by Dayo Laniyan
Born on July 21, 1951 in Chicago, Illnois to a former model and an auto-industry executive, Robin Mclaurin Williams first studied political science, and then studied theatre at Juillard School, eventually graduating in 1973. He studied alongside Christopher Reeve, who starred in the first four Superman movies, and they became good friends.
He would cut his acting teeth on the show Happy Days cast as the alien Mork, eventually starring in the spin-off Mork and Mindy in 1978, which lasted four years. It was not until the late 80s that Williams would start acting in movies, starting with Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society and The Fisher King. He would be nominated for Oscars in all 3 movies mentioned, but only achieved one as Best Supporting Actor in Good Will Hunting. He also won four Golden Globes, two Emmy awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and five Grammy Awards.
Although his one Oscar was in a role that called for serious drama, almost all fans and viewers of Williams’ work remember him the most fondly for his comedy roles, winning hearts immediately with the wild, improvised and over the top energy injected into his characters. According to him, it was the method taught to him by his mentor Jonathan Winters, although he preferred to be known as Robin Williams’ idol.
From the blue genie in Aladdin, to the cross dressing nanny in Mrs Doubtfire; from the eccentric and awkward scientist in Flubber, to the older Peter Pan in Hook; all of his performances have succeeded in bringing hysterical laughter to audiences subjected to no more than his rapid-fire improvisation. In fact, in the Aladdin DVD commentary it was revealed that most of his dialogue as the Genie was improvised.
Even in the last decade he showed no signs of stopping, lending his voices and support to several films, playing both Ramon and Lovelace in Happy Feet, and Teddy Roosevelt in Night at the Museum. In fact, before he died he had finished his work on the third instalment into the Night at the Museum franchise, which is currently in post production and is due to be released in December. He was even involved in talks discussing a Mrs Doubtfire sequel.
Alongside his film career, Robin Williams also did stand-up comedy, not being afraid to show his cynical side. First reaching recognition in 1982 with An Evening with Robin Williams, his final stand up would be in 2009 as Weapons of Self Destruction, a 26 city tour that would last from September to December.
Robin Williams had been married three times in his life, having one child Zachary Pym from the first wife, and two children from the second: Zelda Rae and Cody Alan. The first two marriages both ended in divorce, the first because of an affair with a cocktail waitress, and the other because of “irreconcilable differences”. He has also had to deal with addiction to cocaine in the late 1970s, and in 2006 having to check himself into rehab for alcoholism.
However, despite the rocky road that he had to walk through, and the reports that he was battling with depression before his death, the man’s acting and stand-up record all speak for him, that he was a talented artist in both comedy and drama that will be missed by many.