Paltrow and Downey became friends after meeting at a film festival in the 1990s, though like much of Hollywood, she had doubts about the talented but manic actor who squandered his early promise through his partying and addictions.
He recalls that after they met, a mutual friend told him Paltrow had called looking for insights on Downey.
Downey: "She was like, 'What is wrong with him? Who is this guy?' She called him up asking, like, if it was going to be essentially bad for her reputation to be hanging out with me."
Paltrow: "That is not true!"
Downey: "Not your reputation. What I mean was, I was wild."
Paltrow: "He was really wild, and I was very naive. I immediately took a shine to him. ... Then he went off the radar for a little while."
Downey: "Sure, yeah. Just a decade or two."
Paltrow: "I didn't see him for a while."
Downey: "Not surprising."
Paltrow: "We lost touch and then ..."
Downey (laughing hysterically): "She was out there banging out one hit after the next, and I was locked in a bathroom somewhere. So be it. Life is beautiful."
Paltrow: "And now look."
The once out-of-control Downey looks like a man in complete control now. Backing him up and keeping him honest, much as Pepper steers Tony straight, is his wife and producing partner, Susan Downey.
They have a year-old son, and considering the mess he made of his personal life in his 20s and 30s, Downey's happiness on the home-front seems an appropriate complement to his career turnaround, which included an Oscar nomination for 2008's "Tropic Thunder" (he also was nominated for 1992's "Chaplin").
Is his future nothing but bliss?
"I see perpetual vainglory," Downey initially jokes. Then, "I see transitioning into things that are age and spirit appropriate, and I couldn't have imagined that I'd be here five years ago. Ultimately, it comes down to relationships. What keeps driving me to feel that there's more to explore in this universe is sitting right next to me," he said, glancing at Paltrow.
"And my significant other, my partner, is a great, creative producer, and there are ways she is starting to inch me toward that are probably for my highest good."
Tony Stark's billions may top Downey's millions, but the actor has one advantage over Iron Man. Tony has one Gal Friday in Pepper, while Downey has two — his wife and Paltrow.
"The cool thing is, and speaking of girl power, is she and the missus are friends," Downey says.
"I love his wife," Paltrow says.
"They're both, like, type-A, organized, and so Susan and Gwyneth organize our ability to stay close and keep our doors open to each other and be current with each other's lives and each other's kids."
"It's fun," Paltrow says. "We make an effort, because life can just get so busy and complicated, and we really go out of our way to carve out little pockets of time."
And the great perk of hanging with Paltrow?
"Suffice it to say," Downey says, "it's also really easy for me to get good tickets to a Coldplay concert."
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