Robbins, Tim 1958(?)–

views updated Jun 11 2018

ROBBINS, Tim 1958(?)


Full name, Timothy Francis Robbins; born October 16, 1958 (some sources cite 1959), in New York, NY (some sources cite West Covina, CA); son of Gil (a folksinger, musician, publishing executive, and nightclub owner) and Mary (an actress) Robbins; brother of David Robbins (a composer), Adele Robbins (an actress), and Gabrielle Robbins (a cabaret performer); companion of Susan Sarandon (an actress); children: Miles Guthrie (an actor), Jack Henry (an actor), Eva Marie Livia Amurri (stepdaughter; an actress). Education: University of California, Los Angeles, B.A., theatre (with honors), 1981; attended State University of New York College at Plattsburgh; studied acting with Georges Bigot at Theatre du Soleil. Politics: Green Party. Avocational Interests: Hockey, baseball.

Addresses: Office Havoc Productions, 16 West 19th St., 12th Floor, New York, NY 10011. Agent International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211; Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Publicist Lisa Kasteler, Wolf/Kasteler/Van Iden and Associates Public Relations, 335 North Maple Dr., Suite 351, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.

Career: Actor, director, producer, composer, and writer. Theatre for the New City (avantgarde acting troupe), member of company, c. 1970; Actors' Gang, Los Angeles, founder and artistic director, 198197, 2001; Havoc Productions (also known as Chaos Productions), New York City, owner and producer, beginning c. 1993; political activist; also worked in a factory.

Awards, Honors: L.A. Weekly Director Award, 1981, for Ubu Roi; Los Angeles Drama Critics Award nomination, c. 1990, for The Good Woman of Setzuan; Cannes International Film Festival Award, best actor, 1992, Golden Globe Award, best performance by an actor in a motion picturecomedy/musical, 1993, and Film Award nomination, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, best actor, 1993, all for The Player; Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a motion picturecomedy/musical, and Bronze Award, Tokyo International Film Festival, both 1993, for Bob Roberts; Volpi Cup (with others), best ensemble cast, Venice International Film Festival, 1993, and Special Golden Globe Award (with others), best ensemble cast, 1994, both for Short Cuts; National Board of Review Award (with others), best ensemble performance, 1994, for PretaPorter; Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role, 1995, for The Shawshank Redemption; Humanitas Prize, Human Family Educational and Cultural Institute, feature film category, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, Prize of the Guild of German Art House Cinemas, Berliner Morgenpost Reader Jury Award, and nomination for Golden Berlin Bear, all Berlin International Film Festival, Academy Award nomination, best director, Golden Globe Award nomination, best screenplaymotion picture, all 1996, all for Dead Man Walking; Annual CableACE Award (with others), National Cable Television Association, best entertainment in a cultural documentary special, 1996, for The Typewriter, the Rifle & the Movie Camera; Crystal Iris, Brussels International Film Festival, 1996; PiperHeidsieck Tribute to Independent Vision Award, Sundance Film Festival, 1997; named one of "the top 100 movie stars of all time," Empire, 1997; National Board of Review Award, special achievement in filmmaking, 1999, nomination for Golden Palm, Cannes International Film Festival, 1999, Gran Angular awards, Catalonian International Film Festival, best director and best film, 2000, and People's Choice Award, Istanbul International Film Festival, international competition, 2000, all for Cradle Will Rock; Southeastern Film Critics Association Award, best supporting actor, 2003, Boston Society of Film Critics Award (with others), best ensemble cast, 2003, Golden Globe Award, best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a motion picture, 2004, Academy Award, Chicago Film Critics Association Award, Florida Film Critics Circle Award, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, and Online Film Critics Society Award nomination, all best supporting actor, Screen Actors Guild Award, outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role, Film Award nomination, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, best performance by an actor in a supporting role, and Screen Actors Guild Award nomination (with others), outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture, all 2004, all for Mystic River.


Film Appearances:

Boe, Toy Soldiers (also known as Guerrilla salvaje ), New World, 1984.

Nelson, No Small Affair, Columbia, 1984.

Gary Cooper, The Sure Thing, Embassy, 1985.

Larry "Mother" Tucker, Fraternity Vacation, New World, 1985.

Lieutenant junior grade Sam Wills (Merlin), Top Gun, Paramount, 1986.

Phil Blumburtt, Howard the Duck (also known as Howard: A New Breed of Hero ), Universal, 1986.

Harry, Five Corners, Cineplex Odeon, 1987.

Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh, Bull Durham, Orion, 1988.

Delmount Williams, Miss Firecracker, Corsair, 1989.

Title role, Erik the Viking (also known as Erik viking ), Orion, 1989.

Jeff, Twister, 1989.

Josh Tager, Tapeheads, Avenue, 1989.

Jacob Singer, Jacob's Ladder (also known as Dante's Inferno ), TriStar, 1990.

Larry, Cadillac Man, Orion, 1990.

Jerry, Jungle Fever, Universal, 1991.

Title role, Bob Roberts, Paramount/Miramax, 1992.

Griffin Mill, The Player, Fine Line, 1992.

Himself, Post No Bills, 1992.

Gene Shepard, Short Cuts, Fine Line, 1993.

Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption, Columbia, 1994.

Ed Walters, I.Q., Paramount, 1994.

Joe Flynn, PretaPorter (also known as PretaPorter: Ready to Wear and Ready to Wear ), Miramax, 1994.

Norville Barnes, The Hudsucker Proxy (also known as HudsuckerDer grosse Sprung ), Warner Bros., 1994.

Nick Beam, Nothing to Lose, Buena Vista, 1997.

Himself, Nusrat: A Voice from Heaven, 1998.

Oliver Lang/William Fenimore, Arlington Road, Screen Gems, 1999.

President of the United States, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (also known as Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me ), New Line Cinema, 1999.

Voice on film reel, Cradle Will Rock, Buena Vista, 1999.

Ian "Ray" Raymond, High Fidelity, Buena Vista, 2000.

Himself, Last Party (also known as The Party's Over ), Film Movement, 2000.

Woodrow "Woody" Blake, Mission to Mars (also known as M2M ), Buena Vista, 2000.

Gary Winston, AntiTrust (also known as ), MetroGoldwynMayer, 2001.

Nathan Bronfman, Human Nature, Fine Line, 2001.

Lewis Bartholomew, The Truth about Charlie, Universal, 2002.

Dave Boyle, Mystic River, Warner Bros., 2003.

Narrator, The Day My God Died, Andrew Levine Productions, 2003.

Tibetan voices, Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion, Artistic License, 2003.

William, Code 46, United Artists, 2003.

The Education of Gore Vidal (documentary), 2003.

(Uncredited) Rival anchor, Anchorman (also known as Action News, Action Newsman, and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy ), DreamWorks, 2004.

Film Director:

Bob Roberts, Paramount/Miramax, 1992.

Dead Man Walking, Polygram, 1996.

Cradle Will Rock, Buena Vista, 1999.

Film Producer:

Dead Man Walking, Polygram, 1996.

Cradle Will Rock, Buena Vista, 1999.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Himself, Get Up, Stand Up, 2003.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Marvin, Quarterback Princess, CBS, 1983.

Joseph Cotten, Malice in Wonderland (also known as The Rumor Mill ), CBS, 1985.

First teen, Trenchcoat in Paradise, 1989.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Comic Relief IV, HBO, 1990.

Himself, AllStar 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever! (also known as Sesame Street's AllStar 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever! ), ABC, 1994.

Himself, Luck, Trust & Ketchup: Robert Altman in Carver Country (also known as Love, Trust & Ketchup ), Bravo, 1994.

Gore Vidal (also known as Gore Vidal's Gore Vidal ), Arts and Entertainment, 1995.

Host and narrator, The Typewriter, the Rifle & the Movie Camera, Independent Film Channel, 1996.

Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular, NBC, 2000.

Himself, Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature, Channel 4, 2001.

Himself, VH1 News Special: Islamabad Rock City, VH1, 2001.

Himself, New York at the Movies, Arts and Entertainment, 2002.

(In archive footage) Who Is Alan Smithee?, American Movie Classics, 2002.

Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:

Presenter, The 65th Annual Academy Awards Presentation, ABC, 1993.

The 50th Golden Globe Awards, TBS, 1993.

Presenter, The 51st Golden Globe Awards, TBS, 1994.

Presenter, The 67th Annual Academy Awards Presentation, ABC, 1995.

Presenter, The 13th Annual MTV Video Music Awards (also known as The 1996 MTV Video Music Awards ), MTV, 1996.

Presenter, The 69th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1997.

Presenter, The 24th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, ABC, 1997.

Presenter, The 56th Annual Golden Globe Awards, NBC, 1999.

Presenter, MTV Video Music Awards 1999, MTV, 1999.

Presenter, Sports Illustrated's 20th Century Sports Awards, CBS, 1999.

Presenter, The 10th Annual IFP Gotham Awards, Bravo, 2000.

Himself, MTV Video Music Awards 2000, MTV, 2000.

Presenter, The 76th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2004.

Himself, The 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards, NBC, 2004.

The 10th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, 2004.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Arthur Reinhardt, "Bypass," St. Elsewhere, NBC, 1982.

Arthur Reinhardt, "Cora and Arnie," St. Elsewhere, NBC, 1982.

Arthur Reinhardt, "Down's Syndrome," St. Elsewhere, NBC, 1982.

Brewster Kingston, "How the Other Half Dies," Legmen, NBC, 1984.

Johnson, "Scared Stiff," Hardcastle and McCormick, ABC, 1984.

Patrolman Lawrence Swan, "Rookie Nookie," Hill Street Blues, NBC, 1984.

Fremmer, "Gunfight at the SoSo Corral," Moonlighting, ABC, 1985.

Jordon's phantom, "Mirror, Mirror," Amazing Stories, NBC, 1986.

Performer in short early version of Bob Roberts, Saturday Night Live (also known as NBC's Saturday Night, Saturday Night, and SNL ), NBC, 1986.

Himself, Late Night with David Letterman, NBC, 1990, 1992.

Saturday Night Live (also known as NBC's Saturday Night, Saturday Night, and SNL ), NBC, 1992.

Himself, The Late Show with David Letterman, CBS, multiple appearances, beginning 1994.

Voice of Jim Hope, "Grift of the Magi," The Simpsons (animated), Fox, 1999.

Himself, "Two Party Political System," Dennis Miller Live, HBO, 2000.

Himself, Mad TV, Fox, 2000.

Himself, "Susan Sarandon: Rebel with a Cause," Biography (also known as A&E Biography: Susan Sarandon ), Arts and Entertainment, c. 2000.

Himself, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, CBS, 2000, 2001 (multiple episodes).

Himself, "Tim Robbins: Playing from the Heart," Biography (also known as A&E Biography: Tim Robbins ), Arts and Entertainment, 2002.

Himself, The View, ABC, 2002, 2003, 2004.

Himself, Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show, syndicated, 2003.

Himself, On the Record with Bob Costas, HBO, 2003.

Himself, Tinseltown.TV, 2003.

Himself, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, NBC, 2003, 2004.

Himself, Larry King Live, Cable News Network, 2004.

Himself, Last Call with Carson Daly, NBC, 2004.

Himself, NY Graham Norton, 2004.

Himself, OnAir with Ryan Seacrest, syndicated, 2004.

Also appeared in episodes of other series, including The Daily Show (also known as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart ), Comedy Central; Inside the Actors Studio, Bravo; Real Time with Bill Maher, HBO; and Today (also known as NBC News Today and The Today Show ), NBC.

Television Executive Producer; Specials:

The Typewriter, the Rifle & the Movie Camera, Independent Film Channel, 1996.

The Spectre of Hope (also known as Salgado: The Spectre of Hope ), Cinemax, 2000.

Television Work; Other:

Director of short early version of Bob Roberts, Saturday Night Live (episodic; also known as NBC's Saturday Night, Saturday Night, and SNL ), NBC, 1986.

Director and producer, Queens Supreme (pilot), CBS, 2003.

Stage Appearances:

Ubu Roi, Los Angeles area, 1981.

Slick Slack Griff Graff, 1985.

The Guys, Actors' Gang, New York Shakespeare Festival, Flea Theatre, New York City, 1989.

Nick, The Guys, Actors' Gang, Hollywood, CA, 2002.

Stage Director:

Ubu Roi, Los Angeles area, 1981.

A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1984.

(With Adam Simon) Carnage: A Comedy, Actors' Gang, Tiffany Theatre, Los Angeles, 1988, then New York Shakespeare Festival, Susan Stein Shiva Theatre, Public Theatre, New York City, 1989.

The Good Woman of Setzuan, 1990.

Mephisto, Actors' Gang, Hollywood, CA, 2001.

Embedded (oneact), New York Shakespeare Festival, Estelle R. Newman Theatre, Public Theatre, New York City, 2004.



Himself, Hidden Vulnerability: A Look into the Making of "Arlington Road, " Columbia/TriStar Home Video, 1999.

Himself, Antitrust: Cracking the Code, MetroGoldwynMayer, 2000.

(In archive footage) Lord Stanley's Cup: Hockey's Ultimate Prize, 2000.

Video Work:

Guest camera operator, Pearl Jam: Touring Band 2000, 2001.



Bob Roberts (based on a short film that aired on Saturday Night Live ), Paramount/Miramax, 1992.

Dead Man Walking, Polygram, 1996.

Cradle Will Rock, Buena Vista, 1999.

Film Music; Songs:

Song "Repave Amerika," Tapeheads, Avenue, 1989.

(With David Robbins) Bob Roberts, Paramount/Miramax, 1992.

Dead Man Walking, Polygram, 1996.

Song "Cobbler in Despair," Cradle Will Rock, Buena Vista, 1999.


Short early version of Bob Roberts, Saturday Night Live (episodic; also known as NBC's Saturday Night, Saturday Night, and SNL ), NBC, 1986.

Stage Plays:

(With Adam Simon) Slick Slack Griff Graff, 1985.

(With Adam Simon) Carnage: A Comedy, Actors' Gang, Tiffany Theatre, Los Angeles, 1988, then New York Shakespeare Festival, Susan Stein Shiva Theatre, Public Theatre, New York City, 1989.

Embedded (oneact), New York Shakespeare Festival, Estelle R. Newman Theatre, Public Theatre, New York City, 2004.

With Simon, also wrote After the Dog Wars, Alagazam, Farmer, and Violence: The Misadventures of Spike Spangle.

Radio Plays:

Mayhem: The Invasion, L.A. Theatre Works, broadcast 1992.

Author of other radio plays.


Cradle Will Rock: The Movie and the Moment, edited by Theresa Burns, foreword by Paul Newman, historical notes by Eric Darton and Nancy Stearns Bercaw, additional contributions by Robert Tracy, Newmarket Press, 2000.

Contributor to periodicals, including Nation.



Cineaste, spring, 1996, p. 4.

Cosmopolitan, June, 1992, p. 170.

Empire, issue 82, 1996, pp. 9293; October, 1997, p. 198; December, 1997, p. 11.

Entertainment Weekly, June 26, 1992, p. 12; March 22, 1996, p. 26; February 6, 2004, pp. 5859; March 12, 2004, p. 123.

Interview, August, 1992, p. 66; March, 2004, pp. 12630.

Nation, April 5, 1999, pp. 1314, 1618, 20.

Newsweek, November 12, 1990, p. 77.

New York Times, September 10, 1989, pp. H9, H34.

Parade, February 8, 2004, p. 20.

People Weekly, January 22, 1996, p. 29.

Playboy, October, 1992, p. 140; February, 1995, pp. 4748, 50, 52, 54, 5660, 62.

Premiere, March, 1989, p. 37; November 1, 2003, p. 124.

Progressive, June, 1991, p. 36.

Times (London), November 13, 1997.

US Weekly, June, 1997.

Vogue, September, 1992, pp. 56872.

Robbins, Tim

views updated May 29 2018


Nationality: American. Born: Timothy Francis Robbins in West Covina, California, 16 October 1958; son of the folksinger Gil Robbins, of The Highwaymen. Family: Longtime companion of the actress Susan Sarandon, sons: Jack Henry, Miles Guthrie. Education: Attended State University of New York at Plattsburgh; University of California, Los Angeles, graduated 1981; studied French with the actor George Bigot of the Theatre du Soleil. Career: Began acting with the Theatre for the New City, an avant-garde theater, 1970; co-founded The Actor's Gang, an avant-garde theater company, later becoming its artistic director, 1981; made short film for TV's Saturday Night Live, which was later to serve as the inspiration for Bob Roberts, 1986; with Adam Simon, wrote the play Carnage, performed at Actor's Gang, Tiffany Theater, California; established his own independent company, HAVOC Productions, 1988. Awards: Best Actor at Cannes Festival, British Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Comedy/Musical, for The Player, 1992; Bronze Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival, and Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Comedy/Musical, for Bob Roberts, 1992; Volpi Award for Best Ensemble Cast, Venice Film Festival, for Short Cuts, 1993; Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, for The Shawshank Redemption, 1994; Academy Award nomination for Best Director, Golden Globe nomination for Best Screenplay-Motion Picture, Humanitas Prize from the Human Family Educational & Cultural Institute, Golden Bear nomination and Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, Prize of the Guild of German Art House Cinemas, and Reader Jury of the 'Berliner Morgenpost,' for Dead Man Walking, 1995. Agent: William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.

Films as Actor:


Quarterback Princess (Black—for TV) (as Marvin)


Toy Soldiers (Fisher) (as Boe); No Small Affair (Schatzberg) (as Nelson)


Fraternity Vacation (Frawley) (as Larry "Mother" Tucker); The Sure Thing (Rob Reiner) (as Gary Cooper); Malice in Wonderland (The Rumor Mill) (Trikonis—for TV) (as Joseph Cotten)


Howard the Duck (Huyck) (as Phil Blumburtt); Top Gun (Tony Scott) (as Sam Wills)


Five Corners (Bill) (as Harry Fitzgerald); Bull Durham (Shelton) (as Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh); Twister (Almereyda) (as Jeff)


Tapeheads (Fishman) (as Josh Tager, + mus); Erik the Viking (Terry Jones) (title role); Miss Firecracker (Schlamme) (as Delmount Williams)


Cadillac Man (Donaldson) (as Larry); Jacob's Ladder (Dante's Inferno) (Lyne) (as Jacob Singer)


Jungle Fever (Spike Lee) (as Jerry)


The Player (Altman) (as Griffin Mill)


Short Cuts (Altman) (as Gene Shepard)


The Hudsucker Proxy (Coen) (as Norville Barnes); The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont) (as Andy Dufresne); Ready to Wear (Prêt-a-Porter) (Altman) (as Joe Flynn); I.Q. (Schepisi) (as Ed Walters)


Nothing to Lose (Oedekerk) (as Nick Beam)


Arlington Road (Pellington) (as Oliver Lang); Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (Roach) (as The President)


Mission to Mars (De Palma) (as Woody Blake); High Fidelity (Frears) (as Ian Raymond); Anti-Trust (Howitt)

Films as Director:


Bob Roberts (+ title ro, sc, mus)


Dead Man Walking (+ sc, pr)


Cradle Will Rock (+ sc, co-pr)

Other Films:


The Typewriter, the Rifle & the Movie Camera (Simon) (doc) (as Himself)


By ROBBINS: books—

Dead Man Walking: The Shooting Script, Newmarket Press, 1997.

Cradle Will Rock: The Making of the Movie, Newmarket Press, 1999.

By ROBBINS: articles—

Robbins, Tim, "Leaving the Demons at the Office," in Premiere (New York), January 1991.

Interview with Claudia Dreifus, in Progressive (Madison, Wisconsin), June 1991.

"Tim Robbins," interview with S. Morgan, in Interview (New York), August 1992.

"20 Questions: Tim Robbins, interview with W. Kalbacker, in Playboy (Chicago), October 1992.

Robbins, Tim and Julia Roberts, "Rendezvous with Tim and Julia," interview in Interview (New York), January 1995.

Interview in Playboy (Chicago), February 1995.

"Between Ethics and Politics: An Interview with Tim Robbins," interview with R. Grundmann and C. Lucia, in Cineaste (New York), no. 2, 1996.

Robbins, Tim, "On Death Row," in Interview (New York), January 1996.

"Unser Justizsystem ist unfair," interview with M. Kohler, in Film & TV Kameramann (Munich), April 1996.

"'Cradle' Robbins," interview with Annalee Ellingson, in Box Office Magazine (Los Angeles), 10 December 1999.

On ROBBINS: articles—

Silberg, J., "Close-up: Tim Robbins," in American Film (Los Angeles), November 1988.

Carnahan, M., "Tim Robbins," in Premiere (New York), March 1989.

Kroll, Jack, "Two Coast Man," in Newsweek (New York), 12 November 1990.

Kloman, H., "Tim Robbins Running Hard," in New York Times, 12 January 1992.

Maslin, Janet, "Critic's Notebook: At Cannes, Tim Robbins Proves a Double Threat," in New York Times, 13 May 1992.

Ansen, David, "The Man of the Moment," in Newsweek (New York), 25 May 1992.

Giavarini, L., "Tim Robbins," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), June 1992.

Weber, B., "Stumping with the Movies' Favorite Son," in New York Times, 30 August 1992.

Kopkind, Andrew, "A Player Ups the Ante," in Premiere (New York), September 1992.

"The Stars and Snipes," in Maclean's (Toronto), 14 September 1992.

Frankel, M., "The Cutest Serious Person in Showbiz," in Movieline (Los Angeles), October 1992.

Zehme, Bill, "Tim Robbins: The Running Man," in Rolling Stone (New York), 29 October 1992.

Current Biography 1994, New York, 1994.

Webster, A., "Filmographies," in Premiere (New York), January 1996.

Kelleher, E., "Robbins' 'Dead Man Walking' Probes Death Row," in Film Journal (New York), January 1996.

Pede, R., and P. Frans, "Dead Man Walking." In Film en Televisie + Video (Brussels), March 1996.

Elia, M., "Les cineastes de l'an 2000," in Sequences (Quebec), March/April 1996.

Calderale, M., "Filmografie," in Segnocinema (Vincenza, Italy), May/June 1996.

Kirkland, Bruce, "All Hands Off Robbins' Cradle," in Toronto Sun, 19 May 1999.

Turan, Kenneth, "Cannes Report: The Player at Work," in Los Angeles Times, 19 May 1999.

Turner, Megan, "Rockin' Robbins," in New York Post, 6 December 1999.

* * *

Tim Robbins took two giant steps forward in 1992. Not only did he have the primary role in one of the year's most talked-about films, Robert Altman's The Player—a film featuring a who's who of Hollywood royalty in cameo appearances—but he also wrote, directed, and starred in Bob Roberts, a pungent political satire structured as a mockumentary.

Before the release of The Player and Bob Roberts, Robbins had been appearing on-screen for almost a decade. After playing small roles in several films and even surviving the debacle of Howard the Duck, he came to critical attention in Five Corners, playing the pacifistic, socially committed Harry Fitzgerald—a character who closely mirrors the actor's offscreen concerns—and Bull Durham, cast as Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh, fireballing minor league hurler with "a million-dollar arm, but a five-cent head." Robbins effectively adds a devilish but ultimately mindless frat-boy air to Bull Durham. But for the most part, he has been adept at playing more mature—and smarmier—characters such as Bob Roberts, and Griffin Mill in The Player, a laced-in-acid lampoon of the motion picture industry. Robbins is nothing short of perfection as Mill, the amoral, hotshot head of production at a large movie studio upon whom real life intrudes when he accidentally kills a screenwriter. In Short Cuts, also directed by Robert Altman, he is fine as an egocentric cop, a macho manipulator who brazenly cheats on his wife.

Up to the mid-1990s, Robbins's most telling film was Bob Roberts, if only because of his participation behind as well as in front of the camera. Robbins cast himself as the title character, a folksinger and self-made millionaire-turned right-wing icon who is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Candidate Roberts is the Bob Dylan of the New Right. His second record album is titled The Times Are Changin' Back. He parades the American flag as he says the right things to press the right buttons of the electorate. His politics are the politics of self-interest. Forget what is fair. Forget the responsibilities of government leadership. Forget human rights or the homeless. Just think of yourself.

In his speeches, Roberts lambaste the 1960s as "a dark stain on America" not because of the political climate that led to Watergate but because of social protest. Those who disagree with Roberts will be labeled a commie or, even worse, unpatriotic. Above all, the film is a deft satire of the media. Television news departments are more interested in regurgitating zippy sound bites and "good shots" of Roberts than in examining his stand on issues. The scenario lampoons the forced, superficial chit-chat in which bubbleheaded anchorpersons indulge after mindlessly reading news from teleprompters. In Bob Roberts, both the print and television media report on the latest allegations about candidates, resulting in shifts in the polls. Yet no journalist dares to investigate these allegations. The only person doing a proper journalist's job is a black radical (Giancarlo Esposito), who has discovered that Broken Dove, Roberts's organization, has been connected with failed savings and loans, drug smuggling, and more. Indeed, one of the messages in Bob Roberts, telegraphed by Robbins, is simple and clear: Think before you vote. The film—which came to movie houses during a presidential election year—is a cautionary tale about the need for substance and candor in American politics, and political campaigns. It reflects the progressive political concerns of Robbins and his longtime companion, Susan Sarandon (who appears in the film in a cameo role).

Robbins went on to direct two additional films during the 1990s. The first, Dead Man Walking, was one of the decade's most thoughtful and sensitive Hollywood films. The last, Cradle Will Rock, was something else altogether. Dead Man Walking is the riveting account of Sister Helen Prejean (Sarandon, in an Oscar-winning performance), a Catholic nun who ministers to Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn), a convicted murderer on death row. It is to the film's great credit that both sides of the issue of capital punishment are soberly presented. Poncelet may be a brutal killer, but he still is a human being, and Robbins asks a question that is worth contemplating: Will justice truly be served if a killer is put to death? Yet at the same time, Robbins ponders the plight of the killer's victims and their loved ones, whose lives have been irrevocably shattered. The very real anguish endured by the victims' families is an integral part of the story, as much a facet of the film as the complex, evolving relationship between Sister Helen and Poncelet. Indeed, in an era in which casual on-screen violence is omnipresent, Dead Man Walking is one of the rare few films that spotlights the aftermath of violence, and its effects on individuals.

Cradle Will Rock, meanwhile, is not so much a film as a political pamphlet. It is set in the New York of the mid-1930s and focuses on a series of fact-based events, from Nelson Rockefeller's commissioning Mexican artist Diego Rivera to paint a mural in Rockefeller Center to Orson Welles's staging the Federal Theater Project production of The Cradle Will Rock, Marc Blitzstein's agitprop musical. Robbins recreates a time when federal financing of the arts allowed for the creation of probing, vital, politically relevant artworks. In Cradle Will Rock, the Orson Welles character talks of the "church of the theater" and declares, "I want angry, lust-filled theatergoers." Yet this fervent period was short-lived. Robbins offers the point of view that the "cultural elite" pays for art, so the "cultural elite" feels it has the right to control the content of art. Furthermore, the government will not support works of art that are thinly veiled attacks on corporate and personal greed, or depict the rich as decadent capitalists and the blue collar masses as their victims. In Cradle Will Rock, the wealthy are stuff-shirts and right-wing hypocrites obsessed with weeding out communists in the Federal Theater Project, while at the same time supplying Hitler and Mussolini with the raw materials that scant years later would be used to kill American soldiers on Europe's battlefields. At the finale, spirited theater workers perform an impromptu version of Blitzstein's play, while in a parallel sequence the rich attend a fancy costume ball, acting as if they are intimates of Marie Antoinette in 18th-century France.

Cradle Will Rock fails not because it is unabashedly pro-union, pro-worker, or pro-artistic freedom. At first it is dramatically flat and uninvolving, with oodles of characters frenetically parading across the screen. Then it becomes a drawn-out affair, with the events in its story painted in broad, obvious strokes. Ultimately, the film is all artifice, with its issues and characters presented in a cliched manner. Those to the right—as embodied by a prim, holier-than-thou anti-Communist named Hazel, who agrees to snitch on her fellow theater workers—are unhappy and sexually repressed. Conversely, those to the left are portrayed as members of a lusty peasant proletariat who revel in their sexuality and constantly dance, sing, and celebrate "life."

While establishing himself as a director, Robbins continues to accept acting roles, and is not incapable of playing sympathetic characters. He is especially good in Jacob's Ladder, acting the role of a psychologically scarred Vietnam veteran; I.Q., as a garage mechanic who falls in love with the niece of Albert Einstein; and The Shawshank Redemption, cast as a soft-spoken banker-accountant locked up in jail for decades after being falsely convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. He also can play the wide-eyed innocent. In The Hudsucker Proxy, a wicked satire of corporate greed and bureaucracy, he is bright-eyed Norville Barnes—the name of a character right out of a Preston Sturges satire. Norville, fresh out of the Muncie College of Business Administration, comes to New York to work in the mailroom of a fabulously successful conglomerate and promptly becomes a pawn in a scheme concocted by the company founder-andpresident's venal right-hand man.

Now that Robbins's stature in the industry allows him to handpick his roles, his most interesting parts have been in films with a social conscience at their core. These films either depict individuals wronged by a viciously unfair bureaucracy (The Shawshank Redemption), or individuals who will use and abuse power within political, social, or economic systems that have gone sour (The Player, Bob Roberts, The Hudsucker Proxy).

In the latter half of the 1990s, Robbins appeared on screen in a comedy—Nothing to Lose, playing a stressed-out, cuckolded yuppie—and a conspiracy thriller—Arlington Road, cast as a straight-arrow suburbanite who might be a terrorist. Yet continues to be more defined by his work behind the camera.

—Rob Edelman