Robert Downey Jr Is Starting An Odd New Project

Robert Downey Jr is making moves in his post-Marvel career with a very interesting new project about a forgotten and dangerous group.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

robert downey jr

Robert Downey Jr is one of the most famous movie stars in the world, famously conquering years of series substance abuse issues to become the primary figure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the best-paid actor in the world. Since his departure from the franchise with 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, the actor has been atypically quiet, releasing only the disappointing Doolittle in 2020. Per Deadline, Robert Downey Jr and his wife Susan are getting into the podcasting game by producing a new podcast The Sunshine Place, which will investigate the notorious drug rehabilitation program-turned-violent cult Synanon. 

Although Synanon is not a household name today, it was an enormously popular and influential organization in the 1960s and 1970s. The Robert Downey Jr-produced podcast will explore how a drug rehabilitation methodology developed by a former Alcoholics Anonymous member named Charles Dederich became a vast organization across the United States pulling in tens of millions of dollars in income a year. Eventually, Synanon declared itself to be a religious movement and received tax-exempt status from the IRS. Over time, Synanon transformed into an authoritarian cult run by Dederich, who encouraged rampant violence, confrontational brainwashing techniques, and eventually the attempted murder of an attorney via rattlesnake in his mailbox. 

In the last fifteen years, podcasting has transitioned from a niche medium to a massively popular industry. In particular, shows like Serial and My Favorite Murder caused an explosion in the true crime genre, making it a national fixation. It makes a lot of sense that Robert Downey Jr would move into producing one, especially given that his production company Team Downey has been developing film and television projects since 2010. If Robert Downey Jr is looking to become a media mogul in the same way as Dwayne Johnson or Ryan Reynolds, it would be logical to begin spreading into different fields to try to cover the market as thoroughly as possible.

The Sunshine Place will be narrated by Sari Crawford, the daughter of one of the former leaders of Synanon. The organization has been officially defunct as of 1991, but many former members of Synanon are still alive and presumably have stories to tell. The limited series podcast will run for eight episodes. In addition to Robert Downey Jr and Susan Downey, the show will be produced by Josh McLaughlin and Chris Corcoran (for Wink Pictures and Cadence13, respectively). The Sunshine Place will be written and produced by the team of Perry Crowell, Zak Levitt, Ian Mandt, and Bill Schultz.

Up until very recently, it seemed that Robert Downey Jr was looking into reviving his other big 2010s franchise, in which he starred as Sherlock Holmes along with Jude Law’s Watson. However, it seems plans for a third movie have gone into development hell and it is anyone’s guess what could happen to the two separate Sherlock Holmes spin-off series being developed for HBO Max, given the sudden restructuring of Warner Bros Discovery companies. The Sunshine Place is scheduled to be released on August 10.