A Rude Awakening for an Actor

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Just hours after he was charged with one drug crime, actor Robert Downey Jr. was arrested on a new narcotics charge when he slipped unnoticed into a neighbor's Malibu house and passed out in a bedroom--only to be found by a stunned homeowner, authorities said Wednesday.

Downey, 31, was arrested late Tuesday night on suspicion of trespassing and being under the influence of a controlled substance, which authorities believed to be heroin. He spent the night in the jail ward at County-USC Medical Center and was released Wednesday morning on his own recognizance.

The Oscar-nominated actor's troubles set off alarm bells in Hollywood. Agents around town said they feared the arrests could hurt his career.

On Tuesday, Downey was charged with felony counts of cocaine and heroin possession in connection with a June 23 speeding arrest in Malibu. He also faces misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence and having a concealed weapon in his vehicle in that incident. He will be arraigned July 26 in that case.

Downey's latest misadventure appeared to stem from a mistake.

He wandered into the home of neighbors Bill and Lisa Curtis, who live 17 houses south of Downey on Broad Beach Road, a quiet two-lane street that runs along the coastline. Both homes are on the west side of the road and have similar double wooden garage entrances.

Bill Curtis said his wife, who was home at the time, offered this account:

Downey entered the home through an open door and probably descended a circular staircase before finding a spare bedroom. There he laid his pants neatly over a chair and, wearing a T-shirt and boxer shorts, tucked himself into the sheets and fell asleep.

Curtis' wife discovered Downey sleeping when she entered the room around 9 p.m. She called sheriff's deputies and a neighbor, who found Downey's identification. Paramedics revived the actor.

"He was sitting up--groggy, looking very white and gaunt," Curtis said. "At no time was he doing anything the least bit threatening."

Agents across town offered their own sad assessments of Downey's situation.

"Two drug arrests in a row? Yes, this can seriously damage your future in this town," said one agent at United Talent Agency, which used to represent Downey.

Added an executive from the now-defunct Carolco Pictures, which was involved with the movie "Chaplin," a role that brought Downey an Oscar nomination and is widely considered to be his best performance: "Poor Robert, he's rock-bottoming out."

Downey has bounced among three talent agencies in the last year.

The movement, agents say, has mirrored the actor's turbulent personal life in recent months.

Downey is separated from his wife, model Deborah Falconer; they have a 3-year-old son.

Downey was resting at his home Wednesday and did not comment about his arrest. His attorney, Charles English, told reporters that the actor was sorry for his actions and had apologized to the Curtis family. "Mr. Downey has a problem," English said. "He's taking care of it. He appreciates everyone's concern. A treatment program is under way."

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