Robin Williams’s biography
Even though Robin Williams has long been labeled as a comedian, he emerged in the history of cinema as one of the world’s greatest drama actors. Grown-up, but still innocent Peter Pan; robot in love with his owner; a father who decided to pose as a woman to be closer to his children; elderly owner of a photo developing lab turned psychopath due to loneliness and envy... His characters will forever remain trademarks of high art.
Robin Williams was born on July 21, 1951, in Chicago. His father, Robert, was 45 years old and both for him and his wife Laurie, this was their second marriage. Robert was a senior executive at Ford, and Laurie had long abandoned the modeling business in favor of raising her kids.
Robin was the youngest child, although there were two more kids in the family from their previous marriages. His elder siblings couldn’t care less about Robin. Due to the fact that he was suffering from obesity, he was growing up quite shy and reserved, which is why he often had appointments with the school counselor. As a teenager, he managed to get rid of his extra weight, but the body image issues never stopped haunting him. He was a master when it came to camouflaging his anxiety and shyness, and soon enough he earned the reputation of a humorist in his school.
In 1963 they relocated to Detroit, where his father was supposed to become head of the company’s main office. Here, they moved into a 30-room villa, and at the new school, Robin made new friends and gained a sense of belonging. He was top of his class and his sense of humor turned him into one of the most popular boys in school.
In 1969, Robin enrolled for a political science course at the Claremont college, his entry exams result in being one of the best. After performing at the student theater, he quickly lost interest in the course. A year after, Robin dropped out of college and moved to New York. His parents seemed to be disappointed with his choice, however, they still tried to support him.
During the day, Robin was polishing his acting skills at Juilliard, and in the evenings – he was doing stand-up in different New York clubs. His sketches quickly became popular, and the club owners paid him well, hence he was quite pleased with his life at that point. Two years after, his teacher, John Houseman, advised Williams to abandon the life of a restaurant comedian before it erased his acting talent, and move to Hollywood in order to pursue it.
Following his mentor’s advice, Robin did move to Los Angeles, however, he did not abandon his work as a comedian. In 1977, producer George Schlatter saw his performance and invited him to make an appearance in his show Laugh-In, which needed an urgent revival. Nonetheless, his appearance did not help revive the show, but it caught the attention of other producers. Throughout the year, Robin was a common guest on popular shows and even gave outstanding performances in clubs in London,
At the end of 1978, Williams was invited to the popular sitcom Mork and Mindy, where he played the role of bumbling alien Mork, who fell in love with a human. The show ran for four years, and this role earned Robin his first Golden Globe.
Robin first made an appearance on the big screen in 1980, in the comedy musical Popeye, where he played the role of a tough sailor, co-starring with Shelley Duvall. The film didn’t meet the expectations and is simply known as the first movie where Robin Williams starred.
From 1981 to 1987, the actor was working on several sets. His most remarkable works of that time were the comedy The Survivors, where he played the loser trying to escape his psycho stalker, the drama based on John Irving’s The World According to Garp, where he starred together with Glenn Close, and the romantic comedy Moscow on the Hudson, where he played the role of a Russian musician, who left for America by accident, looking for a better life.
In 1987, the role of the journalist in the anti-war satire Good morning, Vietnam earned him the second Golden Globe and the first nomination for the main award of the Film Academy. He co-starred with Forest Whitaker and Bruno Kirby.
Best roles. 1988 - 2000
In 1988, the actor appeared on Terry Gilliam’s radar, who was then shooting a movie about the affairs of Baron Munchausen. His role as King of the Moon with his floating head fit perfectly into the movie, alongside John Neville, Sarah Polley, as well as young Uma Thurman and Eric Idle.
The role of the literature teacher in Dead Poets Society made the actor rethink his attitude towards himself. If, prior to his movie, he would consider himself a comedian, then, after playing the role of John Keating, he uncovered his potential for drama acting. The movie was extremely successful, but the critic reviews were rather controversial, who were unhappy with the director’s stance on the relentless passing of time and unavoidability of death. Young actors Ethan Hawke, Gale Hansen, and Josh Charles and Lara Flynn Boyle starred in the movie as well.
In the drama Awakenings, Robin played the role of the doctor who discovered a miraculous cure capable of healing people suffering from a rare disease. In this movie, based on real-life events as told by doctor Oliver Sacks, Robert De Niro played the role of one of the patients. Onset, Robin accidentally hit Robert and broke his nose. Following these events, the actors would often joke about that, and De Niro even said that Robin didn’t break his nose, he merely fixed it. Peter Stormare and Max von Sydow also made an appearance in the movie.
The actor said that the roles from the 1991 movies – Steven Spielberg’s Hook and Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King – were among his favorite ones,
In the movie Hook, the actor plays a grown-up and exhausted Peter Pan, saving his kids who were held hostage by Hook. Once he found himself in the magic kingdom, Peter Pan realizes that his past had never been behind him and that deep down he’s still a child. That’s something both the character and Williams had in common, which is why it posed no difficulty to him to bring him to life. Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hoskins, Julia Roberts and British star Maggie Smith have also made an appearance in the movie.
In The Fisher King, Gilliam gave Robin the role of a homeless man named Parry, saying that he cannot imagine any other actor filling the role. He was right – Robin took the viewers on an emotional rollercoaster with his performance. In the touching fantasy about the friendship of two broken people, which has also received many awards, Jeff Bridges, Amanda Plummer, and Mercedes Ruehl have also made an appearance.
The role of Daniel Hillard – a man who had lost his job and family and who decided to dress up as a woman to work as a nanny in this own house – in Mrs. Doubtfire was yet another proof of Robin Williams’s unique acting talent. It was the best movie in 1993 and it’s one of the dream factory’s top 100 highest-grossing films.
During this same period, the actor starred in the fantasy thriller Jumanji, in the drama Being Human and Good Will Hunting.
By the end of the 20th century, Robin appeared in the drama What Dreams May Come playing the role of the person whose soul crosses the other side in order to meet his dead relatives. The story made the viewers reflect on what truly matters in life and it also approached the topic of religion. Actors Cuba Gooding Jr., Annabella Sciorra, and Max von Sydow also starred in the movie.
Robin in the role of robot Andy, who’s definitely more human than most people, in the fantasy drama Bicentennial Man, has once again amazed the viewers with his substance. His character raises such questions as those of self-identity in the modern world and gives up his immortality in order to die human. Oliver Platt, Embeth Davidtz, and Sam Neill starred in the movie based on Isaac Asimov’s novel as well.
2000s. The peak of fame
Robin Williams made an appearance that shocked everybody, including himself – the role of the maniac and writer in Insomnia. The role of the police detective investigating the murder of a schoolgirl was played by Al Pacino, co-starring with Martin Donovan, Hilary Swank, and Jonathan Jackson.
The role of the elderly owner of a photo developing lab in the drama thriller One Hour Photo was quite the challenge to Robin Williams. The heavy psychological context of the plot kept uncovering the issue of loneliness, and the character of Sy, who was gradually turning into a psychopath, brought the actor to emotional exhaustion, forging his path to alcoholism.
In 2004, the actor starred in the sci-fi thriller The Final Cut. In the future, Robin played the role of a censor editing the memories of his clients. His accidental discovery of a deleted record brings about irreversible consequences. The actor co-starred with Mira Sorvino and Jim Caviezel.
The topic of loneliness, abuse, and guilt continued to arise in the 2006 movie The Night Listener, where he co-starred with Toni Collette and Rory Culkin.
In 2006, the actor played an episodic, but a remarkable role in the fantasy action movie Night at the Museum. The wax-sculpted President Roosevelt, who gave a helping hand to Ben Stiller’s character in dealing with the resurrected museum showpieces; he also made an appearance in the 2009 sequel.
He played out his last roles in The Big Wedding, co-starring with Robert De Niro and Susan Sarandon, in the social drama The Butler and in the drama The Face of Love, where he played the role of a widower trying to find the will to live again. He shared the set with Annette Bening and Ed Harris.
Robin Williams’s personal life
During his time at Juilliard, the actor met model Valerie Velardi, to whom he got married in 1978. 10 years after, they got divorced following Valerie’s initiative, who refused to put up with her husband’s alcoholism and drug abuse. They had a son named Zachary.
His second wife was Marsha Garces, Zachary’s ex-nanny, to whom he got married pretty much right after the divorce with Valerie. They had two children – son Cody and daughter Zelda. Their marriage lasted until 2007. After the divorce, Robin was in rehab for a long time, trying to beat his depression and alcoholism, which he could no longer do by himself.
In 2011, the actor got married for the third time. This time, to designer Susan Schneider, who was doing everything in her powers to stop his alcoholism from remitting.
On August 11, 2014, the world was hit by the news of the death of Robin Williams. His body was found with a belt around his neck, and his autopsy confirmed that he had committed suicide. One of the reasons behind the suicide of one of the world’s greatest actors was chronic depression, which arose due to constant overstressing, alcohol and drug abuse, financial issues, as well as early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
The drug test carried out on November 7 showed that there was no trace of neither alcohol nor drugs in the actor’s blood. However, the combination of medicines that he was taking for his Parkinson’s disease could have triggered suicidal tendencies, which, fused with chronic depression, was the cause behind his suicide.
In an interview in 2015, the actor’s widow admitted that Robin was well aware of the fact that in the years to come the disease would destroy his brain. He was diagnosed with a rare form of Parkinson’s with Lewy body dementia. Realizing that he’s losing the grip on his mind, Robin couldn’t allow himself to fade gradually and becoming an old helpless mad man.
During the last months of his life, the actor often repeated this quote from Dead Poets Society: Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.
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