Robin Williams was America's funny uncle. The late actor and comedian was an unstoppable force in the comedy world and is regarded as one of the best to ever perform the craft. Here are 15 facts about the fast-talking, quick-whitted, impressionist master-mind.
He Went To Julliard
While some may think that the late comedian started in the stand-up scene, he actually attended Julliard before ever trying comedy. Williams studied the ‘Alexander Technique’ under Judith Leibowitz and left without graduating after three years in 1976. Juilliard gave the actor an honorary degree in 1991.
He Was Friends With Koko The Gorilla
One of the wildest aspects of Williams’s life was the special bond he shared with the sign-language speaking Gorilla, Koko. Williams met Koko in 2001 and said, "Koko used sign language to ask me to play with her. We shared interspecies laughter. I realized how important the work of the Gorilla Foundation is for the future of Koko and her species."
He Tried To Get Lydia From Mrs.Doubtfire Back In School
Lisa Jakub, the actress who portrayed Lydia in Mrs. Doubtfire missed her fair share of school after taking on the role in the film. Consequently, the school kicked her out, resulting in Robin Williams sending a letter directly to the school asking her to be readmitted. The school never did allow Jakub back in but did frame the letter.
He Started Performing Comedy At A Church
Williams told NPR that he began doing comedy because he saw an advertisement for comedy classes in the basement of a San Francisco Lutheran church. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church,” said Williams. ”And it was standup comedy, so you don't get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo. And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ building an act from there.”
He Wanted To Play Hagrid In Harry Potter
Warner Bros & Touchstone Pictures
Robin Williams wanted to be cast as Hagrid so badly in Harry Potter that he personally sent J.K. Rowling a letter begging her to give him the role. J.K. Rowling refused as she wanted an all-British cast.
He Began The Trend Of Celebrity Voice Actors
The Atlantic wrote “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney's 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Williams’s genius in the role of Genie lead to other celebrities joining the voice acting game in films like Toy Story, Shrek, and Lion King.
He Comforted Steven Speilberg During The Making Of Schindler’s List
Williams, who was a friend of Steven Spielberg after playing Peter Pan in Hook, would call Spielberg while he was filming Schindler’s List. Spielberg shared at the 25th anniversary of Schindlers List, “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone, I would laugh hysterically because I had to release so much.”
He Got Ethan Hawke An Agent
On The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke revealed how he thought Robin Williams hated him while working on Dead Poets Society. Hawke recalled, “I really wanted to be a serious actor, I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” A few months after filming Hawke received a phone call from Williams’s agent saying Robin had told him to sign Hawke.
He And Billy Crystal Were Besties
After Williams's death, Billy Crystal spoke with Whoopie Goldberg on The View about their friend, who used to host HBO’s Comic Relief with the pair. Crystal told Goldberg “We were like two jazz musicians. Late at night, I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.” Gary turned out to be Robin Williams.
Disney Double Crossed Him
Robin Williams refused to work with Disney again after Aladdin was released despite the film’s popularity. According to Williams, “We had a deal. The one thing I said was I will do the voice. I’m doing it basically because I want to be part of this animation tradition. I want something for my children. One deal is, I just don’t want to sell anything–as in Burger King, as in toys, as in stuff. Not only did they use my voice, they took a character I did and overdubbed it to sell stuff. That was the one thing I said: ‘I don’t do that.’ That was the one thing where they crossed the line.”
He Was Not The First Choice For Mork
According to Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most, a different actor was originally cast to play Mork in his first appearance in the Happy Days episode, “My Favorite Orkan.” Anson Williams continued, “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad. So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor eventually quit, and Garry Marshall asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” Williams was hired shortly after and co-starred in the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.
He Quietly Donated To The Seattle Food Bank
Executive Director of The Seattle Food Bank, Fran Yeatts, said, “Williams performed shows in 2007 and 2008, raising nearly $50,000 for the organization, just as the economy was collapsing and need was skyrocketing. Never once did Williams ask for any recognition.”
His Inside The Actors Studio Appearance Gave An Audience Member A Hernia
Robin Williams's appearance on Inside The Actors Studio is probably the most famous interview in the show’s history. Williams turns the interview into a stand-up opportunity showcasing his erratic improvisational talents for the duration of the show. Lipton confirmed later on that an audience member had to be taken away in an ambulance after getting a hernia from laughing so hard.
The Aladdin Team Created Test Animations Set To His Standup
In order to convince Robin Williams to join the cast of Disney’s Aladdin, Eric Goldberg created a test animation of Genie performing Williams’s stand-up routine. Goldberg told The New York Times, “Robin totally got what kind of potential animation had in utilizing his talent. If you think back on a lot of animation voices over history, especially from 1930s and ‘40s, many were radio actors. They could express so much with their voices... What Robin had in common with them is a set of vocal cords that were 100% elastic.”
He Met The Mrs.Doubtfire Kids In Costume
20th Century Studios
Williams first met the children of Mrs.Doubtfire dressed in full makeup and costume. The kids were told he was Chris Columbus’s mother, and they didn’t recognize the comedian at all, which was the first test to see how convincing Williams was.
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