Robert Downey Jr found it easy to relate to the bedridden character he portrays in new movie The Singing Detective, because it mirrors his own struggle with drugs and alcohol.

The 38-year-old actor credits his own experiences - including a stint in rehab that followed a year in prison - for giving him inspiration to play the title character who is afflicted with a disease that attacks the joints and causes agonising skin psoriasis.

He says, "You can make miraculous recoveries from seemingly hopeless situations if you put your mind to it and you have enough support. I think it's about the process of maturing."

The movie sees Downey Jr starring alongside Robin Wright Penn, KATIE HOLMES, Jeremy Northam and his pal Mel Gibson.

27/10/2003 02:31