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Robby Benson

(1956 - )

Robby Benson is a Jewish American film and television actor, director and singer.

Born as Robin David Segal, Benson was born in Dallas to Jewish parents, Gerald Charles Segal and Freda Ann Benson. His sister is Shelli Segal, designer for the clothing line known as Laundry by Shelli Segal.

Benson made his Broadway debut in The Rothschilds. Benson had an early role on the daytime soap opera Search for Tomorrow (1971-72). As a film star, Benson was popular for roles of teens in coming-of-age films, such as in 1972's Jory (his screen debut), 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. 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).

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. In 1981, he costarred with Rod Steiger in the film The Chosen. In 1984 he costarred among others with Paul Newman in “Harry and Son.”

Benson demonstrated his vocal abilities by playing the voice of the Beast in Disney's animated feature film Beauty and the Beast.

Benson directed over 100 sitcom episodes including Friends, Sabrina, an entire season of Ellen, and two seasons of Thunder Alley.

Benson is currently a visiting professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Benson has been married to Karla DeVito since 1982. They have two children, a daughter named Lyric and a son named Zephyr.

Benson was born with a heart defect, necessitating heart valve surgery in October 1984, and again in 1998. He recently underwent a third surgery. He is an activist and fundraiser for heart research, and wrote the book, lyrics, and music for a play called Open Heart, starring Benson and his wife Karla, which opened and closed off-Broadway in 2004.

Sources: Wikipedia. Photo courtesy of Robby Benson.