50 interesting facts about Robin Williams: He had open-heart surgery, improvised most of his part as Genie in Aladdin

Actor and comedian Robin Williams was known for his high-energy, improvisational performance style and for his performances in films like Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society. He died on August 11, 2014 but he will be forever remembered for all the laughter he bought to millions around the world.

  1. Robin McLaurin Williams was born on July 21, 1951.

  2. His mother, Laurie McLaurin was a former model from Jackson, Mississippi and his father, Robert Fitzgerald Williams was a senior executive at Ford Motor Company in charge of the Midwest region.

  3. Williams had English, Welsh, Irish,Scottish, German, and French ancestry.

  4. He had an older brother named R. Todd Williams who was the co-founder of Toad Hollow Vineyards.

  5. Robin graduated from Redwood High School which is just North of San Francisco. He was voted "Least Likely To Succeed" in high school.

  6. He played soccer at Claremont Men's College. Williams attended Claremont Men's College and College of Marin before enrolling at the Juilliard School in New York City.

  7. Williams described himself as a quiet child whose first imitation was of his grandmother to his mother. He did not overcome his shyness until he became involved with his high school drama department.

  8. John houseman was the man who initially saw the talent of Williams while being trained at Julliard. This was the reason who told him to focus more on his stand up comedy routines rather than wasting time through acting classes.

  9. He said that he learnt immensely about comedy and timing from watching "Monty Python's Flying Circus".

  10. When Williams was first starting out, he performed as a mime outside New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art to make money.

  11. Williams later experimented with comedy in San Francisco and Los Angeles, developing a successful stand-up act.

  12. Big break came when cast as an alien on Happy Days in 1978; his character, Mork, was spun off into the hit series Mork & Mindy.

  13. While his career was taking off, Williams faced many personal challenges. He developed a drug and alcohol problem while working on the sitcom Mork and Mindy, and would struggle with addiction for more than two decades.

  14. Made a disastrous film debut in Robert Altman's misfire Popeye in 1980 but rebounded with stellar performances in The World According to Garp and Good Morning, Vietnam, for which he received his first Oscar nomination; won Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Good Will Hunting.

  15. On June 4, 1978, Robin Williams married his first wife, Valerie Velardi. Their son Zachary Pym "Zak" Williams was born on April 11, 1983.

  16. During Williams's first marriage, he was involved in an extramarital relationship with Michelle Tish Carter, a cocktail waitress whom he met in 1984. She sued him in 1986, claiming that he did not tell her he was infected with the herpes simplex virus before he embarked on a sexual relationship with her in the mid-1980s, during which, she said, he transmitted the virus to her. The case was settled out of court. Williams and Velardi divorced in 1988.

  17. On April 30, 1989, he married Marsha Garces, a Filipino American and Zachary's nanny, who was several months pregnant with his child. They had two children, Zelda Rae Williams (born July 31, 1989) and Cody Alan Williams (born November 25, 1991). In March 2008, Garces filed for divorce from Williams, citing irreconcilable differences.

  18. Robin Williams was so good at his work that he kept improvising and the writers of Mork and Mindy left gaps in the screenplay so that he could improvise along with the play.

  19. Williams said his favorite celebrity to impersonate is Jack Nicholson, while Dana Carvey did his favorite celebrity impersonation of himself.

  20. Reeve and Williams became good friends when they both attended The Juilliard School together. Williams claimed at the time that Reeve was "literally feeding me because I don't think I literally had money for food or my student loan hadn't come in yet, and he would share his food with me."

  21. He was a really great friend! Robin Williams dressed in scrubs and surprised his friend Christopher Reeve in the hospital following his career-ending accident.

  22. Williams later surprised Sharon Osbourne in a similar way after she was diagnosed with cancer.

  23. Williams owned a vineyard in California, which he joked in a TIME "10 Questions" interview is "weird," like "Gandhi owning a delicatessen."

  24. He postponed his one-man show, Weapons of Self-Destruction, to undergo heart surgery in March 2009, but toured in September.

  25. During the filming of "Schindler's List," Robin Williams called Steven Spielberg to tell him jokes and lift his spirits. "I think I only called him once, maybe twice. I called him when I was representing People for the Valdheimers Association. A society devoted to helping raise money to help older Germans who had forgotten everything before 1945. I remember him laughing and going 'thank you.'"

  26. In 1996, Robin Williams reached an amazing milestone which not many actors can ever claim. He had two movies both reach the $100 million mark in the same week in the U.S. The movies were Jumanji and The Birdcage.

  27. When asked if he named his daughter Zelda after the video game The Legend of Zelda. Williams said, "It wasn't actually me, it was my son Zachary who came up with the idea. But once Marsha [his ex-wife] and I heard it, we said it was great." Williams also said he's been playing Call of Duty, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Portal, and Battlestations Pacific.

  28. Robin was a big fan of cycling and would train with Lance Armstrong at times. According to ESPN Magazine, Robin would even ride shotgun in the Lance Armstrong team car at many of his races!

  29. Robin Williams' favorite childhood book was "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," which he'd read to his kids. "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. 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.'"

  30. Denzel Washington was preferred over Robin Williams in the lead role of Joe Miller in "Philadelphia".

  31. Robin Williams was a huge rugby fan and was good friends with New Zealand rugby player Jonah Lomu.

  32. Robin Williams improvised most of Genie for "Aladdin."

  33. Apparently, the Academy Awards rejected the bid for "Aladdin" in the Best Adapted Screenplay category because so much of Williams role ended up being improvised. "Initially they came in and I was just doing the scripted lines and I asked 'Do you mind if I try something?' and then 18 hours of recording later, they had the genie. I just started playing, and they said "just go with it, go with it, go with it." So I improvised the character. I think that in the end, there were something like 40 different voices that I did for that role."

  34. Williams got angry with Disney for using his voice as the genie in Aladdin to sell merchandise for the movie because "I don't want to sell stuff. It's the one thing I won't do," he told New York Magazine. Disney attempted to make up for it by sending him a Picasso painting, believed to be worth $1 million, in which the artist imagined himself as Vincent Van Gogh.

  35. Robin Williams' net worth was about $50 million.

  36. Williams and Billy Crystal appeared in an unscripted cameo at the beginning of an episode of the third season of Friends. They were in the building where the show was shooting and were asked to improvise their lines.

  37. On December 4, 2010, he appeared with Robert De Niro on Saturday Night Live in the sketch "What Up with That".

  38. In February 2013, CBS announced it had picked up a pilot episode for a David E. Kelley comedy called The Crazy Ones starring Williams. The series was officially picked up on May 10, 2013. Williams played Simon Roberts, a father who works with his daughter (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) in an advertising office. The series premiered on September 26, 2013, and was canceled after one season.

  39. He was portrayed by Chris Diamantopoulos in the made-for-TV biopic Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy (2005), documenting the actor's arrival in Hollywood as a struggling comedian.

  40. After a six-year break, in August 2008, Williams announced a new 26-city tour titled "Weapons of Self-Destruction". He said that this was his last chance to make cracks at the expense of the current Bush Administration, but by the time the show was staged, only a few minutes covered that subject.

  41. The highest single paycheck Robin ever earned came from the 1999 movie "Bicentennial Man", for which he was paid $20 million. Robin was paid just $75,000, the Screen Actors Guild minimum, for his voice work in the Disney movie Aladdin.

  42. Williams married his third wife, graphic designer Susan Schneider, on October 23, 2011, in St. Helena, California. Their residence was Williams's house in Sea Cliff, a neighborhood in San Francisco, California.

  43. Williams was a passionate supporter of his hometown's professional sports teams, the San Francisco 49ers and the San Francisco Giants.

  44. Williams was a supporter of eco-friendly vehicles. He drove a Toyota Prius and was on the waiting list for an Aptera 2 Series electric vehicle before the company folded in December 2011.

  45. According to his publicist, Williams suffered from depression. In mid-2014, Williams had admitted himself into the Hazelden Foundation Addiction Treatment Center in Lindstrom, Minnesota, for continued sobriety treatment related to his alcoholism.

  46. Robin was a cycling enthusiast and often bikes 30-40 miles.

  47. In 2014, Williams starred as disgruntled Henry Altmann in the film Angriest Man in Brooklyn.

  48. We adore Robin Williams, but who did he idolize? Two other greats in Jonathan Winters and Richard Pryor.

  49. James Lipton asked Robin Williams what he would like God to say to him when he entered Heaven. According to IMDB, Robin's answer was, "There is a seat in the front row for you," referring to a concert of Mozart and Elvis.

  50. On August 11, 2014, the 63-year-old comedian was found dead in his California home. His publicist released this statement: "Robin Williams passed away this morning. He has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time." He will be terribly missed. Rest in peace.


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