If you grew up in the ’70s and hung posters of your celebrity crushes on your walls, odds are that Robby Benson was in your bedroom. After starring in the movies Ice Castles and One on Onethe young actor’s fate as a teen idol was pretty much sealed—and he continued to appear in movies and TV for decades after he first rose to fame, including finding Disney immortality by voicing the cursed prince in 1991’s beauty and the Beast.
But while Benson might still live on many hearts as a teen heartthrob and a Disney prince, he’s done so much more since then, including helming episodes of one of your favorite sitcoms. Read on to find out what the 66-year-old star is doing today.
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He became a film professor.
In the ’90s and ’00s, Benson did a lot of voice acting—not only to reprise the role of Beast for various video games and the movie’s sequels, but also for TV shows including Batman: The Animated Series, Exoquadand The Legend of Prince Valiant.
At the same time, he began working more and more behind the scenes, writing and directing the 1990 movie Modern Love; directing several episodes of hit TV shows like Ellen and Friends; producing short films; and composing music.
His love of filmmaking led Benson to become a film professor, teaching at UCLA, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and Indiana University, among other institutions. He retired from Indiana University in 2016 to spend more time with his family and to focus more on his writing, according to Indy Star.
He recently ended an eight-year acting hiatus.
Benson’s onscreen roles were fewer and farther between in the ’00s, with 2011’s Brave New World being his most recent until just a few years ago. In 2019, Benson returned to acting to appear in a film called Apple Seed and to star in the Hallmark Channel movie, A Feeling of Home. He felt compelled to take on the latter project after reading its “beautifully written” script and connecting with the character, as he told Closer.
“I’ve loved the relationship of the father I play and his daughter, because as a parent, you always want to make sure there’s an open and honest relationship with your children,” he said. “Even if they’re in their 20s or 30s, you wake up in the middle of the night still worried and hoping everything’s OK. The most important thing to me on the planet is my love for my wife and my family.”
Benson has been married to actor Karla DeVito since 1982—the two met starring in a production of The Pirates of Penzance—and they have two children together: son Zephyr and daughter lyricwith whom Benson created the album Lyric’s Love Light Revolution. Benson is also a grandfather now, and it sounds like he takes that particular role very seriously.
“It makes me reevaluate my hours and priorities. This is a very healthy time, filled with even more love—if that’s possible! I hope I’m the best I can possibly be as a grandfather, father, and husband,” he told the outlets.
He’s opened up about the heart problems he’s experienced since he was young.
Another subject Benson has been especially passionate about is heart health. He learned when he was a teenager that he had a heart murmur and had his first of four open heart surgeries in 1984. (The most recent was in 2010.) While his first book, 2007’s Who Stole the Funny?is a novel, Benson would next write a memoir about his experience dealing with heart issues: 2012’s I’m Not Dead… Yet!.
“If you fight it, you’re a fool,” he told People of his awareness of his own mortality at the time. “If you’re afraid of death, I would say, either fight for your life or come to grips with the fact you may not make it. And in doing that there shouldn’t be bitterness. There should be a celebration. There should be an understanding of how lucky you are. That’s how I feel.”
Years before his memoir was released, Benson wrote and starred in an Off-Broadway show called Open Heartwhich deals with the same subject.
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He never thought of himself as a teen idol.
Despite Benson’s popularity in the ’70s, he couldn’t comprehend his heartthrob status until he saw how people reacted to meeting him. In fact, even with the wild crowds, he’s called “interacting with people” the best part of his early fame.
“There were about 8,000 [extras]so I said I’d stay to sign autographs, and then they were the best crowd,” he told Closer of filming Ice Castles. “[Later,] I broke my hip during a hockey scene, so I was at home in agony and put on the TV. These young women were screaming, ‘I saw him! I touched him!’ Then they showed my picture. I was like, ‘That can’t be right.’ It was really funny. I never thought of myself as a star.”
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