- Actor, director
- Longtime companion of Susan Sarandon
- Anti-war activist
- Supporter of the Green Party, Ralph Nader, and socialism
- Supporter of Not In Our Name
- Member of Artists United to Win Without War
Tim Robbins was born on October 16, 1958 in West Covina, California. When he was a young boy, his parents, actress Mary Bledsoe and folk musician Gilbert Robbins, relocated to New York City’s Greenwich Village. At age 12, Tim became a member of the off-Broadway “Theater for the New City,” known for its radical political plays. Following his graduation from Stuyvesant High School, Robbins attended SUNY Plattsburgh for two years before moving to California to study at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. After graduating in 1981, he founded the Actors’ Gang theater group in Los Angeles, an experimental ensemble that used the European avant-garde form of theater to express radical political ideas. For details about Robbins’s professional acting and directing career, click here.
While on the set of the popular 1988 film Bull Durham, Robbins met actress Susan Sarandon and started a romantic relationship with her. Although the two never wed, they remained a couple for 21 years and had two children together. The first of those children was a boy born in 1989; the couple named him Jack Henry Robbins, after Jack Henry Abbott, the convicted murderer and self-proclaimed communist whose infamous release from prison in 1981 was aided by Norman Mailer.
In the late 1990s, Tim Robbins and Sarandon both sat on the advisory board of Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, a media watchdog organization. In the early 2000s, they were also members of Artists United to Win Without War and Not In Our Name (a front group for C. Clark Kissinger‘s Revolutionary Communist Party).
Professing devotion to “freedom of expression,” Robbins in 1999 joined such luminaries as Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller, Rob Reiner, Susan Sarandon, and Susan Sontag in signing a full-page ad in the New York Times criticizing New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s effort to suspend public funding for the Brooklyn Museum of Art, after the museum had exhibited Chris Ofili’s depiction of the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung and surrounded by pornographic images.
In July 2000, Robbins was a signatory to a political advertisement in the New York Times calling for an immediate end to America’s economic sanctions against Iraq. The ad charged that the U.S. was responsible for “killing … over one million Iraqis, mostly children under five.” Fellow signers included Ed Asner, Joan Baez, Daniel Berrigan, Philip Berrigan, Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Clark, William Sloane Coffin, Richard Dreyfuss, Mike Farrell, Thomas Gumbleton, Rev. James Lawson, Liam Neeson, Rosie O’Donnell, Susan Sarandon, Pete Seeger, Martin Sheen, and Howard Zinn.
In August 2000 in Los Angeles, Robbins attended a Drug Policy Reform event at a so-called “Shadow Convention” organized by Arianna Huffington to parallel the Democratic and Republican national conventions which were being held that same year. Joining Robbins were numerous activists, Congressional Progressive Caucus members, and celebrities who condemned existing drug laws as discriminatory and racist. Among these individuals were John Conyers, Michael Eric Dyson, Al Franken, Tom Hayden, Jesse Jackson, Bill Maher, Susan Sarandon, and Maxine Waters.
In the 2000 presidential election, Robbins voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. After Republican George W. Bush narrowly won that race over Democrat Al Gore, many Democratic and leftist commentators accused Robbins of having foolishly helped to hand the election to Bush by supporting a candidate with no realistic chance of winning. In response to those charges, Robbins wrote in July 2001: “As someone who has voted defensively in the past and at one time recognized all Republicans as evil incarnate, I completely understand the reactions of these people…. Eight years ago I would have said the same thing to me. But a lot has happened that has shifted the way I think…. [A]fter watching the steady drift to the right of the Democratic Party under Clinton, I have come to the realization that I would rather vote my conscience than vote strategically.”
In June 2001, Robbins spoke out in favor of the recent (1999-2000) anti-capitalist protests against the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank. Calling for “the continuing presence of agitation wherever corporate entities gather to determine global economic and environmental policies,” he stated: “This is a movement in its infancy, that I believe is as morally compelling as the early abolitionists fighting to end slavery in the eighteenth century; as important as the labor activists advocating workplace safety and an end to child labor in the early 1950s; as undeniable as the scientists who first alerted the American public to widespread abuse of our environment by corporate polluters.”
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks of September 2001, Robbins became an aggressive critic of the Bush administration and the war on terror. At a Not In Our Name-sponsored protest rally in New York on October 6, 2002, he told the crowd that while Americans were “cloaked with patriotism and the claim to spread democracy around the world,” “our fundamentalism is business.” “Our resistance to this fundamentalism,” Robbins elaborated, “must be resistance to profits against life, to the business of diverting attention from Enron and Halliburton.”
On April 15, 2003, in front of the National Press Club in Washington, Robbins gave a famous speech regarding people’s right to voice objections to the Iraq War. “A chill wind,” he said, “is blowing in this nation.… If you oppose this [Bush] administration, there can and will be ramifications. Every day the airwaves are filled with warnings, veiled and unveiled threats, invective and hatred directed at any voice of dissent. And the public … sit in mute opposition and fear.” In a press release that same day, Robbins said it was “imperative for those who oppose the notion of the United States as unchecked Empire to speak out strongly against a foreign policy of military intimidation.”
In 2003 as well, Robbins wrote and directed an antiwar play titled Embedded, which portrayed journalists who traveled with U.S. military personnel as mindless mouthpieces for a warmongering White House. The play had its world premiere on November 15 at The Actors’ Gang in Los Angeles, where Robbins was the artistic director.
In 2004, Robbins signed a petition that urged left-leaning voters to back Democrat John Kerry, who stood a reasonably good chance of winning, instead of Ralph Nader, who stood no chance of winning and was apt to siphon vital votes away from Kerry. Other signatories included Noam Chomsky, Phil Donahue, Barbara Ehrenreich, Bonnie Raitt, Susan Sarandon, Eddie Vedder, Cornel West, Kevin Zeese, and Howard Zinn.
In 2005 Robbins spoke out against the scheduled execution of the convicted multiple murderer Stanley “Tookie” Williams. Joining Robbins in requesting clemency for Williams – on grounds that the killer had supposedly reformed his heart – were such luminaries as Snoop Dogg, Mike Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Danny Glover, Anjelica Huston, Bianca Jagger, Bonnie Raitt, and Susan Sarandon.
At a news conference in May 2006, Robbins blamed George W. Bush and the Republican Party for having led the U.S. into a “war based on lies” in Iraq; for having “recruited more al Qaeda members than Osama bin Laden could ever have dreamed”; for waging “continuous warfare as a means to control the Western economy, and as a way to control rebel elements within society through the use of fear, constant fear”; and for putting people “in jail without telling anyone … and tortur[ing] them out of suspicion of what we think they might do.”
In January 2007, Robbins participated in a march to protest President Bush’s January 2007 decision to stage a “troop surge” that would send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq in an attempt to turn the tide of America’s then-failing war effort — a decision that would ultimately win the war for the United States. Other notable participants included Medea Benjamin, Sean Penn, Maxine Waters, Jesse Jackson, and Susan Sarandon.
In 2008 Robbins signed a petition asking the federal government to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier, an American Indian activist convicted of slaying two FBI Agents on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975.
In 2011 Robbins supported the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. On October 5 of that year, he participated in an OWS demonstration outside the Federal Courthouse in New York’s Foley Square. “This is what an actual grassroots movement looks like,” the actor told the Financial Times. “It’s a bit sloppy and disorganized but full of passion.”
In a June 2018 interview, Robbins suggested that President Donald Trump was a “petulant, overgrown child monster” and a “child abuser” who was leading America back to “a time of bullying, a time of intolerance and ignorance.”
In an August 2019 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Robbins discussed: (a) The Actor’s Gang Prison Project (AGPP), a theater program that had been implemented in 13 Californian state prisons for the purpose of breaking down divisions between inmates, and (b) his latest documentary film, 45 Seconds of Laughter, which offered a behind-the-scenes look at the AGPP in action at a Level Four-security facility in Calipatria State Prison. Among his remarks were the following:
- “Rehabilitation makes a safer society and a more humane society. Unfortunately, now we’re going in the opposite direction with private prisons that have absolutely no incentive to provide rehabilitation because they make money based on the beds they sell.”
- “We have to understand that this isn’t just about the way that we treat prisoners. It’s also about how we are asking agents of the state to treat prisoners and the effect of that on their lives. Correctional officers have one of the highest rates of suicide in this country. That’s related to what is being asked of them. When you are asked to dehumanize individuals, when you are asked to apply a punitive system instead of a rehabilitative one, it affects the spirits and the well-being of correctional officers. When you are asked to be inhumane toward someone, it kills something in you.”
In an October 2019 interview with The Daily Beast, Robbins exhorted the Democratic Party to unify in order to prevent America’s “movement towards fascism” as symbolized by President Trump.
In December 2019, Robbins attended a Venice, California rally in support of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign. “I’m here today to endorse Bernie Sanders to be the next president of the United States,” said the actor. Other notables in attendance included Cornel West, Danny DeVito, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and members of the Russian rock group Pussy Riot.
Over the years, Robbins has funded the political campaigns of such candidates as Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, John Edwards, Jesse Jackson, Barbara Lee, Ralph Nader, Barack Obama, Charles Rangel, Ken Salazar, and Bernie Sanders. He also has made contributions to the MoveOn.org Political Action Committee.
As of January 2020, Robbins’ net worth was approximately $60 million.