MOTW: Tim Robbins: From Teenage Theater to the Silver Screen

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures
February 21st, 2013

MOTW: Tim Robbins: From Teenage Theater to the Silver Screen

Tim Robbins, whose full name is Timothy Francis Robbins, is an American film actor, director, screenwriter, and producer. He is also a musician and is known for his political activism. Robbins was born into a theatrical family on October 16, 1958 in West Covina, California, but his parents moved with him to New York so they could pursue their acting and singing careers.

Robbins began his own stage career at age twelve. While attending New York's prestigious Stuyvesant High School, he joined the drama club. He also performed during the summer at the Theater for the New City. His most important teenage performance was the starring role in a summer production of "The Little Prince," a musical based on the famous novel of the same name.

The budding star studied at the State University of New York for two years before he transferred to the UCLA Film School. Once he graduated college, he formed an experimental theater group, the Actor's Gang, with a group of friends. One of those friends was John Cusack, who also became a well-known Hollywood actor. While performing along with the Actor's Gang, Robbins also played relatively minor film roles. The first role that got him noticed was as one of the baseball players in the film "Bull Durham." He also met his former romantic partner, actress and fellow activist Susan Sarandon, on the set of this film in 1988. The two performers enjoyed a long relationship that lasted for twenty-three years.

His success in "Bull Durham" catapulted Tim Robbins into the ranks of Hollywood's lead actors. Some of his more memorable leading screen roles included a troubled Vietnam War veteran in 1990's "Jacob's Ladder" and a successful but devious film executive in the 1992 film "The Player." Robbins received a Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his role in "The Player." During the early 90s, he also shot a politically oriented mock documentary called "Bill Roberts," and he directed "Dead Man Walking," a film in protest of the death penalty, in 1995.

If there is one mid-90s film for which Tim Robbins is truly remembered, it is the prison thriller "The Shawshank Redemption." His stellar performance in the role of Andy, a banker who is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover, is among the many reasons that "The Shawshank Redemption" was a popular and critical success that continues to be respected as a classic American film.

Robbins continued to direct and to appear in films throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. His roles included performances in thrillers such as "Arlington Road" as well as in comic films such as the famed "The Hudsucker Proxy," a satire of corporate America. In 2003, Tim Robbins won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in "Mystic River" as a man who was abused as a child and continued to suffer into adulthood. He also won the Man of the Year award from the Harvard Hasty Pudding Club in 2005.

His stage directing career includes a remake of the Depression-era musical "Cradle Will Rock" in 1999, as well as a 2006 theatrical interpretation of the George Orwell novel "1984." The 2006 production first played at Robbins' own Actor's Gang theater in Culver City, California. It then played internationally in locations including Athens, Greece, and Melbourne, Australia.

Tim Robbins returned to the movie world in 2008 as a costar of "The Lucky Ones," and he also starred as the father of the villain in the superhero film "The Green Lantern" in 2011. His next film-related role will be as a judge of the famed Berlin International Film Festival in 2013. He is also set to direct and star in an upcoming film called "Man Under."

Robbins also enjoys a successful side career as a musician and songwriter. He released an album in 2010, and this album includes songs he wrote over a twenty-five-year period. He successfully took the album and his band on a world tour.

In addition to his entertainment work, Tim Robbins is a noted political activist. He has faced criticism for his outspoken liberal views, and he has been particularly active in causes connected to refugees. He also contributed his talents to the animated film "Embedded," a satire of the war in Iraq.

Tim Robbins is the father of two sons, Miles and Henry, both of whom he had with Susan Sarandon. He is a sports fan who regularly attends baseball and hockey games. He is also an amateur ice hockey player.