Benjamin in 1986
|Born||May 22, 1938|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Northwestern University|
Paula Prentiss (m. 1961)
He has starred in a number of well-known film productions, including Goodbye, Columbus (1969), based on the novella by Philip Roth; Catch-22 (1970), from the Joseph Heller best-seller; Westworld (1973), a science-fiction thriller by Michael Crichton; and The Sunshine Boys (1975), written by Neil Simon.
After directing for television, his first film as director was the 1982 comedy My Favorite Year,. His other films as director include City Heat (1984), starring Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood, The Money Pit (1986) with Tom Hanks, and Made in America (1993) with Whoopi Goldberg.
Benjamin was born in New York City, the son of Samuel Roger Benjamin (1910–1997), a garment industry worker. His family was Jewish. He attended the High School of Performing Arts and graduated from Northwestern University, where he was involved in many plays and studied in the Northwestern theater school. While there he met Paula Prentiss whom he married in 1961.
Benjamin struggled to get work early in his career, while Prentiss became a film star almost immediately in Where the Boys Are (1961). Benjamin appeared on stage in The Taming of the Shrew and guest starred on shows like The New Breed and Dr. Kildare.
Benjamin's early break came when cast in the touring company of Barefoot in the Park in 1964. During this run he received word that Prentiss had a nervous breakdown while making What's New Pussycat? in Paris. Prentiss got treatment and made a full recovery.
Simon was pleased with Benjamin's work and cast him in his new playThe Star-Spangled Girl (1966–67) directed by George Axelrod. Benjamin appeared alongside Anthony Perkins and Connie Stevens and the show ran for 261 performances.
Benjamin followed it with a key support role in the film of Catch-22 (1970). He was top billed in Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970) from the team of Eleanor and Frank Perry, appearing alongside Carrie Snodgress and Frank Langella.
He directed his wife off-Broadway in Arf/The Great Airplane Snatch (1969), which ran for five performances.
He acted in a comedy, The Steagle (1971), the directorial debut of designer Paul Sylbert, which was little seen. Another box office flop was the film of Roth's Portnoy's Complaint (1972), the sole directorial effort of Ernest Lehman.
In 1972, Benjamin returned to Broadway with The Little Black Book, which only ran for nine performances.
Benjamin then acted in two more successful films: as part of an all-star cast in The Last of Sheila (1973), from a script by Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim, and in Westworld (1973), directed by Michael Crichton and co-starring Yul Brynner.
The Los Angeles Times stated that by this stage his image was of "a whining petulant bore by doing too good a job of acting in a series of sleazy roles." He decided to steer away from such roles by turning down a part in The Towering Inferno (which Richard Chamberlain ended up playing).
Benjamin and Prentiss starred in The Norman Conquests (1975–76) on Broadway which went for 76 performances.
On April 7, 1979, Benjamin hosted Saturday Night Live.
Benjamin was top billed in Scavenger Hunt (1979), but it was more an ensemble film.
Benjamin had directed in theatre and was keen to do it in film. In 1979, Benjamin directed for the first time, creating a pilot for a sitcom spin-off of the film Where's Poppa? by Carl Reiner. "The pilot turned out really well," said Benjamin. "But I don't think ABC ever quite 'got' it. They never did put the show on the air.... At least I could prove that I wasn't nuts, that I really had actually directed something."
He directed one episode of the 1980 TV series Semi-Tough.
He and Prentiss had the leads in Saturday the 14th (1981). They also began hosting corporate videos.
Feature Film Director
Benjamin's work on the Where's Poppa? pilot saw him offered the job as director on My Favorite Year (1982) starring Peter O'Toole. The film was warmly received, earning O'Toole an Oscar nomination for Best Actor and launched Benjamin as a director.
Benjamin and Prentiss returned to acting with the TV movie Packin' It In (1983). He said "If I get a wonderful script to act in and a mediocre script to direct, I'll act. And the same principle applies the other way around. It's the material that counts." However he would focus on directing for the next decade.
In the 1990s Benjamin returned to acting with appearances on shows like The Ray Bradbury Theatre, Love & War, Ink, Mad About You, and Titus, as well as the films Deconstructing Harry (1997), Keeping Up with the Steins (2006), and Henry Poole Is Here (2008).
In 2006, Benjamin directed award-winning cable television drama A Little Thing Called Murder, starring Australian Judy Davis. It was based on the true story of Sante and Kenny Kimes, mother and son grifters and killers.
He married actress Paula Prentiss on October 26, 1961; they have two children who are also actors: Ross Benjamin and Prentiss Benjamin.
- He & She (CBS-TV/1967-1968, TV Series) as Dick Hollister
- Goodbye, Columbus (1969) as Neil Klugman
- Catch-22 (1970) as Maj. Danby
- Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970) as Jonathan Balser
- The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker (1971) as William Alren
- The Steagle (1971) as Harold Weiss, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
- Portnoy's Complaint (1972) as Alexander Portnoy
- The Last of Sheila (1973) as Tom Parkman
- Westworld (1973) as Peter Martin
- The Sunshine Boys (1975) as Ben Clark
- No Room to Run (1976, Australian TV Movie)
- Quark (NBC-TV/1977–1978, TV Series) as Adam Quark
- House Calls (1978) as Dr. Norman Solomon
- Love at First Bite (1979) as Dr. Jeffery Rosenberg / Van Helsing
- Scavenger Hunt (1979) as Stuart Selsome
- The Last Married Couple in America (1980) as Marv Cooper
- How to Beat the High Co$t of Living (1980) as Albert
- Witches' Brew (1980) as Joshua Lightman
- First Family (1980) as Press Secretary Bunthorne
- Saturday the 14th (1981) as John
- Packin' It In (1983, TV Movie) as Gary Webber
- Lift (1992, Short) as Rabbi Brill
- Deconstructing Harry (1997) as Ken
- The Pentagon Wars (1998, TV Movie) as Caspar Weinberger
- The Shrink Is In (2001) as Samantha's Editor (uncredited)
- Marci X (2003) as Ben Feld
- Keeping Up with the Steins (2006) as Rabbi Schulberg
- Henry Poole Is Here (2008) as Dr. Fancher
- Pablo (2012) as Himself
- Ray Donovan (2014, TV Series) as Jerry Weiss
- Childrens Hospital (2015, TV Series) as Dan Richards
- My Favorite Year (1982)
- Racing with the Moon (1984)
- City Heat (1984)
- The Money Pit (1986)
- Little Nikita (1988)
- My Stepmother Is an Alien (1988)
- Downtown (1990)
- Mermaids (1990)
- Made in America (1993)
- Milk Money (1994)
- Mrs. Winterbourne (1996)
- The Pentagon Wars (1998/TVM)
- The Wonderful World of Disney (1998/TV Episode "Tourist Trap")
- Laughter on the 23rd Floor (2001/TVM)
- The Shrink Is In (2001)
- The Sports Pages (2001/TVM)
- Marci X (2003)
- The Goodbye Girl (2004/TVM)
- A Little Thing Called Murder (2006/TVM)
- "Richard Benjamin". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-04-10.
- Canby, Vincent (April 4, 1969). "Goodbye Columbus (1969) GOODBYE, COLUMBUS". The New York Times.
- Canby, Vincent (June 25, 1970). "Catch 22 (1970) CATCH-22". The New York Times.
- "Westworld". The New York Times.
- Canby, Vincent (November 7, 1975). "The Sunshine Boys (1975) Simon's Comic 'Sunshine Boys' Opens". The New York Times.
- Maslin, Janet (October 1, 1982). "My Favorite Year (1982) 'FAVORITE YEAR' WITH PETER O'TOOLE". The New York Times.
- Jonas, Gerald (1968-09-08). "Hello Again To 'Goodbye, Columbus'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-04-10.
- Great Jews on Stage and Screen
- After 'Portnoy,' Benjamin Has No Complaint AUEAN HARMETZ. Los Angeles Times 21 Dec 1975: m49.
- "RICHARD BENJAMIN REFLECTS ON "THE SUNSHINE BOYS": A CINEMA RETRO INTERVIEW". Cinema Retro.
- "Interview with Richard Benjamin - Random Roles". AV Club. November 15, 2012.
- Weiler, A. H. (September 16, 1971). "The Steagle (1971) A Brazilian Youth's Joys and Shocks:' Plantation Boy' Opens at 5th Ave. Cinema Benjamin Proves Deft Comic in 'The Steagle'". The New York Times.
- Benjamin: A Few Complaints By Gary Arnold. The Washington Post, Times Herald 8 June 1972: B19.
- Decaro, Frank (December 24, 2008). "A Space Garbage Man and His Eclectic Crew". The New York Times.
- RICHARD BENJAMIN: in the 'Get Smart' of sci-fi Simmons, Charitey. Chicago Tribune 19 Mar 1978: j3.
- Maslin, Janet (April 13, 1979). "Love At First Bite (1979) Screen: 'Love at First Bite,' Dracula's 'Plaza Suite': Full-Blooded Humor". The New York Times.
- The Internet Movie Database
- It's no act: Benjamin happiest as a director: [MET Edition] Rob Salem TORONTO STAR. 26 Aug 1994: B1.
- MOVIES: From acting to directing: For Richard Benjamin; the move meant a 'Year' of fear Reich, Howard. Chicago Tribune 10 Oct 1982: d16.
- MOVIES: EDWARDS' YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY Mann, Roderick. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 25 Nov 1984: x21.
- Maslin, Janet (December 12, 1997). "Deconstructing Harry (1997) FILM REVIEW; Gleefully Skewering His Own Monsters". The New York Times.
- AN OFF-B'WAY 'POWER' COUPLE PAULA PRENTISS AND RICHARD BENJAMIN: A FAMILY THAT 'PLAYS' TOGETHER, STARTING TONIGHT O'HAIRE, PATRICIA. New York Daily News; New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]22 Sep 1998: 34.
- Holden, Stephen (August 23, 2003). "Marci X (2003) FILM REVIEW; In Giddy Rap Land, It's Senator Vs. Smut". The New York Times.
- "A Murdering Mommy Dearest With a Swell Son to Match". The New York Times. January 23, 2006.
- Dye, David. Child and Youth Actors: Filmography of Their Entire Careers, 1914-1985. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 1988, p. 17.