Robby Benson (born January 21, 1956) is an American film and television actor, television director, educator and singer.
Benson was born Robin David Segal in Dallas, Texas, the son of Freda Ann (née Benson), a singer, actress, and business promotions manager, and Jerry Segal, a writer. His family is Jewish and his sister, Shelli Segal, is a designer for the clothing line known as Laundry by Shelli Segal. 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". He made 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 popular for roles of teens in coming-of-age films, such as in 1972's Jory (his screen debut), in Jeremy (1973), and as Billy Joe McAllister in Ode to Billy Joe (1976).
He was listed as one of twelve "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. He received critical acclaim for his role as the hockey player, Nick Peterson, in Ice Castles (1978). In Walk Proud (1979), he played a Chicano gang member.
Other notable performances include Death Be Not Proud and Lucky Lady, both in 1975, and One on One co-starring annette O'Toole in 1977. Also in 1977 came the TV movie The Death of Richie, co-starring actor Ben Gazzara. In 1978 he starred with Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise in The End, directed by Reynolds. In 1981, he costarred with Rod Steiger in the film The Chosen, based on the book of the same name by Chaim Potok. The New York Times gave the film a mixed review, but noted: "Robby Benson, who might not be expected to be the quiet surprise of a movie like this one, nevertheless makes a fine impression as Danny. He is eager without being overeager, and full of a gentle inquisitiveness that can't help but win the audience's sympathy." Also in the early 1980s, he appeared as a young man with a learning disability in the made-for-television film Two of a Kind, along with George Burns playing the role of his "Grand-Poppy".
In 1983, he portrayed distance runner Billy Mills in Running Brave, a story of an Ogolala Sioux who against all odds achieves greatness with a come from behind gold medal win in the 10,000 meter race at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
In 1984, he co-starred with Paul Newman in Harry & Son.
In 1986, he played Det. Cliff Brady in the short-lived television series "Tough Cookies"
In Disney's animated feature film Beauty and the Beast, Benson demonstrated his vocal abilities by providing the voice of Beast. He would later reprise the role in the Kingdom hearts video game series. This role led to other voice work for animated features, including the widely popular Prince Valiant cartoon series The Legend of Prince Valiant, as well as Exosquad (as the heroic Able Squad leader J.T. Marsh). Benson also lends his voice to some computer and video game work, such as the voice of Prince Alexander in the computer game King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow.
Benson directed over 100 sitcom episodes including Friends Sabrina, Sabrina, an entire season of Ellen, and two seasons of Thunder Alley.
Benson is also an author, having penned the 2007 novel Who Stole the Funny?: A Novel of Hollywood.
Benson is currently a visiting professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, having previously taught at Appalachian State University, the University of Utah and the University of South Carolina. Benson has been married to singer and actress Karla DeVito since 1982. They have two children, a daughter named Lyric and a son named Zephyr Segal.
Benson was born with a heart defect which necessitated heart valve surgery in October 1984 and again in 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. The play starred Robby and his wife Karla, and expressed the trials of heart surgery with a modern artistic flair.