Whether you grew up watching Genie from Aladdin or Mork from Ork or… whoever the dude from RV was, pretty much everybody on Earth adores Robin Williams. To celebrate the late great actor/comedian/body hair icon, we've assembled some curious factoids about the only guy lovable enough to get away with making Old Dogs…
Williams Landed the Mork Role After the Original Actor Quit
Williams’ breakout role was as the fast-talking alien Mork in Happy Days and later Mork & Mindy. But as hard as it may be to believe, Williams wasn’t the first choice for the role. Originally, the part belonged to comedian John Byner — until he quit just days before the shoot because he “didn't want to play an alien on a television series.”
He Was Roommates With Batman…
While attending the renowned Juilliard School, Williams was roommates with the great Kevin Conroy, best known as later becoming the voice of Batman in Batman: The Animated Series. The pair lived in a cheap apartment that Conroy claimed didn’t have much privacy.
…and Good Friends With Superman, Too
Also while at Juilliard, Williams once roomed with another actor famous for playing an iconic superhero: Christopher Reeve. The two became lifelong friends. After Reeve was paralyzed in a horse-jumping accident, Williams showed up at his hospital room in medical scrubs, speaking in a Russian accent, telling Reeve that “he was a proctologist there to perform an examination.” Reeve laughed for the first time since the accident and later recounted, “I knew then: If I could laugh, I could live.”
The Studio Behind ‘The Fisher King’ Was Worried That Williams’ Hair Would Alienate People
One of Williams’ best film performances was as Parry in The Fisher King. The film called for Parry to get totally naked in Central Park, and per director Terry Gilliam, the studio was concerned — not because of the frontal nudity, but because they were worried that Williams “would lose fans because his nude body had so much hair on it.”
He Shaved His Trademark Body Hair for ‘One Hour Photo’
Speaking of Williams’ wooly coat, in order to achieve the “Haunted Eminem Ventriloquist Dummy” look for his villainous turn in One Hour Photo, he had to shave all his body hair. As Williams told reporters at the time, “Just to think of the depilatory alone. Three guys with Weed Whackers going, ‘I've got to give up, Robin. I can’t do your arms anymore!’”
He Fought With Disney Over ‘Aladdin’ Merch
Williams took the Genie role for Aladdin under the condition that his voice wouldn’t be used “to sell anything.” But as he later explained, it totally was: “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.” Disney apologized (with the gift of an original Picasso), and Williams eventually returned to voice the Genie for the straight-to-video sequel Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
He Was on an Episode of ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’
Williams tuned up his improv skills with an appearance on Whose Line Is It Anyway? Not surprisingly, he was one of Colin Mochrie's favorite guests.
He Paid for a Private Plane to Meet a Dying Child Fan
In 2004, the Make-a-Wish Foundation arranged for a dying girl to meet her “hero” Robin Williams. When she became too sick to make the trip to California, Williams personally chartered a private plane to North Carolina to visit with his fan, where “they spent an afternoon playing cards and watching football.“
He Accidentally Broke Robert DeNiro’s Nose
For the acclaimed Penny Marshall drama Awakenings, during the filming of a scene in which Williams has to restrain DeNiro, whose character is having a seizure, Williams broke DeNiro's nose "by accident" — at which point, according to Williams, “all of a sudden the crew were like, ‘I gotta go now.’“
He Visited Sex Shops Dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire
During a Reddit AMA, Williams revealed that when he was making Mrs. Doubtfire, and in full makeup, he “walked into a sex shop in San Francisco and tried to buy a double-headed dildo.“ The clerk eventually recognized him and laughed — nor was anyone injured by projectile fruit.
He Mooned the ‘Hook’ Cast
According to actor Thomas Tulak, who played one of the Lost Boys in Hook, at one point during filming, Williams “jumped on the top of the pirate ship and mooned the entire cast and crew,” and “while Steven Spielberg was trying to gain control of the crowd… chaos ensued.”
He Did an Impromptu Stand-Up Show for a Public Park
While shooting the famous park bench scene with Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, naturally, a lot of passersby stopped and took notice — not because they recognized the guy from that one scene in Chasing Amy, but because of Williams, who, as Minnie Driver recalled, “did this amazing impromptu stand-up routine” for the randos in the park.
He Gave an Aspiring Actor a Hernia
When Williams appeared on an episode of Inside the Actor's Studio, one audience member was “taken away in an ambulance after the show, having developed a hernia from laughing so hard at Williams.”
He Pretty Much Invented the Podcast
As we've mentioned before, Williams inadvertently invented the podcast, producing long-form audio interviews for the internet years before the term “podcast” had even been coined.
He Made a (Touching) Nintendo Commercial
Williams was such a fan of Nintendo's Legend of Zelda games that he named his daughter after the titular princess — and the two appeared in a surprisingly touching commercial for the Nintendo 3DS Zelda game in 2011.
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