Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois. His mother, Laura McLaurin (née Smith, 1922–2001), 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 senator and Mississippi governor Anselm J. McLaurin.Williams is of English, Welsh, Irish, and French ancestry. He was raised in the Episcopal Church (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) for four years.He has two half-brothers: Todd (who died August 14, 2007) and McLaurin.
Williams has 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 the Juilliard School, and one of only two students to be accepted by John Houseman into the Advanced Program at the school that year, the other being Christopher Reeve.In his dialects class, Williams had no trouble mastering all dialects quickly. 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 the hit TV series Happy Days.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 and Mindy, which ran from 1978 to 1982; the show was written to accommodate Williams" improvisations. Although playing 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 "50s 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 standup 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 reached an ever wider audience to exhibit his style at the 58th Academy Awards show.
His stand-up work has been a consistent thread through his career, as is 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.
After some encouragement from his friend Whoopi Goldberg, he was set to make a guest appearance in the 1991 Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "A Matter of Time", but he had to cancel due to a scheduling conflict; Matt Frewer took his place as a time-traveling con man, Professor Berlingoff Rasmussen. Williams, along with Billy Crystal, appeared in a cameo together at the beginning of an episode of the third season of Friends. Both Williams and Crystal"s parts weren"t originally in the script. They were apparently in the building where the show was shooting and were asked to improvise their lines.
Most of Williams" acting career has been in film, although he has given some performances on stage as well (notably as Estragon in a production of Waiting for Godot with Steve Martin). His performance in Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) resulted in Williams being nominated for an Academy Award.Many of his roles have been comedies tinged with pathos.
His role as the Genie in the animated film Aladdin (1992) was instrumental in establishing the importance of star power in voice actor casting. Williams also used his voice talents in Fern Gully, as the holographic Dr. Know in the 2001 film A.I. Artificial Intelligence, in the 2005 animated film Robots, the 2006 Academy Award-winning Happy Feet, and an uncredited vocal performance in the film Everyone"s Hero. Furthermore, he was the voice of The Timekeeper, a former attraction at the Walt Disney World Resort about a time-traveling robot who encounters Jules Verne and brings him to the future.
In 1998, he won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his role as a psychologist in Good Will Hunting.Williams has also starred in dramatic films, which earned him two subsequent Academy Award nominations: First for playing an English teacher in Dead Poets Society (1989), and later for playing a troubled homeless man in The Fisher King (1991);that same year, he played an adult Peter Pan in the movie Hook. Other acclaimed dramatic films include Awakenings (1990) and What Dreams May Come (1998). In the 2002 film Insomnia, Williams portrays a writer/killer on the run from a sleep-deprived Los Angeles policeman (played by Al Pacino) in rural Alaska. And also in 2002, in the psychological thriller One Hour Photo, Williams played an emotionally disturbed photo development technician who becomes obsessed with a family for whom he has developed pictures for a long time. In 2006 Williams starred in The Night Listener, a thriller about a radio show host who realizes he has developed a friendship with a child who may or may not exist.
He is known for his improvisational skills and impersonations. His performances frequently involve impromptu humor designed and delivered in rapid-fire succession while on stage. According to the Aladdin DVD commentary, most of his dialogue as the Genie was improvised.
In 2006, he starred in five movies including Man of the Year and was the Surprise Guest at the 2006 Nickelodeon Kids" Choice Awards. He appeared on an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that aired on January 30, 2006.
At one point, he was in the running to play the Riddler in Batman Forever until director Tim Burton dropped the project. Earlier, Williams had been a strong contender to play the Joker in Batman. He had expressed interest in assuming the role in The Dark Knight, the sequel to 2005"s Batman Begins,although the part of the Joker was played by Heath Ledger, who went on to win, posthumously, the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
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.
Disputes with Disney
In gratitude for his success with the Disney/Touchstone film Good Morning, Vietnam, Robin Williams voiced the Genie in the Disney animated film Aladdin for SAG scale pay ($75,000), on condition that his name or image not be used for marketing, and his (supporting) character not take more than 25% of space on advertising artwork, since Toys was scheduled for release one month after Aladdin"s debut. The studio went back on the deal on both counts, especially in poster art by having the Genie in 25% of the image, but having other major and supporting characters portrayed considerably smaller. Disney"s Hyperion book, Aladdin: The Making Of An Animated Film, listed both of Williams" characters "The Peddler" and "The Genie" ahead of main characters, but was forced to refer to him only as "the actor signed to play the Genie".
Williams and Disney had a bitter falling-out, and as a result Dan Castellaneta voiced the Genie in The Return of Jafar, the Aladdin animated television series, and had recorded his voice for Aladdin and the King of Thieves. When Jeffrey Katzenberg was fired from Disney and replaced by former 20th Century Fox production head Joe Roth (whose last act for Fox was greenlighting Williams" film Mrs. Doubtfire), Roth arranged for a public apology to Williams by Disney. Williams agreed to perform in Hollywood Pictures" Jack, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and even agreed to voice the Genie again for the King Of Thieves sequel (for considerably more than scale), replacing all of Castellaneta"s dialogue.
When Williams re-teamed with Doubtfire director Chris Columbus for 1999"s Bicentennial Man, Disney asked that the budget be cut by approximately $20 million, and when the film was released on Christmas Day, it flopped at the box office. Williams blamed Disney"s marketing and the loss of content the film had suffered due to the budget cuts. As a result, Williams was again on bad terms with Disney, and Castellaneta was once again recruited to replace him as Genie in the Kingdom Hearts video game series and the House of Mouse TV series. The DVD release for Aladdin has no involvement whatsoever from Williams in the bonus materials, although some of his original recording sessions can be seen.
Robin Williams has recently made peace with the Walt Disney Company and in 2009 agreed to be inducted into the Disney Hall of Fame, designated as a Disney Legend.
Williams has done a number of stand-up comedy tours since the early 1970s. Some of his most notable 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 brand new 26-city tour titled "Weapons of Self Destruction". He was quoted as saying 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, finishing in New York on December 3, and was the subject of an HBO special on December 8, 2009.
Accusations of plagiarism
While studying at Juilliard, Williams befriended Christopher Reeve. They had several classes together in which they were the only students, and they remained good friends for the rest of Reeve"s life. Williams visited Reeve after the horse riding accident that rendered him a quadriplegic, and cheered him up by pretending to be an eccentric Russian doctor (similar to his role in Nine Months). Williams claimed that he was there to perform a colonoscopy. Reeve stated that he laughed for the first time since the accident and knew that life was going to be okay.
On August 20, 2007, Williams" elder brother, Robert Todd Williams, died of complications from heart surgery performed a month earlier.
Addiction and health problems
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Williams had an addiction to cocaine; he has stated that he has since quit. Williams was a close friend of and frequent partier alongside John Belushi. He says the death of his friend and the birth of his son prompted him to quit drugs: "Was it a wake-up call? Oh yeah, on a huge level. The grand jury helped too."
On August 9, 2006, Williams checked himself in to a substance-abuse rehabilitation center (located in Newberg, Oregon), later admitting that he was an alcoholic.His publicist delivered the announcement:
After 20 years of sobriety, Robin Williams found himself drinking again and has decided to take proactive measures to deal with this for his own well-being and the well-being of his family. He asks that you respect him and his family"s privacy during this time. He looks forward to returning to work this fall to support his upcoming film releases.
On January 6, 2006, he performed live at Consumer Electronics Show during Google"s keynote.In the 2006 E3, on the invitation of Will Wright, he demonstrated the creature editor of Spore while simultaneously commenting on the creature"s look: "This will actually make a platypus look good."He also complimented the game"s versatility, comparing it to Populous and Black & White. Later that year, he was one of several celebrities to participate in the Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day.
A fan of professional road cycling, he was a regular on the US Postal and Discovery Channel Pro Cycling team bus and hotels during the years Lance Armstrong dominated the Tour de France.He owns over 50 bicycles.
Williams and his former wife, Marsha, founded the Windfall Foundation, a philanthropic organization to raise money for many different charities. Williams devotes much of his energy to charity work, including the Comic Relief fundraising efforts (the program is hosted by himself, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg).In December 1999, he sang in French on the BBC-inspired music video of international celebrities doing a cover of the Rolling Stones" "It"s Only Rock & Roll" for the charity Children"s Promise.
In response to the 2010 Canterbury Earthquake, Williams donated all proceeds of his "Weapons of Self Destruction" Christchurch performance to helping rebuild the New Zealand city. Half the proceeds were donated to the Red Cross and half to the mayoral building fund with the words "I hope this donation will go some way to helping the extensive rebuilding effort in the city." Williams has performed with the USO for U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.