Robin David Segal, popularly known by his stage name, “Robby Benson,” is an American actor, singer, musician, director, producer, author, composer, and educator. He started his acting career with ‘Broadway.’ He is probably best known as the voice of ‘the Beast’ in the Disney animated film ‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1991). He also directed several episodes of the popular American sitcom ‘Friends’ (1995–1997). He held academic positions in US universities and served as a professor at ‘New York University’s ‘Tisch School of the Arts,’ the ‘University of Utah,’ and the ‘University of South Carolina.’ From 2013 to 2016, he taught telecommunications at ‘Indiana University’ in Bloomington. In 1984, Benson underwent four open heart surgeries for a heart valve defect that was diagnosed when he was a teenager. Based on this experience, Benson wrote and starred in an ‘off-Broadway’ musical called ‘Open Heart’ in 2004. Benson also published a bestselling novel named ‘Who Stole the Funny?’ (2007) and a medical memoir titled ‘I’m Not Dead…Yet’ (2012). Benson is also a photographer.
Childhood and Early Life
Benson was born into a Jewish family on January 21, 1956, in Dallas, Texas. He was raised in New York City.
His mother, Freda Ann Benson, is a singer, actor, and business promotions manager. His father, Jerry Segal, is a writer. He wrote satirical skits that Benson's mother would perform at local nightclubs.
Benson adopted his mother’s maiden name as his stage name when he was 10.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
In 1967, Benson starred in an uncredited role in a film called ‘Wait until Dark.’
In 1970, he debuted on ‘Broadway,’ with the musical ‘The Rothschilds.’ It was based on a Jewish family in 1772, in Frankfurt, Germany. The musical was revived as an ‘off-Broadway’ production in 1990.
In 1971, Benson appeared in a commercial for ‘Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups’ with his co-star Donny Most. He would return to film with Most again in ‘Happy Days.’
In 1971 and 1972, he had an early role in the daytime soap ‘Search for Tomorrow.’ The show ran for 35 years (1951–1986).
In 1972, Benson appeared in the role of a teenager in the coming-of-age film ‘Jory.’ This was followed by ‘Jeremy’ in 1973. He played the title character in the both the films.
In 1975, he appeared in two movies: ‘Death Be Not Proud’ and ‘Lucky Lady.’ The same year, he screen-tested for the role of ‘Luke Skywalker’ in ‘Star Wars’ but did not get the role. It eventually went to Mark Hamill.
In 1976, Benson starred in ‘Ode to Billy Joe.’ The actor played the character of ‘Billy Joe McAllister,’ who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge.
In 1977, he appeared in a sports drama titled ‘One on One,’ which he co-wrote with his father. The same year, he also appeared in a TV movie titled ‘The Death of Richie.’
In 1978, Benson starred in ‘Ice Castles’ alongside Lynn Holly Johnson, a US national figure skating medalist. The actor took skating lessons for the movie.
Continue Reading Below
In 1980, he starred opposite Linda Grovenor in the ‘Orion’ film ‘Die Laughing.’ The same year, Benson also starred in the movie ‘Tribute,’ opposite Jack Lemmon.
In 1981, Benson appeared in the film ‘The Chosen,’ which was based on the book by the same name by Chaim Potok. The movie received mixed reviews, but the actor received praises for his role.
In 1983, he played the role of ‘Olympic’ 10,000-meter gold medalist Billy Mills in the film ‘Running Brave.’
In 1991, Benson lent his voice to ‘the Beast’ in the acclaimed animated ‘Disney’ film ‘Beauty and the Beasts.’ He also appeared as the voice of ‘the Beast’ in the movie’s numerous sequels and spin-offs.
Later, in the 1990s, he voiced the lead character ‘JT Marsh’ in the acclaimed science-fiction cartoon series ‘Exosquad.’
He produced films such as ‘Modern Love’ and ‘Die Laughing’ and shorts such as ‘Caligo’ and ‘Calipso.’
He wrote the screenplay for the 1993 film ‘Betrayal of the Dove.’
In 2006, Benson wrote the musical ‘Open Heart,’ published by Samuel French. ‘Open Heart’ debuted at New York City’s historic ‘Cherry Lane Theater.’
Back in 1985, he had composed the song ‘We Are Not Alone’ for the library dance in John Hughes’s iconic film ‘The Breakfast Club.’
Continue Reading Below
In 2012, Benson wrote the music for his daughter Lyric Benson’s cosmic-poetic ‘Lyric’s Love Light Revolution.’
In 2015, he wrote the score for his son Zephyr Benson’s directorial debut, ‘Straight Outta Tompkins.’
Benson’s most valued professional accomplishment was that of being a college professor. He taught for 2 decades at universities across the US (till 2010). He was a professor of film at the ‘Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television’ at ‘New York University’s famed ‘Tisch School of the Arts.’ He also taught at the ‘University of Utah’ and the ‘University of South Carolina.’
From 2013 to 2016, he was a professor of practice at ‘Indiana University’ in Bloomington.
In 2007, Benson wrote a bestselling novel titled ‘Who Stole the Funny?,’ published by ‘HarperCollins.’ The book provided a revealing bird’s eye view of the events that occur behind the scenes of comedy TV.
In 2012, he published a medical memoir titled ‘I’m not Dead…Yet,’ based on his real-life experience of undergoing four open heart surgeries.
Awards & Achievements
As a composer, Benson has received the ‘RIAA’s “gold” certification for the song ‘We Are Not Alone.’
In 2006, he received the honor of being nominated for ‘New York University’s ‘Distinguished Teaching Award.’
In 2010, Benson was nominated for the ‘David Payne-Carter Award for Teaching Excellence.’
Family & Personal Life
On July 11, 1982, Benson married rock recording artist Karla DeVito. They have a daughter, Lyric, and a son, Zephyr.
Benson was diagnosed with a heart valve defect when he was a teenager. This eventually led to four open heart surgeries in 1984. He is also a heart research activist and helps raise funds for the cause.
Benson practices ‘Transcendental Meditation’ (TM).
At 21, Benson was a good basketball player. Currently, he is also a photographer.