Robert Downey Jr. Juggled Oscars Weekend with His Kids’ Ball Games: ‘Both Starting Pitchers’ (Exclusive)

Robert Downey Jr. and his wife and producing partner, Susan, had to "divide and conquer" when their kids Exton, 12, and Avri, 9, had conflicting sports events

<p>A.M.P.A.S./Matt Sayles/courtesy of the Academy; Arturo Holmes/Getty</p> Robert Downey Jr. Oscars People Magazine Cover

A.M.P.A.S./Matt Sayles/courtesy of the Academy; Arturo Holmes/Getty

Robert Downey Jr. Oscars People Magazine Cover

The day before the 2024 Oscars, Robert Downey Jr. was faced with making a major decision.

Not about who to thank in another potential acceptance speech — he’d already delivered several with humor and self-deprecation as he swept the awards circuit for his portrayal of scheming bureaucrat Lewis Strauss in Oppenheimer.

No, Downey, 58, and his wife of 18 years, Susan, 50, “had to make the real high-level executive call,” he says: Which parent would accompany son Exton, 12, to Little League, and which would cheer on daughter Avri, 9, at her softball game?

“They were both starting pitchers,” notes Downey — so this was serious business. In the end, Downey rooted on Exton, and Susan, who's also the actor’s producing partner at their company, Team Downey, supported Avri. Says the actor, “We had to divide and conquer.”

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<p>Karwai Tang/WireImage</p> Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey attend the 2024 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Karwai Tang/WireImage

Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey attend the 2024 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Related: Robert Downey Jr. Has No Plans to Slow Down After Winning an Oscar: More ‘Tricks Up My Sleeve' (Exclusive)

With all due respect to the kids, it was Downey who knocked it out of the park the next day. Not only did he win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Oppenheimer but he delivered one of the most entertaining speeches of the night.

“I’d like to thank my terrible childhood and the Academy, in that order,” he said to laughter.

He then extended his gratitude to his family, including his three kids (Downey, is also a father to Indio, 30, from a previous marriage) and his “veterinarian, I mean wife,” Susan, whom he met while making the 2003 thriller Gothika, which she produced.

“She found me a snarling rescue pet and loved me back to life,” he continued. “That’s why I’m here.”

<p>©A.M.P.A.S./Matt Sayles/courtesy of the Academy</p> Robert Downey Jr. on the cover of PEOPLE's Oscars issue

©A.M.P.A.S./Matt Sayles/courtesy of the Academy

Robert Downey Jr. on the cover of PEOPLE's Oscars issue

Over the past two decades, the pair have built a happy home life, which Downey — who next appears in HBO’s miniseries The Sympathizer, produced by Team Downey — credits for grounding him.

“It gives me something to attach my neurosis to that’s positive,” he quips while speaking with PEOPLE at the post-Oscars Governors Ball shortly after his victory.

“We all love his playfulness,” adds Susan. No matter what hobbies Exton and Avri get into, Downey dives in. “He really cares about whatever they care about. And he will be indulgent,” she says. “Years ago [they were] into pancake art. We had everything you needed for pancake art.”

Related: Robert Downey Jr. Says the 2024 Oscars Felt Like His 'Wedding Night' with Wife Susan — Here's Why (Exclusive)

<p>John Shearer/WireImage</p> Susan Downey and Robert Downey Jr. at the Oscars March 10

John Shearer/WireImage

Susan Downey and Robert Downey Jr. at the Oscars March 10

“The part I love is that I think for the kids, that whatever we built, whatever it is — and the wonderful cast of characters that we get to have circulating through lunches and dinners and hanging at our house — for the kids, it's just built a really safe space for them to figure out who they are and express themselves,” says Susan.

“He is definitely the source of humor and wit and joy,” she continues of Downey. “I see that coming out in my kids and I know where it's coming from. And it's just a very happy, very creative environment, and I believe he fosters it.”

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