November 29, 2000 -- All eyes in the entertainment industry are on Robert Downey Jr., as the actor returns to work on the set of Fox's Ally McBeal following a weekend arrest on drug charges.
Downey was due to film the last two of 10 episodes he is under contract to do for the legal comedy series. Though the New York Post speculated that one of Downey's concerned Ally castmates may have been the anonymous caller who snitched to police about his alleged drug use, things seemed to be business as usual among Downey's TV colleagues.
"Shame on me! I'm angry at myself for not having invited [Robert Downey Jr.] to my house for Thanksgiving," Jami Gertz told Variety's Army Archerd today. Gertz, now Mrs. Tony Ressler and the mother of three young boys, originally co-starred with Downey in 1987's Less Than Zero — featuring Downey as a down-and-out drug addict — and has recently guested on four episodes of Ally with Downey.
During a conference call with reporters, Fox executives left open the possibility of extending Downey's recurring role, which has boosted Ally's ratings this fall.
"Nobody has closed the door on the possibility of his coming back later in the season," Sandy Grushow, chairman of the Fox Entertainment Television Group, told Reuters. "There could be more. Right now we don't have a deal with him."
TV Guide magazine quoted a source close to the show as saying that producers had "been trying to work out a big-bucks deal to keep [Downey] for as long as they could" but that "all bets are off now."
Anonymous Tip Led to ArrestOn Saturday, police received an anonymous 911 call from a man who claimed there was a man with cocaine and "a couple of guns" in the hotel room where Downey was staying at Merv Griffin's Resort Hotel in Palm Springs, Calif. Officers found and arrested Downey Saturday.
He was charged with possession of cocaine and methamphetamine, being under the influence of a controlled substance, and committing a felony while out on bail. No weapon was found at the scene, though in a bizarre twist, one of the items confiscated was a Wonder Woman costume.
'Sad and Lonely'A woman identified as Laura Burnett told Access Hollywood that Downey appeared sad and lonely during much of his time in her company over the Thanksgiving holiday. According to the Post, she claims that the two met at the club where Burnett works and then retired to Downey's hotel room.
"He was really down most of the time," Burnett told the syndicated TV program. "He was a little upset [about] the holidays and not being with his family." The actor's 7-year-old son apparently was not with him in Palm Springs.
Burnett said Downey was not always glum. "He did a lot of role playing for us from Chaplin and a few of his movies," she said, in a reference to Downey's Oscar-nominated role in the 1992 screen biopic. "He was actually fun to be around."
Arrest Jeopardizes Film RolesDowney is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 27, two weeks before he is due to begin filming the Joe Roth-helmed comedy America's Sweethearts. Roth told The New York Times today, "I don't know what's going to happen. … It's heartbreaking that this happened. We're trying to sort it out now. We don't want to hurt him in any way, but we have to figure out what we'll do for our movie."
Gossip columnist Cindy Adams claims that Downey's arrest has also cost him the chance to snag a lead role in Basic Instinct 2. The actor apparently discussed the role with the manager of BI star Sharon Stone, Chuck Binder, during a game of tennis last week.
Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Marty Herskovitz, who worked on one of the actor's previous drug cases, told The Associated Press that Downey could be looking at a maximum sentence of six years and eight months in prison if he is convicted of charges from the Palm Springs arrest.
Lucky BreakThe actor's latest arrest came just three months after Downey was freed from prison, where he'd served a year for a previous drug conviction. He was released when an appeals court ruled that there had been a sentencing error in his case.
Downey's latest incident comes on the heels of a lucky break for the actor in his bid to remain a free working man. The California State Supreme Court last week denied a request by prosecutors to review the ruling that led to the actor's Aug. 2 release.
Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Kahan told Reuters that the high court's decision leaves the state with no further right to appeal Downey's release, rendering the appellate decision final.
Downey's attorney, Robert Waters, said this ruling means Downey was no longer on bail at the time of his arrest, which would negate one of the current charges against him.
Reuters contributed to this story.