Robin McLaurin Williams
(21 July 1951 - 11 August 2014)
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Mr Robin McLaurin Williams
21 July 1951 - 11 August 2014
Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014) was an American actor and comedian. Starting as a stand-up comedian in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, he is credited with leading San Francisco's comedy renaissance.
After rising to fame as Mork in the TV series Mork & Mindy (1978–82), Williams went on to establish a career in both stand-up comedy and feature film acting. He was known for his improvisational skills.
After his film debut in Popeye (1980), he starred or co-starred in widely acclaimed films including The World According to Garp (1982), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), Awakenings (1990), The Fisher King (1991), Aladdin (1992), Good Will Hunting (1997), and One Hour Photo (2002), as well as financial successes such as Hook (1991), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995), The Birdcage (1996), and Night at the Museum (2006).
Williams was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as therapist Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. He received two Emmy Awards, six Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and five Grammy Awards.
On August 11, 2014, Williams died by suicide at his home in Paradise Cay, California.
Early life and education
Robin McLaurin Williams was born at St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, on July 21, 1951. His mother, Laurie McLaurin (c. 1923 – September 4, 2001), was a former model from Jackson, Mississippi; her great-grandfather was Mississippi senator and governor Anselm J. McLaurin. Williams's father, Robert Fitzgerald Williams (September 10, 1906 – October 18, 1987) was a senior executive in Ford Motor Company's Lincoln-Mercury Division.
Williams had two elder half-brothers: Robert Todd Williams (June 14, 1938 – August 14, 2007) and McLaurin Smith-Williams (born c. 1947).
He had English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, German, and French ancestry. While his mother was a practitioner of Christian Science, Williams was raised as an Episcopalian and later authored the comedic list, "Top Ten Reasons to be an Episcopalian."
During a TV interview on Inside the Actors Studio in 2001, he credited his mother as being an important early influence for his sense of humor, noting also that he tried to make her laugh to gain attention.
Williams attended public elementary school at Gorton Elementary School (now Gorton Community Center) and middle school at Deer Path Junior High School (now Deer Path Middle School), both in Lake Forest, Illinois. He described himself as a quiet and shy child who did not overcome his shyness until he became involved with his high school drama department. His friends recall him as being very funny. In late 1963, when Williams was twelve, his father was transferred to Detroit. They lived in a 40-room farmhouse on 20 acres in suburban Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where he was a student at the private Detroit Country Day School. He excelled in school, where he was on the school's soccer team and wrestling team, and became class president.
As Williams's father was away much of the time, and his mother also worked, he was attended to by the family's maid, who was his main companion. When Williams was 16, his father took early retirement and the family moved to Tiburon, California. Following the move, Williams attended Redwood High School in nearby Larkspur. At the time of his graduation in 1969, he was voted "Most Likely Not to Succeed" and "Funniest" by his classmates.
After high school graduation, Williams enrolled at Claremont Men's College in Claremont, California to study political science, then later dropped out to pursue acting.
Williams then studied theatre for three years at the College of Marin, a community college in Kentfield, California. According to Marin drama professor James Dunn, the depth of Williams's talent first became evident when he was cast in the musical Oliver! as Fagin. Williams was known to improvise during his time in Marin's drama program, putting cast members in hysterics. Dunn called his wife after one late rehearsal to tell her that Williams "was going to be something special."
In 1973, Williams attained a full scholarship to the Juilliard School in New York City. He was one of only 20 students accepted into the freshman class 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. William Hurt and Mandy Patinkin were also classmates. Reeve remembers his first impression of Williams when they were two new students at Juilliard:
He wore tie-dyed shirts with track suit bottoms and talked a mile a minute. I'd never seen so much energy contained in one person. He was like an untied balloon that had been inflated and immediately released. I watched in awe as he virtually caromed off the walls of the classrooms and hallways. To say that he was "on" would be a major understatement.
Reeve and Williams had a class in dialects taught by Edith Skinner, who, Reeve said, was one of the world's leading voice and speech teachers. Skinner had no idea what to make of Williams, adds Reeve, as Williams could instantly perform in any dialect, including Scottish, Irish, English, Russian, Italian, and many others.
Their primary acting teacher was Michael Kahn, who was "equally baffled by this human dynamo," notes Reeve. Williams already had a reputation for being funny, but Kahn sometimes criticized his antics as simple stand-up comedy. In a later production, Williams silenced his critics with his convincing role of an old man in The Night of the Iguana, by Tennessee Williams. "He simply was the old man," observed Reeve. "I was astonished by his work and very grateful that fate had thrown us together."
Williams and Reeve remained close friends until Reeve's death in 2004, after he became a quadriplegic. Williams paid many of his medical bills and also gave financial support to Reeve's family.
Williams left Juilliard during his junior year in 1976 at the suggestion of Houseman, who said there was nothing more Juilliard could teach him. His teacher at Juilliard, Gerald Freedman, notes that Williams was a "genius," and the school's conservative and classical style of training did not suit him, therefore no one was surprised that he left.
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