Robert Hays in a press photo
Best known as "Ted" as in "Ted Striker," Robert Hays played the hero in Airplane! (1980). The movie would break all records for the highest-grossing comedy in theatrical history.
Bob Hays still never eats fish on a plane, but he is a once in a while customer at Bob’s Big Boy Burbank.
Leslie Nielson, Lorna Patterson, and Robert Hays
"Surely you can’t be serious." "I am serious and don’t call me Shirley." A deadpan exchange between Robert Hays and Leslie Nielson became one of the most famous comedic puns in movie history and underlies the thematic intentions of Airplane! (1980) creators, Jim Abrahams and the Zucker Brothers. They specifically cast serious actors, not comedians, to star in their shot-for-shot remake of the “disaster” genre movie, Zero Hour! (1957), ironically starring Bob’s Big Boy Burbank Hall-of-Famer, Dana Andrews as “Ted Stryker.”
Airplane! (1980) grossed $158 million on a $3.5 million budget. Talk about a return on investment. Comedic screenwriter and director, Peter Farrelly said going to see Airplane! for the first time was like going to see a great rock concert, like Led Zeppelin or the Talking Heads — a transcendent experience. It is widely regarded as one of the best films of the 1980’s and ranks #10 on AFI’s list of funniest American movies of all time. It was added to the U.S Film Registry in 2010.
Julie Haggerty and Robert Hays
Robert read the script for Airplane! (1980) on an airplane. The stewardess, very prim and proper, bun in her hair, asked him what he was reading because he was laughing out loud. So she sat down, and started to read it and pretty soon her hair was undone and she was all over the place; so he thought it must be a good script. Robert Hays beat out David Letterman, Barry Manilow, and Bruce Jenner for the role of “Ted Striker.” His co-star, Julie Haggerty, played “Elaine.” They spent extra time to perfect the famous bar fight dance scene set to “Stayin’ Alive,” a spoof of Saturday Night Fever (1977).
Robert Hays and Donna Pescow
There was a two-week overlap in which Robert was shooting Airplane! (1980) and the TV show Angie (1979-80) on the same lot. He played a rich doctor in love with a coffee shop waitress. The show was created by Gary Marshall, whose namesake theater is across the street from Bob’s Big Boy Burbank.
Robert Hays as Starman
The ABC TV series, Starman (1986-87), continuing the John Carpenter film of the same name, sees Robert in the lead role as an alien taking on the identity of a dead freelance photographer. The entire series was released on DVD in 2012, and to this day, the show has a loyal fan club.
Dakota Fanning playing Cherie Curie
In 1990, Robert Hays married Cherie Curie, the former-lead vocalist of the all female, Los Angeles rock band, The Runaways. The union made Marie Harmon, an actress in Hollywood's “Golden Age,” his mother-in-law. Robert’s marriage to Cherie only lasted seven years but produced one son named Jake, who like mom and dad, shares their vocation for music and film.
The voice of Tony Stark
Prior to Robert Downey Jr. assuming the live action role, Robert Hays was the voice of “Tony Stark” in the animated Iron Man (1994-96), Spider-Man (1996-97) and The Incredible Hulk (1996). The role makes him a frequently invited guest to comic conventions.
Kareem and Robert Hays
In 2014, David and Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Robert Hays, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were reunited to create a series of TV commercials for the state of Wisconsin. The original cockpit set from Airplane! was found and used to film the three commercials, Summer, Fall, and Winter.
Robert Hays loves racing cars. He’s even won several pro-ams, including the 1981 Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix Celeb Race beating Gene Hackman and 14 others. The victory earned him the praise of another pro and celeb racer, Paul Newman, “Hell of a race, Bob.”
The 1966 Ford Mustang used by Robert Stack to run over a bicyclist in Airplane! was actually borrowed from Bob Hays.
The actor most known for playing a fighter pilot actually had a father who was one, requiring the family to move around often. Robert was born in Bethesda, Maryland and lived in Izmir, Turkey when he was a young boy. Newport Beach, California, was his home during junior high and Omaha, Nebraska during high school. He currently lives in Los Angeles and regularly dines at Bob’s Big Boy Burbank.
Robert Hays hosting SNL in 1981