Robin McLaurim Williams
(born July 21, 1951 or 1952)
is an Academy Award-, Golden Globe-, and Grammy Award-winning American
comedian and actor.
American comedian Robin Williams at "Stand Up for Heroes"
Rising to fame with his role as the alien Mork in the
TV series Mork and Mindy, and later stand up comedy work, Williams
has performed in many feature films since 1980. He has won an Academy Award
for his performance in the 1997 film Good Will Hunting, as well as
being nominated in the 1991 film The Fisher King, and 1993's Mrs.
Doubtfire He has also won six Golden Globes, two Screen Actors Guild
Awards and three Grammy Awards.
Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois. His mother, Laura McLaurim (née
Smith, 1922–2001), was a former model from Jackson, Mississippi. His father,
Robert Fitzgerald Williams (September 10, 1906–October 18, 1987) was a
senior executive at Lincoln-Mercury Motorship in charge of the Midwest area.
Williams was raised in the Episcopal Church, though his mother practiced
and he grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan where he was a student at the
Detroit Country Day School,
and Marin County, California where he attended the public Redwood High
School. He has one half-brother, McLaurin, as well a deceased half-brother,
Todd, who died August 14, 2007.
Williams has 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.
In 1973, Williams was one of only 20 students accepted into the freshman
class at Juilliard. Williams, along with Christopher Reeve, were the only
students accepted by John Houseman into the Advanced Program at the school
that year. Reeve and
Williams had several classes together in which they were the only two
students. In their dialects class, Williams had no trouble mastering all
dialects quickly, whereas Reeve was more meticulous about it. Williams and
Reeve developed a close friendship, and they remained good friends for the
rest of Reeve's life. Williams visited Reeve after the horseback riding
accident that paralyzed him from the neck down and cheered him up by
pretending to be an eccentric Russian doctor (similar to his role in Nine
Months). Williams claimed that he was there to perform a colonoscopy.
Reeve stated that he laughed for the first time since the accident and knew
that life was going to be okay.
After appearing in the cast of the short-lived The Richard Pryor Show
on NBC, Williams was cast by Garry Marshall as the alien Mork in the TV
series in the hit show "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.
Although playing the same character as in his appearance in Happy Days, the
show was set in the present day, in Boulder, Colorado instead of late '50s
in California. Mork was an extremely popular character, featuring on
posters, colouring books, lunchboxes, and other merchandise.
Starting in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Williams began to
reach a wider audience with his standup comedy, including three HBO comedy
specials, Off The Wall (1978), An Evening with Robin Williams
(1982), and Robin Williams: Live at the Met (1986). Also in 1986,
Williams reached an even wider audience to exhibit his style at the 58th
Academy Awards show; noting the Hollywood writers strike that year he
commented that the Hollywood writer... "is the only man in the world that
can blow smoke up his own a--." As a result, Williams has never hosted the
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). He was voted 13th on Comedy Central's
list "100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time" in 2004.
After some encouragement from his friend Whoopi Goldberg, he was set to
make a guest appearance in the 1991 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 a time-traveling con man, Professor Berlingoff Rasmussen.
Williams also appeared on an episode of the American version of Whose
Line Is It Anyway? (Season 3, Episode 9: November 16, 2000). During a
game of "Scenes from a Hat", the scene "What Robin Williams is thinking
right now" was drawn, and Williams stated "I have a career. What the hell am
I doing here?"
The majority of Williams' acting career has been in film, although he has
given some performances on stage as well (notably as Estragon in a
production of Waiting for Godot with Steve Martin). His performance
in Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) got Williams nominated for an Academy
Award. Many of his roles have been comedies tinged with pathos, for example
The Birdcage and Mrs. Doubtfire.
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 Fern Gully,
as the holographic Dr. Know in the 2001 feature Artificial Intelligence:
A.I., the 2005 animated feature Robots, the 2006 Academy Award
winning Happy Feet, and an uncredited vocal performance in 2006's
Everyone's Hero. Furthermore, 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.
Williams has also starred in dramatic films, which got him two subsequent
Academy Award nominations: First for playing an English teacher in Dead
Poets Society (1989), and later for playing a troubled homeless man in
The Fisher King (1991);
that same year, he played an adult Peter Pan in the movie Hook. Other
acclaimed dramatic films include Awakenings (1990) and What Dreams
May Come (1998). In the 2002 dramatic thriller Insomnia, Williams
portrays a writer/killer on the run from a sleep-deprived Los Angeles
policeman (played by Al Pacino) in rural Alaska. And also in 2002, in the
psychological thriller One Hour Photo, Williams played an emotionally
disturbed photo development technician who becomes obsessed with a family
for whom he has developed pictures for a long time.
In 1998, 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. In 2006 Williams starred in
The Night Listener, a thriller about a radio show host who realizes he
has developed a friendship with a child who may or may not exist.
He is known for his improvisational skills and impersonations. His
performances frequently involve impromptu humor designed and delivered in
rapid-fire succession while on stage. According to the Aladdin DVD
commentary, most of his dialogue as the Genie was improvised and conversely
to all previous animation features, the animation had to be post-produced to
synch with Williams' pre-recorded voice-over.
In 2006, he starred in five movies including Man of the Year and
was the Surprise Guest at the 2006 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards. He
appeared on an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that aired
on January 30, 2006.
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. He had
expressed interest in assuming the role in The Dark Knight, the
sequel to 2005's Batman Begins,
although the part of the Joker was taken by Heath Ledger.
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 as a struggling comedian.
Robin Williams has done a number of stand-up comedy tours since the early
1970s. Some of his most notable tours include An Evening With Robin Williams
(1982), Robin Williams: At The Met (1986) and Robin Williams LIVE on
Broadway (2002). The latter broke many long held records for a comedy show.
In some cases, tickets were sold out within thirty minutes of going on sale.
In August 2008, Williams announced a brand new 26-city tour titled
"Weapons of Self Destruction". After a six year break from his record
breaking tour, Robin decided the time was right to perform again due to the
material that could be generated by a presidental election. He was quoted as
saying that this was his last chance to make cracks at the expense of the
current Bush Administration.
His first marriage was to Valerie Velardi on June 4, 1978, with whom he
has one child, Zachary Pym (Zak) (born April 11, 1983). During Williams'
first marriage, he was involved in an extramarital relationship with
Michelle Tish Carter, a cocktail waitress whom he met in 1984. She sued him
in 1986, claiming he gave her herpes without notifying her. The case was
settled out of court.
On April 30, 1989, he married Marsha Garces, his son's nanny who was
already several months pregnant with his child. They have two children,
Zelda Rae (born July 31, 1989) and Cody Alan (born November 25, 1991).
However, in March 2008, Garces filed for divorce from Williams, citing
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Williams had an addiction to
cocaine; he has since quit. Williams was a close friend and frequent partier
alongside John Belushi. He 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. The grand jury helped too."
He was also quoted as saying, "Cocaine is God's way of telling you, you're
making too much money."
He is currently a member of the Episcopal Church. Williams has described
his denomination as "Catholic Lite—same rituals, half the guilt."
On August 9, 2006, Williams entered himself into a rehabilitation center
for alcoholism. His publicist delivered the announcement:
"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."
On August 20, 2007, Williams' elder brother, Robert Todd Williams, died
of complications from heart surgery performed a month earlier.
On March 4, 2009, it was revealed that Williams was hospitalized due to
heart issues. On March 5, it was announced that he needed heart surgery to
replace his Aortic Valve and was postponing his current one-man tour.
Williams is an avid enthusiast of games, enjoying pen-and-paper
role-playing games and online video games, recently playing Warcraft 3,
Day of Defeat, Half-Life,
and the first-person shooter Battlefield 2 as a sniper.
On January 6, 2006, he performed live at Consumer Electronics Show during
Google's 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.
Robin Williams has gone on record as a fan of the anime series Neon
Genesis Evangelion, and incorporated a scene referencing it in One
Hour Photo where he purchases a model kit from it as a gift.
A fan of professional road cycling, he was a regular on the US Postal and
Discovery Channel Pro Cycling team bus and hotels during the years Lance
Armstrong dominated the Tour de France.
He also enjoys rugby union and is a big fan of former All Black, Jonah
Williams is a supporter of eco-friendly vehicles. He currently drives a
Toyota Prius, but is on
the waiting list to be an early adopter of the Aptera 2-series electric
Williams and his former wife, Marsha, founded the Windfall Foundation, a
philanthropic organization to raise money for many different charities.
Williams devotes much of his energy doing work for charities, including the
Comic Relief fund-raising efforts. In December 1999, he sang in French on
the BBC-inspired music video of international celebrities doing a cover of
the Rolling Stones's "It's Only Rock & Roll" for the charity Children's
Williams has performed for four years with the USO for U.S. troops
stationed in Iraq.
||The World According to Garp
||Moscow on the Hudson
||Seize the Day
|The Best of Times
||Good Morning, Vietnam
||The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
||King of the Moon (Credited as Ray D. Tutto)
|Portrait of a White Marriage
||Air Conditioning Salesman
||Dead Poets Society
|Back to Neverland
||Dr. Malcolm Sayer
||Peter Banning / Peter Pan
|The Fisher King
||Doctor Cozy Carlisle
||Genie (Voice), Merchant (Voice)
|FernGully: The Last Rainforest
|Shakes the Clown
||Mime Class Instructor
|I'm From Hollywood
||Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Doubtfire
||In Search of Dr. Seuss
||Aladdin and the King of Thieves
|To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar
||John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
|The Secret Agent
||Good Will Hunting
||Professor Philip Brainard
||Hunter "Patch" Adams
|What Dreams May Come
|Jakob the Liar
||A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
||The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch
|Death to Smoochy
||'Rainbow' Randolph Smiley
|One Hour Photo
||Charlie Boyd/The Priest
|House of D
|The Final Cut
||Alan W. Hakman
||In Search of Ted Demme
|The Big White
||Man of the Year
|Night At The Museum
||Napoleon Cross (voice)
|The Night Listener
||License to Wed
||Maxwell "Wizard" Wallace
|Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian
|World's Greatest Dad
|Prince of Providence
Williams sings a version of "Come Together" with Bobby McFerrin on In
My Life, a Beatles tribute album produced by George Martin. He also
sings "A Mi Manera (My Way)", on the Happy Feet soundtrack. For the
1993 soundtrack of Mrs. Doubtfire, and the film, he sings a rendition
of a fragment of Gioacchino Rossini's "Largo al factotum" from The Barber
Williams also appeared in the music video of Bobby McFerrin's hit song
"Don't Worry, Be Happy".
- Reality...What a Concept (1979)
- Throbbing Python of Love (1983)
- A Night at the Met (1986)
- Pecos Bill (1988)
- Live 2002 (2002)
DVDs and videos
- An Evening with Robin Williams (1982, VHS)
- Robin Williams: Live at the Met (1986, VHS)
- Robin Williams: Live on Broadway (2002)
- Robin Williams: Raul's House 2 (2009)
Television guest appearances
- As "Robert Ellison" on Homicide: Life on the Street (1994)
- As "Thomas" on Friends (1997)
- Whose Line is it Anyway? (2000)
- "That's Fucking Historical" episode of Mind of Mencia (2006)
- Real Time With Bill Maher (2006)
- CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 It Helps To Laugh (2006)
- TV Land's Sit Down Comedy with David Steinberg (2007)
- CBS's Late Show with David Letterman (2007)
- BBC's Men Who Do Comedy (2007)
- CBS's Late Show with David Letterman (2008) (First show after
start of the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike)
- ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live 2008 (Segment titled "I'm Fuckin' Ben
- "The Russian Idol" on American Idol's 2008 "Idol Gives Back" special
- As Merritt Rook on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2008)
- BBC's The Graham Norton Show (2008)
- ITV's Prince of Wales 60th Birthday party We are most amused
Awards and achievements
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
for Good Will Hunting
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Musical or Comedy Series
for Mork & Mindy
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or
for The Fisher King
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or
for Mrs. Doubtfire