Tim Robbins gets his Walk of Fame star

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Tim Robbins might seem a like controversial choice to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, given his well-earned reputation for outspokenness on hot-button issues like the death penalty and the Iraq War. But the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has no qualms about it.

"We're thrilled to honor actor Tim Robbins for his longtime accomplishments in the movie arena," says chamber vp publicity Ana Martinez-Holler. "His star ceremony also celebrates his 50th birthday and will be next to the star of his partner, Susan Sarandon."

Long before Robbins met Sarandon, won an Oscar for his role in 2003's "Mystic River" or received his first condemnation from a conservative radio commentator, he was already stirring up controversy, according to V.J. Foster, associate artistic director of the Actors' Gang, an experimental theater troupe he co-founded with Robbins in 1981, when both were students in the UCLA theater department.

"Whether it was doing the kind of theater he wanted or dealing with the administration or the instructors he was with at school, he wasn't afraid to say, 'I'm doing it my way, and I don't really care what other people say about it,'" Foster says. "It rubbed a lot of people the wrong way."

But according to those who worked with him on his two latest films -- Fox Walden's "City of Ember" and Roadside Attractions' "The Lucky Ones" -- the Robbins of today behaves more like a warmhearted father figure than a bomb-throwing provocateur.

In "The Lucky Ones," Robbins plays a career military man on a cross-country road trip with two younger vets (Rachel McAdams and Michael Pena) who, like him, are struggling to come to terms with their tour of duty in Iraq.

"We really took that trip," director Neil Burger says. "Those actors were stuck in that minivan for eight to 10 hours a day for weeks and weeks.
Tim almost became sort of the way he is in the movie, like a father figure to the whole production, and certainly to the other actors. He was encouraging everybody to really have fun and get deeper into their roles."

While shooting "Ember" in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the summer of 2007, Robbins' role was more that of a funky uncle, especially when it came to Harry Treadaway, the 24-year-old actor playing his son. Together, the pair talked music, explored the city, hit the bars at night and put on an impromptu concert for locals.

"It was about 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning in a bar," Treadaway says of the show. "The idea probably happened about 30 seconds before we did it. I (played) metal spoons on the table, and he was playing guitar."

The bonding experiences were undoubtedly good fun, but the film's director, Gil Kenan, believes they also had a calculated, practical purpose.

"That was Tim drawing on his expertise as a director, knowing that it allowed him to get the most out of his performance as a father," Kenan says.

Over the years, Robbins has continued to play the part of the big daddy with the Actors' Gang, which recently mounted a revival of Irwin Shaw's 1930s anti-war play "Bury the Dead," serving as its artistic director as well as one of its primary financial backers.

Being the one others look to for guidance and support can bea strain, but Robbins seems to be holding up well.

Says Foster: "Whenever he's stressed out trying to get a movie deal done or about money around the theater, I say, 'Don't forget: You're living the dream, dude.

Has the dream become a nightmare?' He says, 'No, no. It's still a dream.'"
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