Tim Robbins: ‘You Can’t Over-Regulate People’s Lives’

Actor/activist Tim Robbins hasn’t been as vocal as in the past.

Robbins, 64, spoke out early and often during President George W. Bush’s presidency, savaging the war in Iraq and what he saw as chilling infringements on free speech.

The versatile star’s film resume has quieted of late – his last big-screen role came in 2019’s “Dark Waters.” Pandemic lockdowns deeply impacted what he could do on stage or film sets.

Now, he’s speaking out to independent journalist Matt Taibbi about the past two-plus years in America, and it’s safe to say he’s nauseated by what he’s seen.

Robbins, who works extensively in theater as well as big-screen projects, mourned the loss of theatrical attendance both during the pandemic and after. Vaccine mandates and other draconian restrictions, he says, are partly to blame.

“If you start specifying reasons why people can’t be in a theater, I don’t think it’s a theater anymore,” Robbins told Taibbi on the journalist’s Substack platform. The actor/director compared America’s return to “normal” to England’s shift, where more stages opened without caveats.

“When you’re told you’re not welcome, you might not necessarily want to go back,” he says.

Robbins admits he did as told at the start of the pandemic lockdowns. That included demonizing those who didn’t follow the government narratives. In short, he was part of the problem, and he has no qualms about admitting it.

He later joined a BLM protest, mask over face, and later reflected on the hypocrisy of such “approved” mass protests.

Lockdown rules directly impacted his art. Both SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity insisted artists couldn’t even audition for a role if they didn’t get the jab. Now, as we’re learning the vaccines didn’t prevent the virus’ spread, the rules make even less sense.

“Their livelihoods are threatened. They can’t participate yet… there’s no rhyme or reason with it.”

What about those with conditions that preclude them from getting the vaccine, like musician Pete Parada, or those who previously caught the virus and had natural immunity, he asks.

Robbins worries for American culture, noting our increasingly tribal in-fighting and inability to connect with those who hold different political views. Even rock-ribbed liberals have morphed into something unrecognizable during, and after, the pandemic.

“You go from someone that is inclusive, altruistic, generous, empathetic, to a monster,” he says. “Where you want to freeze people’s bank accounts because they disagree with you. That’s a dangerous thing. That’s a dangerous world that we’ve created.”

He blasted people like Jimmy Kimmel and Howard Stern who argued unvaccinated people didn’t deserve medical treatment, noting how addicts and obese people similarly hurt their bodies but deserve our love and care.

Robbins says he went out and talked to people protesting the lockdowns, expecting to find hateful souls on the streets. Instead, he found “old hippies and homeopaths,” but when he shared his impressions Twitter Nation excoriated him.

“I have kind of a hard line on freedom. You can’t over-regulate people’s lives. I don’t know what that makes me, what label that puts on me, but I am an absolutist on freedom,” he says.

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Robbins’ Oscar-winning drama “Dead Man Walking” typifies his approach to art. The 1995 film, starring Sean Penn as a killer on death row who bonds with a nun (Susan Sarandon) in his final days, wasn’t an overt attack on the death penalty.

“I wanted to make it for everybody, and I wanted people to have a discussion about it,” he says. “So we had to give dignity and screen time and respect to the people that had lost their family members, and were for the death penalty.”

Robbins also indirectly referenced Cancel Culture in his Taibbi chat, suggesting the arts are under attack in today’s society.

“It’s now not only just the scolds from the right, like in the old days when the Moral Majority wanted art to die. Now it’s unions and people that are, again, claiming virtuous reasons for all of this.”

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