Robin McLaurin Williams (born July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014) was a notable Academy Award-winning American actor and comedian. As an actor he has had several starring roles on television, stage, and film.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Early life[edit | edit source]
Williams was born in 1951 in Chicago, Illinois and raised in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and Marin County, California. While in California, Robin attended Redwood High School in Larkspur and grew up in the suburb of Tiburon. In Michigan, he attended Detroit Country Day School, which boasts other famous alumni, including Steve Ballmer from Microsoft and Courtney Vance from Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Robin's father, Robert Fitzgerald Williams, of English, Welsh and Irish descent, was a senior executive at Ford in charge of the Midwest area. Robin's mother Laurie was a New Orleans-born former model of French descent. He has two half-brothers. He described himself as a quiet child whose first imitation was of his grandmother to his mom. He did not overcome his shyness until he became involved with his high school drama department.
Early stand-up and TV career[edit | edit source]
Williams first achieved notice for his stand-up routines performing for tips and working clubs like the Purple Onion in San Francisco. After studying at Claremont McKenna College (then called Claremont Men's College) with the Strut and Fret theatre group in Claremont, California, and at Juilliard Drama School (where he befriended and roomed with actor Christopher Reeve), he was cast by Garry Marshall as the alien Mork in a guest role in the TV series Happy Days.
As Mork, Williams improvised much of his dialogue and devised plenty of rapid-fire verbal and physical comedy, speaking in a high, nasal voice. Mork's appearance was so popular with viewers that it led to a spin-off hit television sitcom, Mork and Mindy, which ran from 1978 to 1982. Williams became an overnight sensation, and Mork was featured on posters, coloring books, lunchboxes, and other merchandise. His nonsensical catchphrases, including the greeting "nanoo nanoo" and the swear word "shazbat", were widely known.
In the '80s, Williams began to reach a wider audience with his standup comedy, including two Home Box Office (HBO) comedy specials, An Evening with Robin Williams (1982) and Robin Williams: Live at the Met (1986). His standup work has been a consistent thread through his career, as is seen by the success of his one-man show (and subsequent DVD) Robin Williams Live on Broadway (2002).
Cinema fame[edit | edit source]
The majority of Williams' acting career has been in film, although he has given some memorable performances on stage as well (notably as Estragon in a production of Waiting for Godot). His first starring roles, Popeye (1980) and The World According to Garp (1982), were both considered flops, but with Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) Williams was nominated for an Academy Award and established a screen identity. Many of his roles have been comedies tinged with pathos (for example, The Birdcage, Mrs. Doubtfire).
In particular, his role as the Genie in the animated film Aladdin was instrumental in establishing the importance of star power in voice actor casting. Later, Williams once again used his voice talents in Bicentennial Man, the 2005 animated feature Robots, and an uncredited vocal performance in 2006's Everyone's Hero.
Williams had also starred in dramatic films, earning himself two subsequent Academy Award nominations: first for playing an unorthodox and inspiring English teacher in Dead Poets Society (1989), and later for playing a troubled homeless man in The Fisher King (1991). Other acclaimed dramatic films included Awakenings (1990), What Dreams May Come (1998), and Jakob the Liar (1999).
In 1997, he won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his role as a psychologist in Good Will Hunting. However, by the early 2000s, he was thought by some to be typecast in films such as Patch Adams (1998) and Bicentennial Man (1999) that critics complained were excessively maudlin. This apparently prompted Williams to take radically unconventional roles, beginning with the dark comedy as a lowlife kiddie show host in Death to Smoochy, followed by One Hour Photo in a watershed performance as an obsessed film developer, Insomnia as a sociopathic writer, and The Final Cut, which is more in tune with Williams as a protagonist.
He was known for his wild improv skills and impersonations. Because his quick-wit performances frequently involved ingenious humor designed and delivered in rapid-fire succession completely while on stage, he was widely regarded as one of the greatest impromptu comedians of all time. He was a talented mimic and could jump in and out of characters and various accents at an extremely fast pace. Williams stated that he began doing impersonations as a child, mimicking his aunt's southern accent.
His most recent role was in the movie The Night Listener, a screen adaption of the popular mystery novel, in which he plays a radio show host who must figure out the story behind a mysterious fourteen-year-old caller.
Personal life[edit | edit source]
Williams' first marriage was to Valerie Velardi on June 4, 1978, with whom he had one child, Zachary (born 1983). The marriage ended in 1988. On April 30, 1989, he married Marsha Garces. They havd two children, Zelda Ray (born 1989) and Cody Alan (born 1992).
He was portrayed by Chris Diamantopoulos in the made-for-TV biopic Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy (2005), documenting the actor's arrival in Hollywood a struggling comedian and becoming an overnight star when he landed the role in Mork & Mindy.
In the 2006 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, he was the Surprise Guest.
On August 9, 2006, it was reported that Williams recently entered himself into a rehabilitation center for alcoholism. His publicist has confirmed, saying "After 20 years of sobriety, Robin Williams found himself drinking again and has decided to take proactive measures to deal with this for his own well-being and the well-being of his family. He asks that you respect his and his family's privacy during this time. He looks forward to returning to work this fall to support his upcoming film releases."
Williams resided in a large house in the upper-class Sea Cliff neighborhood of San Francisco.
Computer games[edit | edit source]
Williams was a self-confessed gamer known to enjoy online video games, recently playing Warcraft 3, Half-Life and the first-person shooter Battlefield 2 as a sniper. In addition, he also played the tabletop wargame Warhammer 40,000. In an interview for a video game magazine, he stated that Nintendo contacted him once and told him because of his love of video games, if there ever is a live action Pokémon movie made, he would be their first, last and only choice to play Professor Oak.Template:Fact He also named his daughter Zelda because his son is a devoted fan of the Legend of Zelda video game series.Template:Fact Williams was even in talks to do a voice for the game Half-Life 2, because he was a big fan of the series. However, scheduling conflicts prevented this.Template:Fact
On January 6, 2006, he performed live at Consumer Electronics Show during the Google keynote.
In the 2006 E3, on the invitation of Will Wright, he demonstrated the creature editor of Spore while simultaneously commenting on the creature's look: "This will actually make a platypus look good." He also complimented the game's versatility, comparing it to Populous and Black & White. Charity work
Robin and Marsha founded the Windfall Foundation, a philanthropic organization to raise money for many different charities. Williams devoted much of his energy doing work for charities, including the Comic Relief fund-raising efforts. He was also a cycling fan, known to own hundreds of bicycles and to attend the Tour de France. Through his interest in cycling, he wasn a friend and supporter of Lance Armstrong and his foundation, performing at events for the foundation.
Death[edit | edit source]
On August 11, 2014, Williams committed suicide in his Paradise Cay, California, home. His body was cremated at Montes Chapel of the Hills in San Anselmo and his ashes were scattered over San Francisco Bay the day after his death.
The final autopsy report, released in November 2014, concluded that he "died of 'asphyxia due to hanging'" (as suspected by the Marin County sheriff's office on August 12). Williams was also found with superficial wounds to his hands and arms, most likely caused by a pocketknife lying nearby. Neither alcohol nor illegal drugs were involved, and prescription drugs present in his body were at "therapeutic" levels. The report also noted that Williams had been suffering "a recent increase in paranoia". An examination of his brain tissue suggested Williams suffered from "diffuse Lewy body dementia". Describing the disease as "the terrorist inside my husband's brain", his wife Susan Schneider said, "however you look at it—the presence of Lewy bodies took his life," referring to his previous diagnosis of Parkinson's.
The Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA) clarified the distinction between the term used in the autopsy report, diffuse Lewy body dementia—which is more commonly called diffuse Lewy body disease and refers to the underlying disease process—and the umbrella term, Lewy body dementia—which encompasses both Parkinson's disease dementia (PD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). According to LBDA spokesperson Dennis Dickson, "The report confirms he experienced depression, anxiety and paranoia, which may occur in either Parkinson's disease or dementia with Lewy bodies ... In early PD, Lewy bodies are generally limited in distribution, but in DLB, the Lewy bodies are spread widely throughout the brain, as was the case with Robin Williams."
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- Robin Williams had performed in the USO for U.S. troops stationed in Iraq for three years. Just days after the start of the Iraq War, Williams performed for American troops stationed in Afghanistan.
- He was roommates with the late Superman star Christopher Reeve. They remained good friends for the remainder of Reeve's life. Williams visited Reeve after the horseback riding accident that paralyzed him from the neck down and tried to cheer him up by arriving dressed as a clown doctor. Reeve stated that Robin was the first thing to make him laugh after the accident.
- An episode of Mork and Mindy was made to highlight Superman: The Movie. Mork's son Mearth (Jonathan Winters) began idolizing Christopher Reeve's Superman character, after his parents took him to see the movie. The episode deals with Mork overcoming jealousy of Superman.
- He was a Democrat.
- After some encouragement from his friend Whoopi Goldberg, he was set to make a guest appearance in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "A Matter of Time", but he had to cancel due to a scheduling conflict; Matt Frewer took his place as time-traveling con man, Professor Berlingoff Rasmussen.
- During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Williams had a serious addiction to cocaine; he had since kicked the habit. One quote attributed to him: "Cocaine is God's way of telling you that you are making too much money." Williams was a close friend and frequent partier alongside John Belushi. Williams says the death of his friend and the birth of his son prompted him to quit drugs: "Was it a wake-up call? Oh yeah, on a huge level. A grand jury will sober you up pretty quickly."
- At high school, he won a "Faisal" award for "Most Likely To Not Succeed".
- He appeared on an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that aired on January 30, 2006. Via a live video link to the De'Aeth family whose house and animal rescue shelter were being made over, he encouraged their son Cody, a budding comedian, and gave the family's shelter a recreational vehicle used in the movie R.V.
- According to the Aladdin DVD commentary, most of his dialogue as the Genie was improvised.
- Williams spoke French. However, he did not do his own French dubbing in movies as Jodie Foster sometimes has done.
- He was a fan of the Tour de France cycle race and good friend of 7-time Yellow Jersey winner Lance Armstrong.
- He was the voice of The Timekeeper, a former attraction at the Walt Disney World Resort about a time-traveling robot who encounters Jules Verne and brings him to the future.
- He once appeared on an episode of Whose Line is it Anyway? (Season 3, Episode 9: Nov. 16, 2000). During a game of "Scenes from a Hat," the scene "What Robin Williams is thinking right now" was pulled, and Williams stated "I have a career. What the hell am I doing?"
- Shown donating blood numerous times directly after 9/11 to help victims of the attacks.
- At one point, he was in the running to play the Riddler in Batman Forever until director Tim Burton dropped the project. Williams had earlier been a prime candidate to play the Joker in Batman (film). He had expressed interest in assuming the role in the sequel to 2005's Batman Begins.
- He was good friends with film director Chris Columbus who is also a San Francisco resident. Williams has starred in Columbus' films Mrs. Doubtfire and Bicentennial Man.
- Was a fan of the Japanese anime Neon Genesis Evangelion (EVA). In fact, the toy used in One Hour Photo was from Robin's personal collection. Also, in the CGI film Robots (movie), William's character carries a spear nearly identical to the Lance of Longinus prominiently featured in EVA.
- He was good friends with "fellow Whovian" Steve Martin. Sometimes when both their schedules are not too heavy, they got together to watch DVDs of Doctor Who.
- Was a fan of rugby union, in particular the All Blacks and is a close friend of Jonah Lomu.
- In 2005, he successfully sued Michael Clayton, a former cast member of the Legends in Concert stage show at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas, and his agent Michael Pool for misrepresenting Clayton as the real Robin Williams to a Star Tribune newspaper reporter and a fire department in Missouri. A permanent injunction was issued against Clayton preventing him from ever performing as Robin Williams.
- Williams sang a version of "Come Together" with Bobby McFerrin on In My Life, a Beatles tribute album produced by George Martin. Williams also appeared in the music video of McFerrin's hit song "Don't Worry, Be Happy".
Filmography[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Patten, Dominic (January 9, 2013). Robin Williams Joins Dito Montiel’s ‘Boulevard’. Deadline.com. Retrieved on July 1, 2014.
- ‘The Angriest Man in Brooklyn’, starring Robin Williams and Mila Kunis, begins filming in Brooklyn on Monday!. Onlocationvacations.com (September 6, 2012).
- "Road Trip with Robin"
- "Robin Williams mimic ends 'fraud'" (BBC News)
- "Robin Williams' impersonator stopped" (AskMen.com)
- "Robin Williams Enters Rehab", August 9, 2006 (Access Hollywood)
- Lovece, Frank, New York Newsday (April 27, 2006)