Timothy Francis Robbins was born on October 16, 1958, in West Covina, California. He is the fourth and youngest child of father Gil, a member of the folk band The Highwaymen; and Mary, a publishing executive. Tim also has two sisters and a brother, David.
Not a lot is known about Tim’s childhood. He grew up in Greenwich Village, New York. At one point, he shared a one -room apartment with his mother and two sisters. His parents raised the children as devout Catholics and encouraged them to be politically and artistically active. Apparently, it worked: at the age of twelve, Tim joined the Theatre for the New City, an avant-garde performing troupe in New York. He was to remain there for seven years.
After graduating Stuyvesant High School, Tim attended the University of New York at Plattsburgh (an experience he refers to as a “two-year party”). He transferred to UCLA and graduated in 1980 with a degree in theatre, paying his way though college by delivering pizzas and busing tables. In 1981, Tim got together with some of his college drama buddies to form the Actors’ Gang, a politically radical theater group that performed plays by Bertolt Brecht and other avant-garde works. He still serves on the Actors’ Gang Board of Directors.
To raise money for the theater group, he started taking movie roles. His first feature was a small role in 1983’s Toy Soldiers. Tim also costarred in 1986’s Howard the Duck, the infamous George Lucas-produced flop. Tim’s work in that movie led to a Razzie Award nomination for “Worst Supporting Actor” the following year (He lost).
But Tim really hit the big time with his supporting role in the 1988 baseball comedy Bull Durham. Playing idiotic pitcher “Nuke” LaLoosh, Tim received plenty of critical acclaim. But Tim got something else out of Bull Durham. He met actress Susan Sarandon on the set and the two fell in love. The happy couple is still living together to this day.
Tim acted in several films after that, including Jacob’s Ladder and Jungle Fever. However, one of his biggest successes came from 1992’s The Player, Robert Altman’s scathing satire of Hollywood’s movie industry, in which Tim plays scumbucket film exec Griffin Mill. Tim’s dead-on portrayal of a corporate shark earned him the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival.
That same year, Tim made his directorial debut with Bob Roberts. Another satire, Bob Roberts revolved around a right-wing folk-singing politician running for the Senate. Tim also starred in the film and wrote and performed its music. He ended up competing against himself for the Best Actor award, with his performance in The Player beating out his acting in Bob Roberts.
One often-emphasized feature of Tim is his liberal political stance. His outspokenness fueled a small controversy in 1993 when he and Susan were invited to present an award at the Oscars (where Susan was up for Best Actress for Lorenzo’s Oil). At the podium, they gave a short speech about Haitian political refugees with AIDS. This infuriated Awards producer Gil Cates, who banned the couple, along with actor Richard Gere (who spoke out against the Chinese government) from further telecasts. Two years later, Cates gave in and allowed them back on the program. Onstage, Tim and Susan poked fun at the political speech that had gotten them in so much trouble.
In 1995, Tim directed Susan and Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking, based on the nonfiction book by Sister Helen Prejean about her experiences counseling death row inmates. Despite his firm stand against the death penalty, Tim portrayed both sides of the issue in an objective light, showing the agony of the victims’ families and the unfairness of certain respects of the death penalty. His efforts did not go unrewarded: Tim earned an Oscar nomination for Best Director, and Susan and Sean were up in the lead acting categories. Susan was the winner out of the trio, and in her speech, she thanked Robbins, referring to him as her “best partner in crime.”
Outside of filmmaking, Tim’s other big passion is hockey. He’s played the sport ever since he was a child, and he and Susan got to drink out of the Stanley Cup when his favorite team, the New York Rangers, won the championship in 1994. Tim also skated at Madison Square Garden in the Rangers’ 1997 Legends Game.
Tim Robbins currently lives in New York with Susan, who is twelve years his senior and has become his common-law wife (although there are no plans for marriage). They have two sons, Jack Henry and Miles Guthrie Robbins; and a daughter, Eva Maria Amurri, from Susan’s relationship with Italian director Franco Amurri. In 2004, Tim won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as a sexual abuse survivor in Mystic River.