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Robin Williams

Robin Williams150 posts

Robin Williams was an American actor and comedian born in 1951 in Chicago, Illinois. Williams originally became popular for his portrayal of the alien Mork in the TV comedy Mork & Mindy. He also became an established stand-up comedian an film actor as well. Some of his most highly acclaimed work came in movies such as Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, The Fisher King, Awakenings, The Birdcage, and Good Morning, Vietnam. Some of the accolades he earned throughout his career include an Academy Award, two Emmy Awards, two Screen Actors Guilds Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and five Grammy Awards. Williams was married to Valerie Velardi and had three children. In 2014, Williams died at the age of 63 after being found unconscious at his home in Tiburon, California.

21 Jul, 1951

Robin Williams born in Chicago


robin-williams-youngRobin McLaurin Williams is born in Chicago, Ill., to former model and actress Laurie McLaurin and Robert Fitzgerald Williams, a senior executive at Ford. He grows up in Chicago, Michigan and California. His half-brother Todd, born in 1938 and nicknamed ‘Toad,’ is his father’s son from his first marriage, while McLaurin Smith-Williams, his mother’s son from her first marriage, is four years older than Robin. The three boys all grow up as only children. While living in Detroit, where his father is posted by Ford, he has a whole floor of the family’s large rented home to himself and creates imaginary friends to fill it. Comedy is his way of connecting with his mother:

I’d think, I’ll make mommy laugh and that will be okay.

He attends boys-only Detroit County Day School, where he uses comedy as a defence against bullying at school in Detroit, but he is otherwise a serious student:

I started telling jokes as a way to stop getting the shit kicked out of me

He later moves to Redwood Senior High School in Larkspur, Calif., where he joins the drama club, and is voted both ‘The funniest’ and ‘Least likely to succeed.’

When I came out to California to go to high school, it was 1969. I went to this gestalt high school, where one of the teachers actually took LSD one day. So you walked in and you hear (whispers), “I’m Lincoln.”

A poem to his mother:

Think young and you’ll never grow old,

The years will pass you by,

Birthdays are for merrymaking,

Present giving and birthday caking,

Age is the state of your mind

As the days of your years unfold,

Don’t live in the past,

Right up to the last

Think young and you’ll never grow old.

1 Aug, 1977

Can I Do It Till I Need Glasses?

Film Appearance

Williams plays a lawyer and a man with a toothache in this film of short sexually suggestive skits, directed by Robert Levy.  Co-starring Roger Behr and Joey Camen. Williams states about this first film:

Gave me the idea that it can be free-form, that you can go in and out of things pretty easily.

14 Sep, 1978

Mork and Mindy

TV Appearance

Robin Williams stars in ABC’s thirty minute comedy serial Mork and Mindy. Mork is sent from planet Ork to investigate the primitive lifestyle of earthlings. His spaceship egg lands in Boulder, Colorado, and he makes friends with Mindy McConnell (Pam Dawber). Once Mork reveals to Mindy that he is an alien, she agrees to keep it a secret and to help him adjust to life on Earth. Producer Gary Williams:

He was all set to go, I said, “All right, Robin, we have three cameramen … Okay, Robin, ready, action.” And he ran around, he did a very funny thing, he ad-libbed a little, he said the lines, he was all over the place, and I yell, “Cut! Great!” And to Sam, my oldest cameraman, I said, “Did you get that, Sam?” And Sam said, “Never came by here.” I said, “You gotta move the camera, Sam. The man’s a genius.” And Sam said, “If he’s a genius, he could hit that mark right over there and he’ll be on camera.” So we hired a fourth camera, just to follow Robin.”

27 Jan, 1979

Wins Golden Globe

Williams wins a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor In A Television Series – Comedy Or Musical for Mork and Mindy

(Mork) came from Garry Marshall’s kid who saw Star Wars, and he went to his father and said, “Dad, why can’t they have an alien on ‘Happy Days’?” And Garry was like, “I don’t know, it will be weird.” But I think he did it as kind of a shout out to his son, as a one-off thing, and, I guess, just because it was so strange.


Reality…What a Concept

indexWilliams releases his first comedy album, Reality…What a Concept. Including Kindergarten of the Star, Grandpa Funk, and Come Inside My Mind. It is 50 minutes of Williams free associating and coming up with observations.


27 Feb, 1980

Wins Grammy


Robin Williams wins a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording for Reality…What a Concept, Williams’ debut comedy album.

Mar 1980

Apartment Life magazine

Robin Williams Apartment March 1980Williams apartment is featured in a magazine feature about his apartment. There is no mention of the location. The spread shows images of a large decorative sheep in the living room, a chromium deco ashtray table with an electric penguin lighter, and a bedroom with the word “Art” in giant neon letters. Williams and his wife describe the apartment as “Deco Techo”.

6 Dec, 1980


Film Appearance

Williams portrays Popeye in Robert Altman’s musical comedy live-action realization of the American comic strip character Popeye the Sailor Man. Popeye is a spinach-eating sailor in love with Olive Oil (Shelley Duvall) and at odds with Bluto (Paul L. Smith), his perennial nemesis.

Near the end of the movie . . .  the studio had pooled all of the money, so all the special effects people left. It was Ed Wood the last weeks of the movie. Shelley Duvall was in a pond, basically, with an octopus with no internal mechanism, having to drape it over her body like a feather boa. I’m in the water, and I’m kind of like sitting there .. . . . . we’re there on Malta, which is a very small island in between Italy and North Africa, and it was some of the worst weather they had had in 60 years. So it was a pretty crazy experience. But! I got to work with Robert Altman and I’ll never forget that.

23 Jul, 1982

The World According to Garp

Film Appearance

Based on the novel by John Irving, Williams plays T.S. Garp – an only child conceived when his single mother has sex with a brain-damaged soldier in her nursing care, in this drama directed by George Roy Hil. Garp’s life from birth to death is punctuated by events such as: marriage and infidelity, parenting and the loss of a child, social and political activism, fame and death threats. Co-starring, Mary Beth Hurt. Helen Holm,  Glenn Close and Jenny Fields.

I started off just improvising like crazy. And [director] George Roy Hill made a face like a weasel in a wind tunnel and I then I went, ‘Not good?’ And he went [breathes deep and whispers], ‘Just say the words.’

11 Apr, 1983

Zachary Pym Williams born


Williams’s first child Zachary Pym Williams is born. Zachary is the only child he shares with first wife Valerie Velardi. On spending time with Zachary, who is nicknamed Zach or Zak:

In the morning I often watch TV with Zach. They show those wonderful old Warner Brothers cartoons. To hear a child laugh like that—to see him watch Wile E. Coyote! My God, it’s something incredible! Sometimes while the cartoons are showing, I do wacky voices—you know, the way I do in my act. Sometimes he likes that, but sometimes he says, “Daddy, don’t use that voice. Just be Daddy.” And that’s what I want to do. Just be Daddy.

22 Jun, 1983

The Survivors

Film Appearance

Williams portrays Donald Quinelle, an executive who is fired from his job in Michael Ritchie’s comedy. He goes to a diner and meets Sonny Paluso (Walter Matthau) who owns a gas station that was blown up.  The two of them witness a robbery and the hit man threatens to kill them. Quinelle becomes obsessed with guns as a way to protect himself from the mob and enrolls in a survivalist training school in the mountains of Vermont. Co-starring Jerry Reed, James Wainwright, and Annie McEnroe. Ritchie:

Walter [Matthau] becomes straight man to Robin, and then Robin is straight man to him. That doesn’t happen in great comedy teams, where they form a pattern; Dean Martin is always in a certain relationship with Jerry Lewis, or Abbott is with Costello. Instead, with Walter and Danny or Walter and Robin, you have this balance constantly shifting.

6 Apr, 1984

Moscow on the Hudson

Williams stars in this comedy-drama directed byPaul Mazursky as Russian saxophone player Vladimir Ivanoff. Vladimir defects to the United States in Blomingdale’s when his circus is on tour in New York City. Maria Conchita Alonso plays Vladimir’s Italian-born girlfriend in New York.

I think it’s my best all around film so far. I worked harder on it than I ever worked on a film. I would prepare for every scene the night before, so that when I came in to do it, I came in ready. I kept very careful track of the whole line of the story, because it was very important to show the daily changes that come over Vladimir when he comes from Russia to America.

27 Jan, 1985

Golden Globe nomination

Williams is a nominee for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy Or Musical for Moscow on the Hudson. Williams plays a Russian musician who is trying to adjust to American life. 

The hardest was playing the saxophone, because I had never played an instrument before.

30 Jan, 1986

The Best of Times

In this comedy directed by Roger Spottiswoode, Williams plays Jack Dundee, a bank vice-president who dropped an important football pass 13 years prior.  He has never gotten over this and decides to have a rematch with the rival team only to find out that his father-in-law is rooting for the rivals. Co-starring Kurt Russell, Pamela Reed, and Holly Pallance.

It was glimpse of living life over again, fix mistakes, and make it better.

11 Jul, 1986

Club Paradise

Directed by Harold Ramis, in this comedy Williams plays Jack Moniker who retires and moves to a Caribbean island named St. Nicholas and makes friends with an owner of a run down resort.  To avoid the resort being taken due to non-payment of taxes, the two of them renovate and reopen the resort to entice people to stay.  Costars Peter O’Toole, Rick Moranis, and Twiggy. Referring to the scenes in the movie with Twiggy, he states:

There was no real sexual implication that much in this movie.

9 Sep, 1986

Seize the Day

In this drama directed by Fielder Cook, Williams plays a salesman who lost his girlfriend, his job, and some of his sanity, who moves to New York to start his life over again.  Co-starring Richard B. Shull and David Bickford. On working on the film during hurricane Gloria:

All of the city has shut down with the hurricane. Us? We work for Wing and a Prayer Productions.

24 Feb, 1987

Wins Grammy


Robin Williams wins Grammy for Best Comedy Recording for A Night at the Met.

26 Apr, 1987

On the Ledge

Film Appearance

In this comedy directed by Peter Ferrera, Williams costars as himself in a movie that is completely improvised with no written scripts that allowed the actors to make up the skits as they went along. Co-starring Jonathan Winters, Susan Anton, Milton Berle, and Phyllis Diller.

It was fun to work on.  We would drive out, use all the film and keep on going.

20 Sep, 1987

Wins Emmy


Williams wins an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program  for Carol, Carl, Whoopi, and Robin.

23 Dec, 1987

Good Morning, America

Film Appearance

In this drama based on a true story, directed by Barry Levinson and co-starring Forest Whitaker, Williams plays US Army DJ Adrian Cronauer. Cronauer is deployed to serve as a morning radio show host, and gains fame with the comic relief his monologues offer to the American troops. Producer Mark Johnson:

Robin would get up in the morning and say, “We have to do yesterday’s work all over again. I’ll pay for it.” I’d say, “What are you talking about! It worked great.”

23 Jan, 1988

Wins Golden Globe

Williams wins a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture—Comedy Or Musical for Good Morning, Vietnam.

22 Feb, 1988

Quits drugs

williams-people-magWilliams discusses his drug use with People magazine, including his decision to quit cocaine and alcohol six months before the birth of his first son, Zachary. The decision is also prompted by John Belushi’s death from an overdose a few hours after Williams snorted cocaine with him at the Chateau Marmont:

The Belushi tragedy was frightening. He was the strongest. A bull with incredible energy. His death scared a whole group of show business people. It caused a big exodus from drugs. And for me there was the baby coming. I knew I couldn’t be a father and live that sort of life.

He says he realizes he doesn’t have to be ‘on’ all the time:

I take more down time. Catatonic time when I’m absorbing information. People say I’m absorbent—makes me think I’m a giant Tampax

A friend:

No visit to the Betty Ford Center, no therapeutic support. He just quit, and he hasn’t touched drugs or drink since.

2 Mar, 1988

Wins Grammy


Williams wins the Grammy for Best Comedy Recording for A Night At The Met.

28 Aug, 1988

Wins Emmy


Williams wins a Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program for ABC Presents: A Royal Gala.

22 Feb, 1989

Wins Grammy


Robin Williams wins a Grammy for Best Comedy Recording for Good Morning, Vietnam. The movie is based off Adrian Cronauer, who is a the Armed Forces Radio Service disc jockey. Cronauer:

Barry Levinson, the director, wouldn’t let me anywhere near (Williams) or even the set because he was worried if (Williams) and I met, he would start to do, subconsciously, an imitation of me, which, of course, would change the characterization.

10 Mar, 1989

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Film Appearance

In this fantasy based on the novel written by Rudolph Erich Raspe and directed by Terry Gilliam, Williams plays the The Man on the Moon. The film is about a Baron who needs to end a war he started himself by flying into outerspace on a cannonball, being swallowed by a whale, ballooning to the moon, and exploring a volcano. Costars John Neville, Uma Thurman, and Sarah Polley. Gilliam:

Williams helped save this film.  Budgets were cut, actors pulled out and were sick from exhaustion, Williams kept spirits high and the film rolling.

9 Jun, 1989

Dead Poets Society

Williams stars as english teacher John Keating at an all boys school in the film Dead Poets Society. Keating spends his time fostering a love for literature and poetry within his students as well as a “seize the day” outlook on life. The film was directed by Peter Weir.

Oh my God! One of the greatest experiences. It was incredible. It was the true learning experience, because Peter’s more than a director, he’s a teacher. I don’t know anybody who’s worked with him that comes away going, “Well, that was nice.” You come away a different person. He infuses you. Like when we were doing that movie, he gave us poetry, he gave us music – he played music during takes. It would just get you into this incredible spirit and very inspiring. I remember when the boys stood on their desk, I was going, “This is very powerful.” And I looked over and I saw a Teamster crying and I went, “OK, this is really working.” (Adopting Teamster accent) “You kinda rattled us crazy. I don’t know why. The boys on the desk is gettin’ me crazy.”

31 Jul, 1989

Zelda Rae Williams born


Williams’s daughter Zelda Rae Williams is born in New York. She is William’s first daughter and first child with his second wife, Marsha Garces. She is named after the title character of the Nintendo game series Legend of ZeldaHer half-brother, Zachary Pym, is six years older than her. At a rented home in San Francisco, one of several residences where they live during her childhood, the family keeps rabbits and iguanas and Zelda has a personal miniature couch. On deciding to name his daughter Zelda:

It seemed only natural. When my wife was pregnant, my son Zachary mentioned that Zelda would be the perfect name for his new little sister … Zelda … What a great name … it’s magical, like she is!

20 Jan, 1990

Golden Globe nomination

Williams is a nominee for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture—Drama for Dead Poet Society.

One of the greatest experiences. It was incredible. It was the true learning experience

18 May, 1990

Cadillac Man

Film Appearance

In this comedy directed by Roger Donaldson, Williams plays a car salesman that must sell 12 cars before he loses his job. Co-starring Tim Robbins, Pamela Reed, and Fran Drescher.

It’s hard being a car salesman, people have a misconception of you being a bad person, like an invisible man to mug you with options you didn’t want. It was something I really had to work at. 

20 Dec, 1990


Film Appearance

In this drama directed by Penny Marshall, Williams plays Dr. Malcolm Sayer, based on the 1973 nonfiction book by Oliver Sacks. Williams portrays a physician who cares for victims of the 1920s encephalitis lethargica epidemic. The patients are revived after he experiments with a new medication determined to bring these people back to a normal state. Co-starring Robert DeNiro and Julie Kavner.

I loved the chance for pushing the envelope to change people’s perceptions of this.

19 Jan, 1991

Golden Globe nomination

Williams is a nominee for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama for The Awakening. The story is based on the book by Oliver Sikes.

He’s wonderful, Oliver Sikes. He wrote these wonderful books about different aspects of the brain.

20 Sep, 1991

The Fisher King

Film Appearance

Williams stars alongside Jeff Bridges in this drama directed by Terry Gilliam. Bridges’s character, shock jock Jack Lucas, inadvertently pushes a psychotic radio caller over the edge and suffers a breakdown himself after finding out the caller has committed a massacre. Several years later, while working as a clerk at a video store and heavily depressed, he is rescued from an attack by homeless man Parry, played by Williams. He becomes involved with Parry and finds he is connected to the tragedy that caused his own downfall. Jack must rescue him in an urban re-imagining of the legend of the Holy Grail and the Fisher King.

Parry is a man with a previous life that was so damaged that he had to create another personality … Some people respond to traumatic or tragic events by withdrawal; some even create other personalities. Parry is a creation – somewhat Don Quixote, somewhat Groucho Marx – but he’s a creation designed to avoid a past event.

25 Nov, 1991

Cody Alan Williams born


Williams’s third child and second son, Cody Alan, is born. The second child of Williams and second wife Marsha Garces, his sister, Zelda Williams, is two years older and a half-brother, Zachary Williams, is eight years his senior. On raising him and his siblings:

My children give me a great sense of wonder. Just to see them develop into these extraordinary human beings. And a favorite book as a child? Growing up, it was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe— I would read the whole C.S. Lewis series out loud to my kids.

11 Dec, 1991


Film Appearance

Williams plays Peter Banning all grown up in the film, Hook. In the movie, Peter Banning has forgotten his roots as Peter Pan in Neverland, but must find them and return when his children are kidnapped by Hook—played by Dustin Hoffman.

The hardest part was to get the innocence of it. Like when I see my daughter, who’s 2, who sees a Christmas tree, to get that face. To lose the fact that you’re 40 and get to a point that’s 10 or 11.

18 Jan, 1992

Wins Golden Globe

Williams wins a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture—Comedy Or Musical for The Fisher King.

I want to thank all the people who make me Jewish by commission.

13 Mar, 1992

Shakes the Clown

Film Appearance

In this comedy directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, Williams plays a mime class instructor. A drunk clown is accused of killing his boss, so he poses as a mime to gather information to clear his name. Costars Julie Brown, Bruce Baum, and Steve Bean.

It allowed me to put some lessons to work. Many people wouldn’t think I studied the art of mime.

11 Nov, 1992


Film Appearance

Williams stars as the voice of Genie in the film Aladdin. In the film Genie helps Aladdin grant his wishes to win the love of Princess Jasmine.

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.

18 Dec, 1992


Film Appearance

In this comedy directed by Barry Levinson, Williams plays a military general who inherits a toy factory. He starts making war toys and his employees have to band together to stop him from ruining the name of the toy store.  Costarring Michael Gambon and John Cusack.

It was magnificently fun to do because I would just go in knowing I was going to this magical place.

24 Nov, 1993

Mrs. Doubtfire

Film Appearance

Williams stars in this comedy as Daniel Hillard, a father posing as his ex-wife’s housekeeper and nanny named Mrs. Doubtfire, so that he may spend more time with his three children. The film also stars Sally Field.

It’s a love story basically about a man and his children. He can’t imagine being away from them for one day so he goes and takes a desperate measure to be with them everyday.

22 Jan, 1994

Wins Gloden Globe

Williams wins the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture—Comedy Or Musical for Mrs. Doubtfire.

Thank you, this is really extraordinary.

6 May, 1994

Being Human

Film Appearance

In this fantasy drama directed by Bill Forsyth, Williams plays the part of Hector who starts out as a caveman that lost his wife and is reincarnated over and over again until he is a modern day divorced man trying to get to know his kids.  He learns the meaning of life over four lifetimes. Costarring John Turturro and Kelly Hunter.  Forsythe:

He has observational humor and brings out great performances from other actors

15 Dec, 1995


Film Appearance

Williams stars in this fantasy drama as character Alan Parish, a boy who opened the board game Jumanji and was sucked into the game for decades before being freed by two new players. Parish must help to complete the game to return the horrors Jumanji has created.

There is a scene in the movie where you wrestle a crocodile and there is things in the movie that are computer effects and the rest an animatronic which means muppets on steroids. I was wrestling this crocodile and I pounding it on the head and I hear someone inside go “hey!”

6 Mar, 1996

The Birdcage

Williams stars in this comedy as gay cabaret owner Armand Goldman. Goldman and his partner Albert Goldma, played by Nathan Lane, must pretend to be a straight couple for their son’s fiancé’s conservative parents.

It’s a love story. But you have to brace yourself, though, because there’s gonna be people pissed off.

9 Aug, 1996


Film Appearance

Williams stars in this comedy drama film directed by Francis Ford Coppola. He plays Jack Powell, a boy who suffers from a rare disorder that ages his appearance four times faster than his actual age. The story depicts his struggles in dealing with this disorder as well as the relationships he builds with this family and friends. He co-stars with Diane Lane, Brian Kerwin, Jennifer Lopez and Bill Cosby.

But I think what made me want to play Jack was that innocent time before all that, riding bikes, friends in treehouses, all those things that loom on the boundaries of child and boy.

8 Nov, 1996

The Secret Agent

Film Appearance

In the drama thriller directed by Christopher Hampton, based on the novel by Joseph Conrad, Williams plays an assassin who owns a porn shop London as a front. He really is an anarchist, who holds meetings in his apartment with plans to overthrow the government. Co-starring Bob Hoskins, Patricia Arquette, and Gerard Depardieu.

I don’t carry the characters around when I’m doing the movie, because it can be quite frightening for your family to come home as those people.

25 Dec, 1996


Film Appearance

Williams plays Osric in this drama directed by Kenneth Branagh based on the William Shakespeare play. Hamlet returns home to find out his father is dead and his mother is marrying his uncle who is his father’s murderer. Co-starring Billie Crystal, Julie Christie, and Derek Jacobi. Branagh on Williams:

(He’s) an actor who would be funny, but could also be real in the way I felt was necessary.

9 May, 1997

Father’s Day

Film Appearance

Williams and Billy Crystal co-star in this comedy about two men—playing Dale Putley and Jack Lawrence—in search of a runaway teenager. Their girlfriend of 17 years past tells them both that they are the boy’s father, in hopes that at least one of them will find the boy. Director Ivan Reitman says about the two stars:

I always wished that Father’s Day turned out better. We didn’t quite get it right and I always sort of felt responsible and guilty about not doing a better job for the two of them because they’re so brilliant.

21 Oct, 1997


Film Appearance

Directed by Les Mayfield, this comedy film is a remake of the 1961 movie “The Absent Minded Professor.” Williams plays the role of Professor Philip Brainard, with Marcia Gay Harden co-starring as his fiancé and Sara Jean Reynolds as the college president. Brainard attempts to perfect his invention of “flubber” – a bouncy, elastic material – in order to raise money to save the sinking college, and in the process misses his own wedding three times in a row.
He performs the stunt scenes himself, which involv jumping to heights of 30 feet after applying flubber to his shoes:

We had six or seven guys hauling me up, groaning, ‘Oh, no! Don’t go again! We’re not hauling your ass up there again!’

What's this? This is an unbiased just-the-facts news timeline ('newsline') about Robin Williams, created by Newslines contributors. Make it grow it by finding and summarising news. Learn more