The Oscar-nominated film star, who could be released from the California Substance Abuse Facility and State Prison in Corcoran as early as November after time off for good behavior, said in a series of interviews for the magazine's August issue that he has not used drugs since June of 1999 and is ready to rejoin society.
A writer for Vanity Fair who visited Downey in prison five times over the course of eight months described the 35-year-old star of 1992's Chaplin in the article as having taken on the "appearance and disposition" of a prisoner and angry during a final visit in May.
"I'm just sinking further into my depression sessions," Downey said. "Sometimes I'm just dead, living in a f——— warehouse. I'm ready to get out."
Downey was sentenced in August of 1999 to three years in prison by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge who found that the actor had violated his probation on a 1996 cocaine possession charge by repeatedly missing mandatory drug tests.
During the course of the five interviews, the magazine reports, Downey's attitude over his incarceration ranges from sanguine to bitter as he describes sharing a cell with four other inmates and working in the prison kitchen for eight cents an hour.
Downey began serving his time by keeping to himself, but eventually began to interact with his cellmates, sharing his food and keeping them entertained with Hollywood stories and even leading Christmas carols.
"All these years, my favorite thing to do in life was to be laughing until the tears welled up," Downey said. "Now I've found that humor is something as valuable as an Aqua-Lung is to divers."
The magazine reports that Downey evaded questions on whether he has been sexually assaulted in prison, changing the subject twice and finally responding: "I can never confirm or deny it."
During a later phone interview, the magazine said, Downey emphatically denied being sexually assaulted but said to the writer: "I would never tell you the worst things that have happened to me" in prison."
One of Downey's former cellmates told Vanity Fair that the actor, son of filmmaker Robert Downey Sr. and actress Elsie Downey, nearly came to blows with another inmate after a game of racquetball.
But Downey, who last appeared alongside Michael Douglas in this year's Wonder Boys, denies getting involved in any prison-yard scuffles.
The actor told Vanity Fair that he attends drug rehabilitation classes five days a week and is tested "all the time," which keeps him from backsliding into his former addiction.
"I haven't used drugs since June of 1999 — (taking) Thorazine at L.A. County jail was my swan song," he said. "End of story"—Reuters.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)