July 23, 1998 12:00 AM

Since he left jail on Aug. 2, Robert Downey Jr. hasn’t missed a professional beat. Downey Jr., who served 12 months in a state prison in Corcoran, Calif., for drug and weapons charges, first scored a recurring role as Calista Flockhart’s love interest on FOX’s “Ally McBeal.” His latest coup? He’ll star as Hamlet in a Mel Gibson-directed production of the Shakespeare play, reports Variety. Downey, 35, and Gibson, 44, reportedly became friends when they costarred in 1990’s action-comedy “Air America” as renegade pilots for the C.I.A. during the Vietnam War. Gibson (who also played the role of the tortured Danish prince in the 1990 film) has not directed a film since his Oscar-winning turn at the helm of 1995’s “Braveheart.” The Downey Jr./Gibson stage production is scheduled to bow in January at an undetermined Los Angeles theater. Variety also reports that plans are underway for a “star-studded cast” to appear alongside Downey Jr.

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