Robin Williams will forever be remembered and respected as one of Hollywoods most loved and admired figures. Regardless of the relationship troubles, personal struggles and medical issues, Williams found an obligation and commitment to keep his audiences happy and entertained. Just because he wasn’t happy, it didn’t mean that anyone else needed to be and he kept entertaining people, no matter what he was dealing with. But even though Robin’s fans loved and admired him for his many iconic roles, did the rest of Hollywood feel the same way? Or did they see a darker side to the lighthearted lovable Williams?
Robin may have appeared as a humorous, happy person from a young age, but this was a front for his childhood issues. Williams recalled “My childhood was lonely.
Both my parents were away a lot, working, and the maid basically raised me.” From this, he developed his comedy as a way to get his mother’s attention and make her laugh. If he was successful, Williams expressed that he would reassure himself that everything would be alright.
When Steven Spielberg was filming Holocaust period drama Schindler’s List, the cast and crew often had low spirits due to the heavy and brutal nature of the shoot.
In an attempt to lighten the mood, Robin Williams called Steven Spielberg who put his phone on speaker so everyone could enjoy some hilarious comedy from the actor. Williams would often use the voice of the Genie from Aladdin, improvising over the phone to inject some cheer to many involved with the heart-wrenching film.
No Voices Please
While the rest of the world loved to hear Robin’s brilliant range of voices, the same could not be said for his children. Robin’s favorite book was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe , and he would “read the whole C.S. Lewis series out loud to my kids.
I was once reading to Zelda, and she said “don’t do any voices. Just read it as yourself.” So I did, I just read it straight, and she said ‘that’s better.’”
When Williams enrolled at Juilliard in New York City, he was focusing on acting and taking up many classes in it until John Houseman became aware of his incredible talents.
Houseman gave the invaluable advice to Williams to focus more on his stand up comedy routines, putting acting in the background. After all, Williams’ passion for stand up comedy had dated back to his childhood and was an area which he excelled in. That integral switch arguably shaped William’s career.
Supporting The Troops
Robin had always had the utmost respect for the military and made six tours performing with the United Service Organizations. He would travel to troops stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and 10 other countries, performing for 90,000 troops by his final tour in 2010.
Interestingly, Williams opposed the Iraq war but still supported all of the servicemen and women fighting for their country. Robin was incredibly loved by the military and they were extraordinarily grateful for the actor taking his time to entertain them and boost morale.
Genius Of The Genie
Robin was known for his affinity to improvise on his movies and when he voiced the Genie in Disney hit Aladdin, it was no different.
The film was such a smash hit due to the brilliance of Robin’s voicing of the Genie that it was sent in for an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Unfortunately, all hopes of winning an Academy Award were slashed when the board rejected the nomination as too many of the lines were ad-libbed by Williams.
Williams was an avid video gamer going so far to name himself a “hardcore gamer”. His favorite games were Warcraft, Call Of Duty, Wizardry and The Legend of Zelda.
When Williams’ daughter was born in 1989, she was named Zelda with many assuming it was intended to be in tribute to the game. When asked if this was true, Robin replied, “It wasn’t actually me, it was my son Zachary who came up with the idea. But once Marsha and I heard it, we said it was great.”
Robin’s close friendship with former champion cyclist Lance Armstrong sparked his interest in cycling and they began taking cycling trips together.
Robin often visited Lance during the Tour De France and was a regular spectator in the crowds, and even cycled with his friend during a rest day on the 2002 tour. Robin stood by and defended his friend throughout Lance’s doping allegations but the relationship became strained and distant when Lance admitted that he was guilty.
Miming It Out
Prior to becoming one of the most decorated actors and comedians of his time, Robin had to start at the bottom. He wasn’t making any money and he began performing a miming act outside New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to pay his rent.
Soon after, Williams traveled to San Francisco and Los Angeles to work on his stand up comedy routine, gaining followers and sparking the interest of movie executives and producers in the process.
Everyone that worked with Robin said that his personality was infectious. His on-screen daughters in iconic movie Mrs. Doubtfire, Mara Wilson and Lisa Jakub, recalled how even when the cameras weren’t rolling, he was constantly making them laugh and hanging out.
Jakub also revealed that when her school wanted to kick her out for missing too much due to filming, Williams personally wrote them a letter noting how the teen was trying to successfully balance a career and school.
Friend For Life
Christopher Reeve and Robin were roommates and “closer than brothers” when they were studying at Juilliard. Their friendship stayed strong throughout their careers and Reeve admitted that Williams was the first person to make him laugh following his riding accident, leaving him paralyzed.
In true Williams style, he turned up to the hospital pretending to be a Russian proctologist, telling Reeve he needed to perform an exam immediately. Reeve said “And for the first time since the accident I laughed.”
Robin’s relationships behind closed doors showed a different side to the much loved comedian. During his first marriage to Valerie Velardi, he embarked on an extra-martial affair with cocktail waitress Michelle Tish Carter after meeting in 1984.
Soon after, Carter sued Williams for contracting the herpes simplex virus, claiming the actor did not inform her that he was infected before having relations. The case was eventually settled outside of court and a divorce from Velardi followed in 1988.
While Robin is considered a role model to many in the industry, the person that he admired and looked up to the most was Jonathan Winters. Robin said that Winters became his “idol” at eight-years-old and the influential nature of Winters’ career led Williams to pay homage to him years later.
William’s said that Winters made him realize “that anything is possible, that anything is funny. . . He gave me the idea that it can be free-form, that you can go in and out of things pretty easily.
Pick n’ Mix
Williams’ religious beliefs are not limited to one denomination. He followed in his fathers’ footsteps and was a member of the Episcopal Church of which he described it in his stand up routine as “Catholic Lite—same rituals, half the guilt.”
In addition, Williams considered himself as an “honorary Jew,” dropping many yiddish sayings in his comedy routines and having many Jewish friends within the industry and during his childhood. He even attended the Times Square celebrations for Israel’s 60th Independence Day.
When Williams was approached to take on the role of The Joker in Batman, he jumped at the chance being a comic book lover. Initially, Jack Nicholson was offered the part but was hesitant, only changing his mind and accepting upon hearing Williams had signed on to it.
Warner Bros. took on Nicholson and Williams was furious that the studio had used him as a bargaining chip, refusing to work with them for years until an official apology was given.
With Robin being such a successful and wealthy actor, he was able to buy almost anything. Robin set his sights on a 685-acre property comprising a home and a vineyard in Northern California’s St. Helena district.
Williams said of his home “I love the smell of Napa in the morning.” In true Robin style, he also made fun of his decision to buy a vineyard, jokingly saying that him owning a vineyard is like “Gandhi owning a delicatessen.”
In Williams’ marriage to Valerie Velardi, his affair with Carter was not the only one. Williams and Velardi had employed a nanny, Marsha Garces, for their son Zachary.
However, things took a turn when she and Robin began having an affair. One year after he divorced Velardi in 1988, Williams and Garces were married, with Marsha being pregnant prior to tying the knot with the actor. The marriage to Garces lasted 19-years and produced two children, Zelda and Cody, William’s second and third children.
Robin played a father to daughters in many different movies but he did not allow his father-daughter relationships to flounder when they were off-screen.
Sarah Michelle Gellar played his daughter in the 2013 movie The Crazy Ones, and went on to describe Williams as her “surrogate father”. Furthermore, youngest daughter on Mrs Doubtfire, Mara Wilson, said that Williams kept in touch with her and described him as a source of comfort and stability after her mother’s ԁеаtһ.
Pleading For Potter
Robin was such a big fan of the Harry Potter film franchise that he called the directors to see if they had a role for him.
Williams said in an interview in 2001, “There were a couple of parts I would have wanted to play, but there was a ban on American actors.” However, he didn’t lose hope in his mission and added, “Maybe one day. Say if [Harry] goes to Yale and becomes president.”
Throughout his career, Robin had dedicated himself to giving back to others and undertaking many different philanthropic projects. In 1986, he teamed up with Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal to found Comic Relief USA.
The annual telethon has raised $80 million since 2014. In addition, Robin together with second wife Marsha Garces founded the Windfall Foundation which raised money for a number of different charities. Williams had a fortunate upbringing and stated that he was determined to help the less fortunate.
The Last Laugh
Williams might be one of the most successful actors of his time but not everyone thought he was all that great, particularly while he was growing up.
At school, he was voted “Least Likely To Succeed” but to lighten the wounds, he was also voted “Most Humorous.” It seems as though his classmates’ predictions about him were half true, as he clearly ended up as one of the most successful and humorous personalities to ever grace Hollywood.
Robin took a lower salary as the Genie in Aladdin under the condition that Disney would not use his voice in the film’s merchandise, nor would they use the Genie in their advertising.
Williams said “I don’t want to sell stuff. It’s the one thing I won’t do.” When Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg broke both conditions, Robin turned his back on Disney and refused to work with them again. They began working together again after Disney sent him a $1 million Picasso painting as a peace offering.
William’s owed part of his success to his education and experiences at Juilliard. Getting the advice to switch from acting to comedy changed his life and is entirely down to the institution.
For this reason, Robin set up a scholarship fund to help others attend the arts college, and one notable person in particular who benefitted from this was award-winning actress Jessica Chastain. She said, “Robin Williams changed my life, his generous spirit will forever inspire me to support others as he supported me.”
In 1996, Robin reached a milestone which the majority of actors will never achieve in their lifetime. In the same week, his hit movies Jumanji and The Birdcage both reached the $100 million mark in the U.S.
Despite many looking up to the actor and admiring his huge success, Robin always remained humble and never boasted about his achievements. It appeared that any movie starring the actor seemed to head straight to the top spot at the worldwide box office.
Wife Number Three
Robin met graphic designer Susan Schneider around 2007, just before he divorced Marsha Garces, to whom he lost $20 million in their divorce settlement. The two began dating soon after this time and were then married in 2011 and until 2014, when Williams took his own life.
After this heartbreaking event, Schneider was embroiled in a bitter legal battle with Robin’s children over his $100 million estate. After eight months of fighting, the two parties came to an agreement over how to fairly split their fathers and husband’s earnings.
Like Father, Like Daughter
Out of Robin’s three children, his daughter Zelda was the one who followed in her father’s footsteps by venturing into acting. She had her on screen debut at age five with many of her roles allowing Zelda to act opposite her father.
It wasn’t until her later years that she began taking on more prominent roles and making a name for herself in the industry. Zelda has continued to make cameos and take up parts in TV series.
In 2009, Robin was set to embark on his “Weapons of Self-Destruction” tour when he was struck down with a serious heart problem which forced him into surgery. His family had a history of heart failure and his brother ԁıеԁ from it back in 2007 meaning Robin understood the severity of the situation.
The actor underwent successful aortic valve replacement surgery and was recovering well. He later joked of his issue stating,“I realize now that shortness of breath is kind of code for heart problem”
When Robin Williams tragically took his own life in August, 2014, the outpouring of support from his fans, co-stars and people who looked up to the actor, displayed the incredible impact he had on so many people’s lives and was a testament to his character.
Everyone from Pierce Brosnan, Ben Stiller, Matt Damon and Barack Obama penned tributes to the man who touched the hearts of so many, calling him “one of a kind”, and that he “represented what it meant to be funny.”
In his later years, Robin had to come to terms with the fact he had been given a diagnosis for a type of dementia named Lewy body disease.
The severity of the disease led one specialist to liken it to having “cancer throughout every organ of his body.” Williams succumbed to crippling paranoia and confusion which led his ability to read lines to suffer. As his wife Schneider put it, “Robin was losing his mind and he was aware of it.”
The entire world was devastated and shocked to hear that the lovable, funny, and caring Robin Williams had taken his own life.
While Robin had previously discussed his battles with substance and alcohol abuse, many people were unaware of the internal battles in later life, as a result of his destructive diagnosis. This was one fight that Robin couldn’t take on, and his deteriorating state led to the heartbreaking piece of news that no one could believe they were hearing.