Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey Are Jumping Into Podcasting

Robert Downey, Jr. and his wife and producing partner Susan are making the leap into podcasting, appearing on a new show for the Cadence13, a media company with titles like The Ghostwriter (with Parks and Recreation's Adam Scott) and Unsolved Mysteries in their roster. The Sunshine Place will center on the Synoanon Cult, a former California-based experimental drug rehab facility and community that morphed into a dangerous and violent cult, led by its messianic founder Charles E. Diedrich, according to a report at Deadline.

Synanon was founded as a rehabilitation program in 1958, and rebranded as the Church of Synanon in the 1970s. Its rise and fall was a significant cultural moment, and the church lost its nonprofit status in the U.S. in 1991. The dissolution came amid reports of violent crimes, terrorism, and making patients in their program disappear. The cult's activities were first made public knowledge in 1978, when an NBC Nightly News report shone a light on their misdeeds, resulting in hundreds of death threats and harassing calls made to NBC News staff. 

Before it was disgraced, The 1965 Columbia Pictures movie Synanon, was set at, and filmed in, the church. Directed by Richard Quine, the film starred Edmond O'Brien as Chuck Dederich, alongside Chuck Connors, Stella Stevens, Richard Conte, and Eartha Kitt.

"While we were familiar with Synanon, it wasn't until we heard the deeply personal stories that we could truly appreciate its epic rise and fall," said Susan Downey and Robert Downey, Jr. in a statement. "We felt this was a strangely relevant and twisted cautionary tale that had to be told about the incredible lengths people will go to seek out answers and the more dangerous ones others will provide."

"This is a story we were immediately drawn to, and wanted to tell," added Chris Corcoran, Chief Content Officer and Founding Partner, Cadence13. "'It's an honor to be able to tell incredible stories like this with such a great team in Susan, Robert, Emily, and Josh in collaboration with our brilliant C13Orginals creative team."

The move comes as more and more A-listers are moving into podcasting, where a few days' work can pay dividends for months, and the pandemic-related inconveniences of travel and filming are mitigated. The series comes from Team Downey and Wink Pictures for Audacy-owned Cadence13. Here's the official synopsis for the 8-part show:

The Sunshine Place will tell the story of Synanon from the inside out, and by the people who lived it, charting its rise and exploring its decade-long reign over '60s and '70s counterculture through the recollections of members, survivors, and dedicated chroniclers. The series will be narrated by Sari Crawford, daughter of a former Synanon leader Bill Crawford.

The Sunshine Place miniseries will launch on August 10.