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Robin Williams

Robin McLaurim Williams (born July 21, 1951 or 1952)[2] is an Academy Award-, Golden Globe-, and Grammy Award-winning American comedian and actor.

Actor Robin Williams in 2007


American comedian Robin Williams at "Stand Up for Heroes" 2007

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.


Early life

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 Christian Science,[3][4] and he grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan where he was a student at the Detroit Country Day School,[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]


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.[8] 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.[8]

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".[9]

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.

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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 AA's again.

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.[10]

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;[11] 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?"[12]

Cinema career

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);[13] 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.[13] 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,[14] 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.

Stand-Up career

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.[15]

Personal life

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.[16]

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 irreconcilable differences.[17]

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."[13] 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."[18]

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."[19]

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.[20][21]

Other interests

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,[22] and the first-person shooter Battlefield 2 as a sniper.[23] On January 6, 2006, he performed live at Consumer Electronics Show during Google's keynote.[24] 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."[25] 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.[26]

He also enjoys rugby union and is a big fan of former All Black, Jonah Lomu.[27]

Williams is a supporter of eco-friendly vehicles. He currently drives a Toyota Prius[28], but is on the waiting list to be an early adopter of the Aptera 2-series electric vehicle.[29]

Charity work

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 Promise.[30]

Williams has performed for four years with the USO for U.S. troops stationed in Iraq.


Year   Film   Role   Gross  
1980 Popeye Popeye US$49.8 million
1982 The World According to Garp T.S. Garp US$29.5 million
1983 The Survivors Donald Quinelle US$14 million
1984 Moscow on the Hudson Vladimir Ivanov US$25 million
1986 Seize the Day Tommy Wilhelm  
Club Paradise Jack Moniker  
The Best of Times Jack Dundee US$7.7 million
1987 Good Morning, Vietnam Adrian Cronauer US$123.9 million
1988 The Adventures of Baron Munchausen King of the Moon (Credited as Ray D. Tutto) US$8.0 million
Portrait of a White Marriage Air Conditioning Salesman  
1989 Dead Poets Society John Keating US$95 million
Back to Neverland Peter Pan  
1990 Awakenings Dr. Malcolm Sayer US$52 million
Cadillac Man Joey O'Brien US$27.6 million
1991 Hook Peter Banning / Peter Pan US$119.6 million
The Fisher King Parry US$42.0 million
Dead Again Doctor Cozy Carlisle  
1992 Toys Leslie Zevo US$21.4 million
Aladdin Genie (Voice), Merchant (Voice) US$217.4 million
The Timekeeper The Timekeeper  
FernGully: The Last Rainforest Batty Koda US$24.6 million
Shakes the Clown Mime Class Instructor  
I'm From Hollywood    
1993 Mrs. Doubtfire Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Doubtfire US$219.5 million
Being Human Hector  
1994 In Search of Dr. Seuss Father  
1995 Aladdin and the King of Thieves Genie (Voice) US$168.2 million
Jumanji Alan Parrish US$100.4 million
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt  
Nine Months Dr. Kosevich  
1996 Hamlet Osric US$5.1 million
The Secret Agent The Professor  
Jack Jack Powell US$58.5 million
The Birdcage Armand Goldman US$124 million
1997 Good Will Hunting Sean Maguire US$138.4 million
Flubber Professor Philip Brainard US$92.9 million
Deconstructing Harry Mel/Harry's Character  
Fathers' Day Dale Putley US$28.6 million
1998 Patch Adams Hunter "Patch" Adams US$202.2 million
Junket Whore    
What Dreams May Come Chris Nielsen US$55.3 million
1999 Bicentennial Man Andrew Martin  
Jakob the Liar Jakob Heym/Narrator  
Get Bruce    
2000 Model Behavior Faremain  
2001 A.I.: Artificial Intelligence Dr. Know US$78.6 million
2002 The Rutles 2: Can't Buy Me Lunch    
Insomnia Walter Finch US$67.2 million
Death to Smoochy 'Rainbow' Randolph Smiley US$4.2 million
One Hour Photo Sy Parrish US$31.5 million
2004 Noel Charlie Boyd/The Priest  
House of D Pappass US$210,826
The Final Cut Alan W. Hakman  
2005 In Search of Ted Demme    
The Big White Paul Barnell  
Robots Fender US$128.2 million
The Aristocrats Himself  
2006 Man of the Year Tom Dobbs US$12.5 million
Night At The Museum Theodore Roosevelt US$250.8 million
Happy Feet Ramon/Lovelace (voice) US$194.9 million
Everyone's Hero Napoleon Cross (voice) US$6.1 million
RV Bob Munro US$86.8 million
The Night Listener Gabriel Noone  
2007 License to Wed Reverend Frank US$43.8 million
August Rush Maxwell "Wizard" Wallace Red Belt
2009 Old Dogs Lead awaiting release
Shrink TBA post-production
Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian Theodore Roosevelt post-production
World's Greatest Dad Lance Clayton post-production
Prince of Providence TBA pre-production
The Krazees TBA in production


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 of Seville.

Williams also appeared in the music video of Bobby McFerrin's hit song "Don't Worry, Be Happy".[31]

  • 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 Affleck")
  • "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 (2008)
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 Comedy
for The Fisher King
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
for Mrs. Doubtfire

References and Notes

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