Tuesday, August 26, 2014

15 Facts You Didn't Know About Robin Williams

Actor, comedian and screen legend Robin Williams has died aged 63.

As tributes continue to pour in for the Oscar winner, here are eight facts you probably never knew about this comic genius…

1. Robin Williams first achieved international fame playing the alien Mork alongside Pam Dawber in the hit sitcom Mork and Mindy, which ran from 1978 until 1982.

When Robin Williams auditioned for the role of Mork from Ork on Happy Days (1974), producer Garry Marshall told him to sit down. Williams immediately sat on his head on the chair. Marshall hired him, saying that he was the only alien who auditioned.

The series was, in fact, a direct spin off of the longer running sitcom Happy Days. Williams appeared as Mork in the season five episode My Favorite Orkan in which he attempted to abduct Ritchie Cunningham (Ron Howard).

In 1979, Williams (now already a success in Mork and Mindy) made a return visit to Happy Days. As a prank, Williams ensured one episode of Mork and Mindy featured a character called Arnold Wanker.

2. As with many comedians, Williams’ humor stemmed from an unhappy childhood.

He was grossly overweight as a boy and voted ‘Least Likely to Succeed’ at High School although he was also voted ‘Most Humorous’.

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

4. Steven Spielberg hired Williams to entertain cast and crew during the notoriously grueling shoot for the harrowing Holocaust drama Schindler’s List.

Williams was otherwise not involved in the film, but his relentless ad-libbing provided a much needed boost to morale between shots.

5. Williams played a huge number of diverse roles in his Hollywood career.

Including everything from a starring role in a live action version of the cartoon Popeye, elderly bald US President Eisenhower in the recent The Butler (2013), Peter Pan himself in Hook (1991) and the voice of a hologram of a scientist in Steven Spielberg’s AI (2001).

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

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. According to producer and director John Musker, Williams ended up improvising about 70 impressions to be used in the film as well. In a Reddit AMA, Williams explained: “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”.

Williams was known for improvising most of his iconic roles in some way or another.

7. Williams and Robert De Niro were the last stars to see John Belushi alive, albeit on separate visits to Bungalow #3 of the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles that fateful day in March 1982 when he died of a drug overdose.

8. Robin Williams dressed in scrubs and surprised his friend Christopher Reeve in the hospital following his career-ending accident.

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." In his book, "Still Me," Reeve wrote about Williams visiting him in the hospital:

Then, at an especially bleak moment, the door flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent. He announced that he was my proctologist, and that he had to examine me immediately...it was Robin Williams...for the first time since the accident, I laughed. My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay.

9. Williams received $20 million for his role in 1999’s Bicentennial Man.

Ironically, it is one of his worst films.

10. Robin Williams enjoyed cycling and occasionally trained with Lance Armstrong.

11. When “Blame Canada”, a song from South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999), was nominated for a Best Song Academy Award, it was Williams who performed the song at the ceremony because the actress who sang the song in the film, Mary Kay Bergman, had taken her own life a few months before the awards show.

12. Williams co-owned the Rubicon restaurant in San Francisco with Robert De Niro and fellow Bay area resident Francis Ford Coppola

13. Williams was nominated for four Oscars in his career for the films, Good Morning Vietnam (1987), Dead Poet’s Society (1989), The Fisher King (1991), and finally winning for Good Will Hunting (1997).

14. Asked by James Lipton about what he would like God to say when he arrives in heaven, Williams answered that “There is a seat in the front” in the concert of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Elvis Presley.

15. In 1997, Robin Williams was voted ‘The Funniest Man Alive’.

Robin Williams: 1951-2014.

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