Here are the most memorable roles he filled along the way, for better and for worse:
Howard the Duck has gone down in history as perhaps the worst movie ever made, and Tim Robbins was billed third, above the duck. When an alien talking duck lands in Cleveland, the girl who finds him asks Blumburtt, who she thinks is a scientist, to help get him home. But Blumburtt's really a janitor, and this movie's really a disaster.
Larry "Mother" Tucker
Even Oscar winners have skeletons in the resume closet, and this one makes Howard the Duck look good. I give you the 1985 spring break movie Fraternity Vacation. A nerdy astronomy major's rich father pays two frat boys (one of them played by Robbins) to take his son to Palm Springs, with the understanding that if they can find him a girl, he'll buy a Jacuzzi for the frat house. Hilarity ensues.
Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh
As the Durham Bulls' erratic hotshot pitcher, Robbins almost stole this movie out from under its big-name stars, Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon. (He met Sarandon on the set.) It also showcased one of Robbins's true talents: the ability to convincingly play dumb. And with his 6'5" frame, he actually looked the part of an athlete. His interview with the press after being coached by Costner's crusty catcher is spot-on hollow sports blather: "We gotta play it one day at a time."
As a hallucinating Vietnam vet in the surreal thriller Jacob's Ladder, Robbins danced the line between reality and fantasy. Did government experiments leave Singer and his platoon with mental illness, or was he actually descending into purgatory? This role let Robbins play to his political leanings, but it was still a great, effective thriller.
Robbins has never been shy about broadcasting his politics, but Bob Roberts was more than just propaganda. He starred in, wrote, and directed this mockumentary about a conservative populist politician, a folk singer whose songs, like "Retake America" and "The Times They Are A-Changin' Back," are just close enough to real to be believable. And hey, he can sing. Who knew?
In Robert Altman's The Player, Robbins played a studio executive targeted with death threats. The film is best known for the huge cast, including more than 50 cameos of stars playing themselves, from Kathy Ireland to Robert Wagner. But Robbins's performance as the murdering exec was awarded Best Actor at Cannes and paved the way for the serious roles that would win him his greatest acclaim.
In The Shawshank Redemption, Robbins starred as a banker wrongfully convicted of a double murder, serving two life sentences in a notorious prison. Spread over almost twenty years, the role showed Robbins suffering under the drudgery and violence of prison life, but eventually rising above. Shut out at the Oscars and a box-office flop, Shawshank has since become a favorite, showing up on best-of-all-time lists from critics and fans alike.
Robbins won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his Mystic River performance as Boyle, a blue-collar worker with a childhood secret. When a local girl goes missing, his old friend, the girl's father (played by Sean Penn, who won Best Actor) slowly comes to suspect him, and rough justice goes bad.