Yes, Miles Robbins has famous parents, but he wants a career like no one else
It’s been less than 24 hours since Miles Robbins completed what he calls his first “high profile” interview, and he’s nervous. Nervous that he said too much, went too far, might be misunderstood.
So he composes an e-mail trying to explain himself further. It is 940 words.
“I just want to make sure that, in my jet lag and candid comfort, [I] didn’t brain fart and phrase something in a way that could be twisted by the internet people,” he writes.
Robbins, 25, is new to promoting a major studio movie. Or any movie, for that matter. He only really started acting a couple of years ago, but he’s already landing plum jobs.
This month, he has a scene-stealing turn in Universal’s comedy “Blockers,” a film about three high school girls who make a pact to lose their virginity by prom night. Robbins plays one of the ladies’ love interests: A blissed-out bro with a man bun who creates elaborate drug concoctions for his friends. And he’ll soon be seen in the highly anticipated reboot of “Halloween.”
The budding actor doesn’t have a publicist yet. At a recent photo shoot, his manager served as his stylist, advising he wear a vintage denim Mickey Mouse jacket instead of a t-shirt with a hot dog on it. And he’s trying not to rely too much on his parents, the actors Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.
Yes, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon.
In another sign he’s still learning how to negotiate media attention, he earnestly requested that his mother and father not be mentioned in the first two paragraphs of this story. He’s close with both of them — even suggesting this interview take place at his dad’s house in Venice instead of a hotel (it ultimately happened at the Culver Hotel) -- but says it’s hard not to be in their shadow.
“And I won’t try to act like I will ever escape it,” he says, sipping from a glass of scotch. “I think at a certain point in my life, I was a lot more precious about that. Perhaps from a place of ego, I didn’t want to be associated with them at all because I was going to be so overshadowed by them.”
This was more of a struggle for Robbins when he was a boy. The first girl he ever went on a date with, he later learned, only wanted to go out with him so she could score a ticket to the “Shrek” premiere. In his early twenties, when he was making a living as a disc jockey — “I hated saying I was a DJ, so I’d say ‘disc jockey.’ I at least wanted to explain that I owned discs that I was jockeying” — he met a manager who was interested in his music. “And then I found out he was just trying to pimp out my name, and it was clear he didn’t give a [crap] about the music I was making.”
Music, he explains, was his first true passion. He started a band when he was 11 after watching “School of Rock.” He was dorky — obsessed with “The Matrix” and Philip K. Dick books — and thought playing music would make him seem cool. Eventually, music became a therapeutic outlet — “a way for me to explore the feminine quality of self expression that a lot of boys deprive themselves of.”
In his current psychedelic pop ensemble, the Pow Pow Family Band — “we play children’s songs for adult children” — he performs in drag. His character is Millie, a “disgruntled housewife” with an affinity for dresses and red lipstick.
In 2015, Sarandon mentioned in an interview that her son sometimes performed in female clothing — a comment that prompted a slew of headlines about Robbins’ sexuality. So he decided to respond by writing an op-ed in the Huffington Post: “Is It Really That Strange for a Guy to Wear a Dress?”
“Everyone was publishing articles saying that I was trans or non-binary,” says Robbins, who identifies as male and heterosexual. “Straight men haven’t figured out that they can kiss men yet or be comfortable with themselves yet. How many straight women have kissed their girlfriends? The only reason I know I’m straight is because of the amount of guys that I’ve kissed. I have gotten as close as possible and been like, ‘Nah, not into it.’”
This is one of the things Robbins fears the trolls on the interwebs might take the wrong way. Or Universal, the studio releasing “Blockers.” “I know what this [article] is for, and I should at least be a little nice for this one,” he says during one of the many instances he stops himself mid-sentence during our interview.
But he also wants to be himself. He wants to talk about his love of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and how he’d love to be the first straight contestant on the reality show. He wants to talk about his mom’s politics and how “ridiculous” he finds it that she was criticized for saying Trump would “bring the revolution” if elected as President. (“I have so much respect for her. She’s a badass. She’s always spoken her mind and been right.”) And he wants to talk about psychedelic drugs and how much they’ve impacted him. Because no, it isn’t a coincidence that in three of his first big roles — the indie “My Friend Dahmer,” “Blockers” and “Halloween” — he plays a stoner.
“I mean, why does Tom Hanks play the everyman? Because he’s the everyman,” “Blockers” director Kay Cannon says with a laugh. “Miles has the extensive knowledge and use of drugs.”
“He really knows how to smoke, where when you ask a lot of actors to smoke on screen, it looks phony baloney,” says David Gordon Green, the filmmaker behind “Halloween. “I didn’t have to give him Huff ’n’ Puff 101.”
Robbins admits he smoked a lot of marijuana in high school, and his mother famously argued on behalf of cannabis legalization for years. But now he’s more into mushrooms, which he says changed his life.
“I’m a completely different person than I was the first time I took mushrooms,” he says, launching into a discussion of the link between Buddhist meditation and psychedelic drugs that he learned about as a student at Brown University. “What I think psychedelic drugs do for people is bring you back to the beginner’s mind. You can embrace the inner child and relax in a really incredible way.”
Robbins attended Brown for three years, studying documentary film and music production. He dropped out in his senior year because he only had prerequisite courses left to complete and he wasn’t interested in taking them. But it was at college that he first started exploring his love of film, obsessing over the experimental filmmaker Ron Fricke and serving as a teacher’s assistant to the head of the film department.
After Brown, he began his stint as a disc jockey. And one day in 2015, he went to the movies to see an independent film by that had earned its lead actresses rave reviews. He thought it was terrible. “I hated this movie so much and thought everyone in it was so bad that I thought, ‘This is a racket. Come on, I could do that.’”
So he read for some agents and initially signed with one at UTA, where his mother is represented. “Maybe it helped that my mom is who she is,” he says, shaking his head. “I’m at the point now where if someone thinks of me that way or boxes me in to be being just ‘the child of,’ I just think that they’re being narrow-minded and not looking at the fact that I’m very different from them and don’t work with them.”
Neither Cannon nor Green knew who Robbins’s parents were when they cast him in their respective films. Green said the young actor “jumped off the audition screen like if ‘Twin Peaks’ was a comedy,” exuding a “spooky spaciness” that he found “made me laugh a lot and was simultaneously cool and hip.”
“It’s kind of neat when you hear so many stories of kids getting caught up in their celebrity parents’ lives and then you meet a grounded, cool, super energetic and positive young actor who has come out of probably a super unconventional life,” says Green. “And then you applaud Tim and Susan and say, ‘Hell, yeah! Well done.’”
Robbins, meanwhile, realizes that the way he got into acting is pretty “hateable.”
“But I would be lying if I didn’t say that was a big inspiration to me to see [work] that was being celebrated that I thought wasn’t so great,” he says. “Not that I’m going to immediately be better, but ‘I could do this passably and make a living.’ And now I love doing it.”
He’d like to continue acting, but he’s currently focused on making a new record with his band. Then he says maybe he’ll try his hand at writing or directing. Whatever happens, he wants to blaze his own trail.
“I think it’s really cool when someone can be more than an actor or a musician,” he says. “But there’s no one who I know who has done it the way that I want to do it. I guess I aspire to be the first Miles.”
Follow me on Twitter @AmyKinLA
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