Robert Downey Jr. thanks his 'terrible childhood' during his first Oscar win for “Oppenheimer”

The actor beat out fellow Best Supporting Actor nominees Sterling K. Brown, Robert De Niro, Ryan Gosling, and Mark Ruffalo.

Robert Downey Jr. blew his competition away at the 2024 Oscars.

The Oppenheimer star won Best Supporting Actor during Sunday's 96th Academy Awards ceremony, finally earning his first-ever Oscar after a Hollywood career spanning more than four decades. And during his acceptance speech, the actor joked that it's all thanks to his "terrible childhood."

<p>PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images</p>

PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

"I'd like to thank my terrible childhood and the Academy, in that order," Downey Jr. said. "I'd like to thank my veterinarian — I mean wife, Susan Downey — over there. She found me a snarling rescue pet and you loved me back to life. That's why I'm here. Thank you."

He went on to reveal his "little secret" was that he "needed this job more than it needed" him. "It was fantastic and I stand here before you a better man because of it," he added. "What we do is meaningful and the stuff we decide to make is important."

Downey Jr. then thanked his lawyer who has been working for him his entire career. "I'm just going to say this, my entertainment lawyer, Tom Hansen, of 40 years, the half of which he spent trying to get me insured and bailing me out of the hoosegow: Thanks bro," he said.

Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures Robert Downey Jr. in 'Oppenheimer'
Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures Robert Downey Jr. in 'Oppenheimer'

Downey Jr. portrays an aging Rear Admiral Lewis Strauss in Christopher Nolan's historical epic about the invention of the atomic bomb that ended World War II. The role has now earned him the Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, and Critics’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor, making it a clean sweep of all the major awards shows this year.

He beat out fellow nominees Sterling K. Brown for American Fiction, Robert De Niro for Killers of the Flower Moon, Ryan Gosling for Barbie, and Mark Ruffalo for Poor Things. The award was presented by past winners Ke Huy Quan, Sam Rockwell, Mahershala Ali, Tim Robbins, and Christoph Waltz.

Downey Jr. has previously been nominated twice for an Oscar, with his first nomination in 1993 for his portrayal of silent movie star Charlie Chaplin in Richard Attenborough’s biopic Chaplin. His second nomination came in 2009 for Tropic Thunder.

This marks not only Downey Jr.'s first Oscar win, but also the first time a former Saturday Night Live cast member won an Oscar. The actor was hired on the NBC comedy series at 20 years old for the 1985-86 season that also featured the likes of Anthony Michael Hall, Joan Cusack, and Randy Quaid on the cast. However, he infamously only lasted one season, which he has described as "arguably the worst season in its history."

The 96th Academy Awards aired Sunday, March 10, on ABC. See the full list of 2024 Oscar winners here.

Check out more from EW's The Awardistfeaturing exclusive interviews, analysis, and our podcast diving into all the highlights from the year's best in TV.

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