In the early 80’s, Robert Hays seemed to have it all going for him.
He starred in the classic film AIRPLANE, was appearing on TV regularly, and was starring in feature films.
Yet, somehow, that success didn’t carry over into the following decades.
Like many actors, he began in TV, appearing in the 70’s in episodes of THE ROCKFORD FILES, MARCUS WELBY M.D., CANNON, LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY and WONDER WOMAN.
In 1979 he appeared opposite Donna Pescow in the sitcom ANGIE. Probably best known today for its theme song by Maureen McGovern, ANGIE ran for two seasons, and would air in reruns into the early 80’s.
Then came AIRPLANE. There really isn’t much I have to say about the film. It still stands as one of the funniest films ever made. Hays, as Ted Striker, was the perfect “everyman” sort of lead.
A few more films followed, the lead in TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT, SCANDALOUS, the TV movie THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, and then AIRPLANE II: THE SEQUEL. While not as successful as the original, it still was an entertaining film.
In 1983, he made the pre-Touchstone PG rated Disney film TRENCHCOAT with Margot Kidder, the TV version of MR. ROBERTS, the Stephen King film CAT’S EYE, and then in 1986 played the lead in the TV series of the John Carpenter film STARMAN. That lasted one season.
The beginning of the 90’s saw the start of the direct to video boom. It was probably good for actors, as there were many films to star in. But, it was bad for careers, as few of these lesser films were any good, and got much exposure outside of briefly appearing on the new release wall of Blockbuster.
Hays starred in plenty of these films, HOT CHOCOLATE with Bo Derek, FIFTY/FIFTY with Peter Weller and RAW JUSTICE with Pamela Anderson. There were a few studio films, like the HOMEWARD BOUND films. And, he was the voice of “Iron Man” in the IRON MAN and SPIDER MAN cartoon series.
But, he never had the mainstream success that he probably should have.
So, what ever happened to him?
Hays is still acting. His last major theatrical feature was a supporting role in the 2000 Robert Altman film DR. T AND THE WOMEN. He has recently starred in several independent films, but none that seem to have been released.
One message board listed a serious surfing accident in 2006, that he was able to recover from (I was unable to confirm this). But, there is very little about him.
There are however plenty of stories, especially on the IMDB, about people who worked with him, or met him, and what a nice guy he was. It is rare to read stories like this.
Maybe that is why his career didn't really take off. He was just too nice of a guy for Hollywood.