BENSON, ROBBY (Robin David Segal ; 1956– ), U.S. actor, director, voice-over artist. The son of a writer and a stage actress, Benson was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He started his career in show business at the age of three, acting in commercials and community theater productions. At age 12 he made his Broadway debut starring in a production of Zelda, where he exhibited a natural talent for portraying sensitive adolescent characters. As a teenager Benson's good looks and sympathetic talents landed him in a string of roles in romantic films in the 1970s and 1980s, most notably Jeremy (1975), Ode to Billy Joe (1976), One on One (1977), Ice Castles (1978), and the tv production of Our Town (1976). Some of these roles exhibited darker and more complex performances such as his memorable portrayal opposite Jack Lemmon in Tribute (1980) and his performance as Danny Saunders in Chaim *Potok's The Chosen (1981). After recovering from open-heart surgery in 1984, Benson began writing and directing for tv, film, and theater. In 1988 he directed his first feature, Crack in the Mirror, and went on to become one of the most successful sitcom directors of the 1990s, directing multiple episodes for such hit shows as Friends, Dream On, and Ellen. He also performed as the gruff voice of Beast in Disney's Oscar-nominated Beauty and the Beast, and continued to voice characters for animated films. In addition, Benson composed scores for numerous films and received two gold records for songwriting with his wife and collaborator, Karla De Vito. Benson also taught in film and theater departments at several universities.
[Max Joseph (2nd ed.)]