Life Advice from Tim Robbins

Mj 618_348_exit interview tim robbins
Illustration by Tim Tomkinson

What adventure most changed your life?
There were two, and both had to do with baseball. One was watching the New York Mets win the World Series at Shea Stadium on my 11th birthday, October 16, 1969. I was there. The other was doing 'Bull Durham.'

What skill should every man have?
The ability to be at your best in fight or flight – and knowing when to do which. I also think it's necessary to know how to swim. And, um, pitch a tent. And to know when to say, "You're right, honey."

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Do you have a scar that tells a story?

I have scars from sticks, scars from glass, and scars from heartbreak. I'll just leave it at that.

What would you do with a time machine?
I'd want to live in the 1930s. It's the clothes. Everyone just looked kind of cool, even the workers. I'm not above wearing a T-shirt in my own country, but it's nice to go over to Europe and see other people make an effort to dress and to have meals where conversations happen and to slow down their lives a little.

What was your first car?
A 1969 Chevy Nova. I worked all summer in New York in 1977 and bought this piece-of-shit used car and drove it back to college. I had it for a year before it died. I actually drove it down a couple outdoor staircases in a plaza at school. About 50 steps. Yeah, it was major. I don't remember why I did it. I think it just needed to be done.

Where's the strangest place you ever fell asleep?
I can't remember. I think I was asleep at the time.

What's the best advice you ever received?
Robert Altman told me that we have to follow our instincts and our talent and have the courage to sacrifice, to say no to the powerful, to keep what we're trying to do free and fun.

Which commandment do you break most often?
Isn't there one that says thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's ass?

What's the worst physical pain you ever experienced?
I was playing hockey, and my knee collided with a helmet. I heard it pop. It was an MCL tear. I had to shoot a movie a week later, so I wore a brace and had to act like it wasn't there. That was intense.

What's the most cherished possession you ever lost?
I don't hold on to bad memories, though some are indelibly marked in my childhood, like when my bicycle was stolen the day after I got it. I don't think I've ever recovered from that.

How do you make your favorite drink?
It has to do with squeezing a lemon and pouring some water. I'm in a pretty boring phase right now.

Do you have a recurring dream?
Just the flying one. I think it's all related to when you were in a crib, because everybody has that experience of being lifted when you're sleeping and crying, and then put back down. There's a sense of floating. I remember putting one of my kids down once and seeing their eyes flutter and seeing that dream happen in that moment.

What song do you have to hear once a week?
"Wake Up" by Arcade Fire. Can't explain it.

What's the most scared you've ever been?
I'm not really scared of much. I've been told to be scared, but there's great freedom in not listening to that voice and living your life without fear of the unknown.

Which of your senses could you live without the easiest?
Probably smell. But you'd get a little more ptomaine than other people.

What modern convenience do you wish had never been invented?
Imagine going back to before electricity, to when the night had a mystery to it. You'd wake up at dawn, seeing the light of the new day emerge. There's something profoundly significant about that that has been taken out of our lives. When we push into midnight, one o'clock, two o'clock, and get up at eight, nine – that is antithetical to the human condition. And when you can find your way back into a simpler mode, like when you're camping, you rediscover a connection to the elements.

What's the first thing you'd do if you became president?

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