Benson in 1980
|Born||Robin David Segal
January 21, 1956
Dallas, Texas, United States
|Occupation||Actor, director, educator, singer|
|Spouse(s)||Karla DeVito (1982–present)|
Benson was born Robin David Segal in Dallas, Texas, the son of Freda Ann (née Benson), a singer, actor, and business promotions manager, and Jerry Segal, a writer. His family is Jewish. Benson was raised in New York City and took his mother's maiden name as his stage name when he was 10.
Benson made his film debut with an uncredited role in Wait Until Dark (1967) as the Boy Tossing Ball and his Broadway debut in The Rothschilds (1970). Benson had an early role on the daytime soap Search for Tomorrow (1971–72). As a film actor, Benson was well known for teenage roles in coming-of-age films, such as 1972's Jory, 1973's Jeremy, and as Billy Joe McAllister in 1976's Ode to Billy Joe.
He was listed as one of 12 "Promising New Actors of 1976" in John Willis' Screen World, Vol. 28 (1976), and auditioned for the role of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars (1977) but lost the role to Mark Hamill.
Benson also acted the role of George Gibbs in the 1977 television film Our Town based on the play by Thorton Wilder.
In 1975, Benson appeared in Death Be Not Proud and Lucky Lady. In 1977, he starred in One on One and the TV movie The Death of Richie. In 1978, he co-starred in The End and also Ice Castles, co-starring Lynn Holly Johnson, who was a U.S. national figure skating medalist. Benson, who had never ice skated before, learned to skate in order to film the movie, which had numerous skating scenes, including ice hockey.
In 1980, Benson starred opposite Linda Grovenor in the Orion film, Die Laughing. In the film, Benson plays a cabbie hoping to lead his band to a victory in a music contest, but he gets mixed up with a dead scientist and his top-secret laboratory monkey. This monkey is sought by a U.S. government official and a Russian criminal syndicate. The same year, Benson also starred in the movie Tribute opposite Jack Lemmon.
In 1981, he costarred in the film The Chosen, based on the book of the same name by Chaim Potok. The story looked at the lives of two young Jewish friends, one of whom is Hasidic. Benson was asked to play the role of the modern-orthodox boy, but he turned it down, insisting on playing the more religious part, explaining, "I wanted the challenge of playing Daniel, the ultra-Orthodox boy." The New York Times gave the film a mixed review, but noted that Benson's character was "full of a gentle inquisitiveness that cannot help but win the audience's sympathy." Literary critic Harold Bloom notes that the film rights to the book were originally bought by a Methodist fundamentalist from New Orleans, and explains why he wanted to see it turned into a film:
He wanted the world to see that there were American boys who were serious about their studies and about how to relate to their families and the world and that not every American teenager was into drugs and sex and hot rods.
Later in 1981 Benson accepted an offer to take over the romantic lead in the Broadway hit The Pirates of Penzance opposite Karla DeVito, who had gained fame touring with Meat Loaf and critical acclaim in Pirates. Immediately impressed with DeVito, both professionally and personally, he told the show's musical director she was the girl he wanted to marry.
In 1983, he starred in Running Brave, a movie based on the story of Billy Mills, a North American Indian brought up on the reservation, destined against all odds to become the 10,000 meters gold medalist in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. In 1984, he co-starred with Paul Newman in Harry & Son. In 1986, he played Detective Cliff Brady in the short-lived television series Tough Cookies.
The role Benson is most known for was the voice of the Beast in the Disney animated feature film Beauty and the Beast. He reprised the role in the Kingdom Hearts video game series. This role led to other voice work for animated features, including the Prince Valiant cartoon series The Legend of Prince Valiant and Exosquad (as the heroic Able Squad leader J. T. Marsh). Benson was also the voice of Prince Alexander in the computer game King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow. In 2000, Benson was the voice of Drake in Dragonheart: A New Beginning.
Musical accomplishments include writing "We Are Not Alone" sung by wife DeVito in the movie The Breakfast Club, co-writing "Nobody Makes Me Crazy Like You Do" on Diana Ross' Swept Away and several songs on DeVito's album Wake 'Em Up in Tokyo. A number of his original songs are featured in his multimedia book I'm Not Dead...Yet! and he was producer, composer, arranger and musician on daughter Lyric Benson's album Lyric's Love Light Revolution. In late 2012 Benson announced his intention to produce a new album featuring DeVito.
Benson has been a professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, the University of Utah and the University of South Carolina. It was announced he would serve as a professor of Practice in the fall of 2013 at Indiana University.
Benson married singer and actress Karla DeVito on July 11, 1982. They have two children, daughter Lyric and son Zephyr.
Benson was born with a heart defect which necessitated heart valve surgery in 1984 and 1998. He is an activist and fundraiser for heart research, which, in 2004, led him to write the book, lyrics and music for an original Off-Broadway play called Open Heart, in which he also starred. He practices Transcendental Meditation.
- Robby Benson Biography (1956-)
- Gordon, Buzz (2003-07-04). "Pulling Up Stakes". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Retrieved 2006-12-13.
- Roston, Tom (2008-10-12). "Robby Benson directs 'Billy: The Early Years'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
- Maslin, Janet (1977-08-19). "One-on-one Star And Writer Robby Benson Elated By Role...". St. Petersburg Times. pp. 14D. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
- "Wait Until Dark". RareFilmFinder. Retrieved 2011-05-30.
- Benson, Robby. I'm Not Dead Yet!, Begal Productions ebook (2012)
- Tribute (1980 film)
- "Janet Maslin review, "The Chosen", New York Times, 30 April 1982". The New York Times. 1982-04-30. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
- Bloom, Harold, ed. Chaim Potok's "The Chosen", Chelsea House (2005) p. 15
- Who Stole the Funny?: A Novel of Hollywood, HarperCollins Publishers, 2007. ISBN 0-06-124500-3.
- Links to get "I’m Not Dead… Yet!” in all ebook formats and paperback on the Official Robby Benson site.
- "Teaching credits". Robby Benson's official website. Bengal Productions, Inc. Retrieved 2013-03-25.
- "Actor and director Robby Benson to join Indiana University's telecommunications faculty". Indiana University. Retrieved 2013-03-25.
- "Neil Genzlinger review, "Words Can Never Harm Him, But Cardiac Arrest Can", New York Times, 23 March 2004". The New York Times. 2004-03-23. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
- I'm Not Dead Yet—or, "The Corpse Moved", 2012 ValorEditions.com, ISBN 978-0-9831416-2-4
- Official Robby Benson site
- Robby Benson at the Internet Movie Database
- Robby Benson at AllMovie
- Robby Benson Scrapbook, fan site
- Robby Benson's Speakers Bureau