"
AC: So what was your actual prison experience like?
RDJ: One thing that prison takes away from you is your freedom. But in a way what it gives you back is time. Time to think. To look back at your past and to see where you went wrong. In my case that was simple, Id been inhaling half the gross national product of Bolivia for years.
Prison makes you conform. You have to wake when you are told to. Eat when you are told to. You even have to go to the toilet when you are told to. When youre used to having what ever you want thats very hard. When I hear people complain on set now, I say, "Yes, Michael Mann may be a demanding son of a bitch but compared to a six foot five prison guard called Jeff hes a pussy cay."
But having so much time on my hands was in a way a catharsis for me. I discovered literature, poetry and art. I even found God for a short while. You know, the love of Jesus is a powerful force. It also impresses parole boards no end.
AC: That brings me onto your initial release. You were paroled but within 48 hours you were back inside again. What went wrong?
RDJ: That was my own stupid fault. I got out of prison and the minute I get home, I received a telephone call. Its Charlie Sheen. He says, "Lets celebrate your release." I reminded him of my parole conditions but he convinced me that everything would be fine. 24 hours later the cops picked me up. Id been driving at 80 miles an hour the wrong way down the freeway dressed as Penelope Pitstop screaming, "Whos the Daddy?" at the oncoming traffic. They suspected immediately that I might have been taking drugs. They blood tested me and discovered that I should have been clinically dead. I was back in jail within hours.
AC: That must have been a very bitter blow.
RDJ: No actually it was Columbian so it was quite easy on the nasal membranes. The Bolivian is the nasty stuff.
AC: I meant going back to prison must have been a bitter blow.
RDJ: Oh it was. I was in the depths of despair. I honestly hadnt been so depressed since Id lost the lead in LA Confidential to Russell Crowe. But again my friends supported me. I got a card from Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman saying, "We know your resolve is as strong as our marriage. Love T and N". Also Lennie on D wing made a card for me. It read, "Sorry youze got busted Killer". Killer was his prison nickname. He wasnt actually a murderer, he was an arsonist. He burned down a church. Unfortunately thered been a service on at the time.
AC: Your time in prison seems to have made you a stronger person. Now that you are free again are you going to make changes in your life?
RDJ: Yes. Yes I am. This is Year Zero for me. Im wiping the slate clean and starting over again. Im attending therapy regularly. I also go to Los Angeles Addicts Anonymous. LAAA have been great. They really support you when youre at your lowest. Carrie Fisher started going there just after she married Paul Simon. One thing they told me is "Dont look back. Look forward." Thats what Im doing. This is where I start again.
AC: Robert Dooley Jr, thank you.
Since this interview was conducted Robert Dooley Jr has been rearrested on suspicion of drug offences. He was arrested at Kennedy Airport trying to direct the planes while dressed in a Superman suit and singing a medley of Britney Spears greatest hits. His trial comes up next month.