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College of Arts and Sciences

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IU Communications

Last modified: Monday, March 25, 2013

Actor and director Robby Benson to join Indiana University's telecommunications faculty

March 25, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University announced that Robby Benson, a film and television industry veteran actor, director, producer and educator, will join its Department of Telecommunications faculty as a professor of practice in the fall of 2013.

"Robby Benson is an extraordinary addition to our department and, more importantly, to the Bloomington campus at large," said Walter Gantz, chair of telecommunications. "He is going to quickly raise the visibility of film production at IU Bloomington and, with existing faculty in telecommunications, communications and culture, theatre and drama and the Jacobs School of Music, make IU Bloomington one of the most exciting places to attend school for students interested in creating and understanding film."

In a career spanning five decades, Benson has acted in over 30 feature films and has starred on Broadway in "Zelda," "The Rothschilds" and Joseph Papp's "The Pirates of Penzance." A two-time Golden Globe-nominated actor, Benson's film career began at the age of 11 with a small role in the 1967 suspense thriller "Wait Until Dark," starring Audrey Hepburn.

At age 17, he played the lead in "Jeremy," which won the 1973 Cannes Film Festival prize for "Best First Work." One year later, Benson co-wrote with his father, the writer Jerry Segal, the Warner Brothers' film "One on One." At age 19, he secured a three-year writing contract at Universal Studios and starred in films including "Ice Castles," "Ode to Billy Joe," "Running Brave," "The Chosen," "Harry And Son" and "Tribute."

He is the voice of the Beast in Disney's Academy Award-nominated film "Beauty and the Beast." Over the years he has co-starred with acclaimed screen actors Paul Newman, Jack Lemmon, Burt Reynolds, Gene Hackman, George Burns, Maximillan Schell and Rod Steiger.

Benson also has directed feature films and television, including episodes of the NBC comedy series "Friends" and ABC's award-winning series "Ellen."

"I am delighted by this opportunity and very impressed by Indiana University and President Michael McRobbie's commitment to the arts," Benson said. "When I visited campus last fall, I was struck by the creative aspirations of Provost Lauren Robel and Telecommunications Chair Walter Gantz in the area of traditional and modern film studies. They share a vision of collaborative and multidisciplinary learning that I find quite exciting, intuitive and compatible with the ways in which I have worked with film students over the last 24 years.

"For me, there is nothing more rewarding than helping young artists become great storytellers, nurturing and giving them support as they make their way out into the world," he added.

In the College of Arts and Science's Department of Telecommunications, Benson will teach courses in writing, acting, directing and production of film and television, including advanced cinema production, in which students will write, direct and produce their own short films.

Benson previously taught at UCLA, The University of South Carolina, The University of Utah and the California Institute for the Arts. In recent years he has taught at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television, where he was nominated for NYU's Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006, and the David Payne-Carter Award for Teaching Excellence in 2010. At the University of South Carolina, Benson wrote and directed a feature film, "Modern Love," for SVS Sony, and included his entire class of film students in the process, employing and teaching them on both sides of the camera.

In addition to film and television, Benson has composed film soundtracks and has been the recipient of several RIAA Gold records for song writing, including the hit "We Are Not Alone," featured in John Hughes' seminal teenage film "The Breakfast Club."

Benson, a survivor of four open-heart surgeries necessitated by a congenital heart defect, is an activist and fundraiser for heart research. Living with the condition led him to compose, create and star in an original musical, "Open Heart," in which he collaborated and performed with his wife, singer and actress Karla DeVito. "Open Heart" made its Off-Broadway world premiere in 2004 at The Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City.

He is the author of two books, "Who Stole the Funny?: A Novel of Hollywood (2007)," and a medical, multimedia memoir, "I'm Not Dead ... Yet!," published in 2012.