The List: This is your life, Robin Williams
Robin Williams celebrates his 60th birthday on July 21. The American actor and comedian rose to fame on the 1970s sitcom “Mork & Mindy.” He went on to star in films such as “Good Morning, Vietnam.” “Dead Poets Society” and “Hook.” This week, the List takes a second look at Mr. Williams.
- Born — Robin McLaurim Williams was born on July 21, 1951. He was the son of a wealthy auto executive who he addressed as “sir.” The only child in his parents’ spacious homes, he invented characters and acted out their parts. He discovered his gift for mimicry by mastering the voice of his maternal grandmother, whom he only met by telephone.
- Films — He has been involved in more than 60 films.
- Influences — Jonathan Winters, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Chuck Jones and George Carlin.
- Beginnings — Together with a partner, Mr. Williams collected as much as $150 a day performing mime in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York when he was in college. After two years at New York’s Juilliard School, he moved to his hometown of San Francisco, where he waited tables by day until his big break.
- First role — The Academy Award-winning actor got his start as a stand-up comedian in the 1970s. His high-energy act led to a guest spot on “Happy Days” as Mork from Ork and later the starring role on “Mork & Mindy.”
- Best impersonation — “Mrs. Doubtfire.” Wife (Sally Field) wants to divorce Mr. Williams and gain custody of their three children. Grieving over the separation from his family, Mr. Williams dresses up as an elderly British woman and gets hired as the nanny. “There’s no other way to realize what mandatory bondage women go through than to put on four hours of makeup and go out and enjoy your afternoon, go out on a hot day in a wool skirt,” Mr. Williams said about playing the role of Mrs. Doubtfire.
- Oscar time — He won the Academy Award for best supporting actor for his performance in the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting.” He had been nominated three times before, for “Dead Poets Society,” “The Fisher King” and “Good Morning, Vietnam.” “This might be the one time I’m speechless,” he said after receiving the Oscar.
- Worst five movies — “Popeye,” “License to Wed,” “Club Paradise,” “Jack” and “Toys.” “‘Popeye’ is a wonderful movie if you run it backwards,” Mr. Williams said.
- Best five movies — “Aladdin,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Awakenings” and “Good Will Hunting.”
- For the troops — Mr. Williams is a USO veteran who has performed for American troops numerous times in Afghanistan and Iraq. “I had a lovely military flight, thank you,” Mr. Williams said at one event in Afghanistan. “I love spiraling in — nothing like that to make your colon go, ‘Fire in the hole!’
- Favorite roles — Playing Oliver Sacks in “Awakening.” He also loved his roles in “The Fisher King,” “Good Will Hunting” and “Dead Poets Society.”
- Favorite sport — Cycling. Mr. Williams says riding bikes is his passion. He is a longtime friend of seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
- Tough time — In 2006, Mr. Williams spent two months in an Oregon rehabilitation facility seeking treatment for alcoholism. He said Mel Gibson’s DUI arrest two months before was a “big wake-up call.” “Well, if [rehab] was good enough for him, I’ll go,” Mr. Williams said. He said he “fell off the wagon” after 20 years. He had gone sober after his friend and fellow comic John Belushi died of a drug overdose in 1982.
- Scariest role — “One Hour Photo.” Mr. Williams plays Sy Parrish, a quiet and joyless photo clerk who dangerously fixates on a family in this grim and creepy story.
- Politics — An unabashed Hollywood liberal, in 1989 Mr. Williams traversed the country ridiculing Republicans. Ronald Reagan was “the world’s largest Muppet.” Dan Quayle was “the Stepford candidate.” George H.W. Bush was a political hypnotist: “T’ousand points of light, watch de watch.” Mr. Williams was no fan of President George W. Bush. He mocked Mr. Bush’s administration, saying the Iraqis “are trying to write a constitution; give them ours, we’re not using it.”
- Charity — Along with Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, Mr. Williams is a host of HBO’s “Comic Relief,” a charity show that has raised more than $50 million for the homeless. He also has donated to help victims of the recent earthquake in New Zealand.
- John Belushi — Mr. Williams and actor Robert De Niro were at Belushi’s bungalow the night before his death on March 5, 1982. Mr. Williams was later questioned by police and also testified at a grand jury concerning Belushi’s overdose death. Mr. Williams denied published reports that he had inhaled cocaine with Belushi.
- Lawsuit — After a five-year battle, a $6 million lawsuit against Mr. Williams, filed by a former lover who accused him of giving her herpes, was settled out of court in 1992. Michelle Tish Carter, a former cocktail waitress, claimed that Mr. Williams gave her herpes before disclosing he had the disease. Mr. Williams claimed in a cross-complaint against Ms. Carter that the lawsuit was a ruse to extort money from him.
- Health — In March, 2009, Mr. Williams had heart surgery in Cleveland to replace an aortic valve. The operation interrupted his 80-city, one-man comedy show, “Weapons of Self-Destruction.” “I’m thinking the next leg of the tour will be ‘Weapons of Self-Destruction and Reconstruction’! Mr. Williams quipped after the operation.
- Marriage — In March, 2008, after nearly 19 years of marriage, Mr. Williams’ wife, Marsha Garces Williams, filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. Mrs. Williams had worked as a nanny for Mr. Williams’ son Zachary, whom he had with his previous wife, Valerie Valardi. Robin and Marsha Garces Williams also have two children together, Zelda and Cody.
- Future projects — Mr. Williams will star in “Happy Feet 2 in 3D” and the indie comedy “The Big Wedding” with Robert De Niro.
Compiled by John Haydon
Sources: Associated Press and The Washington Times.
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