When Robert Downey Jr. urged Hollywood movers and shakers Friday night to forgive his friend Mel Gibson "his trespasses," it certainly created a lot of buzz at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. But it was hardly the only emotional moment at the the 25th annual American Cinematheque Award gala.
Celebrity after celebrity -- including Jodie Foster, Guy Ritchie, Michael Douglas, Jennifer Aniston, Jon Favreau and Jack Black --- talked about the double Oscar nominee's courage in turning his life around after years of drug addiction that led to him serving time in prison.
The evening also included countless clips of Downey's work over the last quarter century, including his early films "Weird Science," "Back to School" and "Less Than Zero"; his Oscar-nominated turns in "Chaplin" and "Tropic Thunder"; and of course "Sherlock Holmes," "Wonder Boys," "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" and both "Iron Man" blockbusters.
But it was his wife, Susan Downey, and his father who provided some of the most poignant moments.
Robert Downey Sr., a director, showed a clip of his son's acting debut at the age of 5 in "Pound," which featured actors playing dogs in a pound. Sporting longish hair and an impish grin, the younger Downey played the role of a puppy who is adopted. The elder Downey said that he and his wife couldn't afford a babysitter so they brought their son to work that day and a star was born.
Yet the elder Downey said: "The moment you turned your life around was more heroic than any movie. I am proud to be your father."
Susan Downey, who produces the "Sherlock Holmes" films and is expecting the couple's first child early next year, explained that "creativity is in his blood."
Pausing, she touched her belly and added, "no pressure kid."
Her husband beamed.
-- Susan King
Photo: Robert Downey Sr. addresses the audience during the 25th American Cinematheque Award benefit gala honoring his son, actor Robert Downey Jr., on Friday in Beverly Hills. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press