The world awoke this morning to the news that Hollywood had lost one of its greats. Many comedians of the years have tried to make the switch to film acting, arguably none of them were as successful with the transition as Robin McLaurin Williams who a whole generation of film lovers had grown up watching, laughing.
Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois on the 21st July, 1951 the son of Robert Fitzgerald Williams (a Senior Executive at Ford) and Laura McLaurin (a former model). As a child Williams was extremely shy at it was only getting involved with his High School drama group that saw the condition dissipate. His love for acting grew and after attending College Of Marin, where he studied theatre, in 1973 he was accepted into the Juilliard School and was soon accepted by John Houseman into the School’s Advanced Program alongside Christopher Reeve.
After leaving Juilliard in 1976 Williams was cast on the short lived NBC show The Richard Pryor Show before being cast to play an alien called Mork in the hit show Happy Days. His performance received high praise and was so popular with fans that a spin-off was created. Hence Mork & Mindy was born and during the shows’ run on television from 1978-1982 Robin Williams became a cult favourite and soon his image was being used on stationary and lunch boxes right across the United States.
At the peak of Mork & Mindy’s succsess in 1980 Williams was cast to play another cult figure and ended up playing Popeye in the Robert Altman directed movie version of Popeye which also starred Shelley Duvall. After filming of Mork & Mindy ended in 1982 Williams found himself starring in a string of films including The World According To Garp, The Survivors, Moscow On The Hudson, The Best Of Times, Club Paradise and Seize The Day before landing the role that really showed Hollywood that a star had been born – his first Oscar nominated performance playing radio DJ Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam.
Williams also received Oscar nominations in 1990 for Dead Poet’s Society and again in 1991 for The Fisher King. With Williams now considered one of the top actors in Hollywood he showed the world just how skilful he could be by taking on a myriad of different roles. From voicing characters in legendary animated films such as Aladdin and FernGully: The Lost Rainforest, to stealing the comedy limelight in Mrs. Doubtfire, to becoming a family favourite with Flubber and even delivering the work of The Bard in Hamlet it seemed like there was no role that Robin Williams couldn’t play.
In 1997 Williams teamed up with some young stars named Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and the result was Good Will Hunting a film that saw him win the 1998 Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Since then Williams has again shown just how skilful he is by taking on so many various roles over the years. From outrageous comedies like Patch Adams, RV and Old Dogs to serious roles in films like One Hour Photo, Insomnia and Lee Daniel’s The Butler. Williams also kept his mantle as a family-friendly actor with memorable roles in Bicentennial Man, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Robots, two Happy Feet films and the Night At The Museum franchise.
At the time of his death on the 11th August 2014 Williams was currently starring in hit television series The Crazy Ones alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar and was also filming the latest installment of Night At The Museum. He was 63 years old and currently married to Susan Schneider.