Robert Downey Jr. attacks his demons --The former drug addled actor channels his energy towards a slate of new films including ''Kiss Kiss Bang Bang''

”It’s sick how good I look at my age,” he says with a smile. ”I look at some of my peers who maybe didn’t throw down as many hard-ass rubber-to-the-road miles as I did, and I look fantastic!”

Robert Downey Jr. is lucky.

It may sound odd, since we’re talking about a guy whose every misstep — every arrest, perp walk, detox, and blackout in a neighbor’s kid’s bedroom — was chronicled in the press back in the late ’90s. But it’s true. As true as the fact that he’s sitting here right now.

Which, in itself, is a testament to his dumb luck. Because after all of the hazy, half-remembered coke-fueled nights, and the too-too-early mornings desperately trying to score more, Robert Downey Jr. should be dead. He knows it every time he looks in the mirror and sees the fantastic-looking irony of it all staring back at him.

The baddest bad boy of them all is 40 years old now, and he doesn’t have a scratch on his body. It’s remarkable. There are some grooves that bracket his mouth when he smiles that mischievous smile. But really, with everything he’s been through, his face should look as beat-up as the Acropolis by now.

Sitting at a trendy poolside hotel bar in downtown Los Angeles, Downey is 20 years older than everyone in the place. And yet, he looks so good, so healthy, that he could probably stop the interview right now and start leading a yoga class, just as long as he eighty-sixed the unfiltered Camel dangling from his mouth.

Aside from the cigarettes, his only remaining vice, Downey keeps his racing mind distracted these days with meditation, therapy, 12-step programs, exercise, and work. Lots and lots of work. He’s in two movies this year, including George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck. And he’ll be in seven next year, working with some of Hollywood’s most prominent directors — Richard Linklater, Curtis Hanson, and David Fincher.

Acting has become like a drug for him. The thing he once took for granted and almost pissed away, he now needs more than he’s ever needed it before. Because Downey wants to make good on the promise that’s always flickered underneath the madness: that he could be his generation’s greatest actor if he just stopped acting like its most screwed-up one.

”I’ve probably taken better care of myself in the last 700 days than I ever have before,” he says. ”I feel like because I’ve finally gotten out of my own way, I can enjoy my reputation. Because for all intents and purposes, what I should be right now is this ne’er-do-well, embittered, unemployable guy arguing with some hooker outside a Malibu hotel scrambling for a syringe. But I’ve got it really good. I’ve got a great gal, my kid’s good, and I really love this movie.”

The great gal is Susan Levin, a movie producer whom he married this summer. The kid is his 12-year-old son, Indio (by his first wife, Deborah Falconer). And the movie is Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang — a twisty noir comedy in which dumb luck plays a key part. Downey stars as a hapless New York thief named Harry Lockhart who evades the police by hiding out in an acting audition, stumbles into landing a part in a movie, and is sent out to Hollywood, where he gets into even more trouble.