Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014) was an American actor and stand-up comedian. Rising to fame with his role as the alien Mork in the TV series Mork & Mindy (1978–1982), Williams went on to establish a successful career in both stand-up comedy and feature film acting. His film career included such acclaimed films as The World According to Garp (1982), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), Awakenings (1990), The Fisher King (1991),
And Good Will Hunting (1997), as well as financial successes such as Popeye (1980), Hook (1991), Aladdin (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995), The Birdcage (1996), Night at the Museum (2006), and Happy Feet (2006). He also appeared in the video "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin.
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times, Williams received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Good Will Hunting. He also received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and five Grammy Awards.
On August 11, 2014, Williams was found unconscious at his residence and was pronounced dead at the scene. According to the Marin County, California, coroner's office, the probable cause of death was asphyxiation.
Early life and education
Robin McLaurin Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 21, 1951. His mother, Laura McLaurin (née Smith, September 24, 1922 – September 4, 2001), was a former model from New Orleans, Louisiana. His father, Robert Fitzgerald Williams (September 10, 1906 – October 18, 1987), was a senior executive at Ford Motor Company in charge of the Midwest region. His maternal great-great-grandfather was Mississippi senator and governor Anselm J. McLaurin.
Williams's ancestry included English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, German, and French. He was raised in the Episcopal Church (while his mother practiced Christian Science). He grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where he was a student at the Detroit Country Day School, and later moved to Woodacre, Marin County, California, where he attended the public Redwood High School.
Williams studied at Claremont McKenna College (then called Claremont Men's College). Williams left Claremont and attained a full scholarship to the esteemed Juilliard School. In between Claremont and Juilliard, he attended the College of Marin for theatre. He had two half-brothers: Todd (who died August 14, 2007) and McLaurin.
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.
In 1973 Williams was one of only 20 students accepted into the freshman class at Juilliard and one of only two students to be accepted by John Houseman into the Advanced Program at the school that year; the other was Christopher Reeve. In his dialects class, Williams had no trouble quickly mastering dialects. Williams left Juilliard in 1976.
After appearing in the cast of the short-lived The Richard Pryor Show on NBC, Williams was cast by Garry Marshall as the alien Mork in a 1978 episode of the hit TV series Happy Days after impressing the producer with his quirky sense of humor when he sat on his head when asked to take a seat for the audition.
As Mork, Williams improvised much of his dialogue and physical comedy, speaking in a high, nasal voice. Mork's appearance was so popular with viewers that it led to a spin-off hit television sitcom, Mork & Mindy, which ran from 1978 to 1982; the show was written to accommodate Williams's improvisations. Although he played the same character as in his appearance in Happy Days, the show was set in the present day, in Boulder, Colorado, instead of the late 1950s in Milwaukee. Mork was an extremely popular character, featured on posters, coloring books, lunchboxes, and other merchandise.
Starting in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Williams began to reach a wider audience with his stand-up comedy, including three HBO comedy specials, Off The Wall (1978), An Evening with Robin Williams (1982), and Robin Williams: Live at the Met (1986). Also in 1986, Williams co-hosted the 58th Academy Awards.
His stand-up work was a consistent thread through his career, as seen by the success of his one-man show (and subsequent DVD) Robin Williams: Live on Broadway (2002). He was voted 13th on Comedy Central's list "100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time" in 2004.
Williams, along with Billy Crystal, appeared in a cameo at the beginning of an episode of the third season of Friends. Both Williams' and Crystal's parts were not originally in the script. They were in the building where the show was shooting and were asked to improvise their lines. Williams appeared on an episode of the American version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? (Season 3, Episode 9: November 16, 2000).
During a game of "Scenes from a Hat", the scene "What Robin Williams is thinking right now" was drawn, and Williams stated "I have a career. What the hell am I doing here?" On December 4, 2010, he appeared with Robert De Niro on Saturday Night Live in the sketch What Up with That. In 2012, he guest starred as himself in two FX series, Louie and Wilfred.
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.
Williams did a number of stand-up comedy tours, beginning in the early 1970s. Some of his tours include An Evening With Robin Williams (1982), Robin Williams: At The Met (1986), and Robin Williams LIVE on Broadway (2002). The latter broke many long-held records for a comedy show. In some cases, tickets were sold out within thirty minutes of going on sale.
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. The tour started at the end of September 2009 and concluded in New York on December 3, and was the subject of an HBO special on December 8, 2009.
Marriages and children
On June 4, 1978, Robin Williams married his first wife, Valerie Velardi. Their son Zachary Pym "Zak" Williams was born on April 11, 1983. 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.
On April 30, 1989, he married Marsha Garces, Zak'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.
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.
Williams was found unconscious in his home in an unincorporated area just outside Tiburon, California, at around 11:55 am PDT on August 11, 2014, and was pronounced dead at 12:02 pm, age 63. The Coroner Division of Marin County suspects the death to be suicide by asphyxia, pending investigation. According to his publicist, Williams was "battling severe depression" in the time before his death, though he would not confirm the reports that the death was suicide. A forensic examination and toxicology test is scheduled for August 12, 2014.
Williams's wife Susan Schneider said "I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken."
Celebrities paid tribute to Williams, including fellow comedian Steve Martin, who tweeted, "I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul." US President Barack Obama said Williams was "one of a kind", and someone who "ended up touching every element of the human spirit".