Robin McLaurin Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 21, 1951. He grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan before moving to Woodacre, California, and studied at Claremont Men’s College for four years before being accepted in to Juilliard School, where he was one of only two students (the other being Christopher Reeve) selected into the Advanced Program that year. Garry Marshall found Williams working as an extra on The Richard Pryor Show, and cast him as the alien Mork on the sitcom Happy Days. His extraordinary improv skills helped create a character that was so fun and memorable that the executives at the studio decided to create the popular spin-off show, Mork and Mindy. Williams found great fame through this character, and found greater exposure through several HBO produced standup comedy specials before moving on to being an A-list movie star.
Williams’ first lead role came as the titular character in Robert Altman’s Popeye (1980), filmed at the height of his Mork and Mindy popularity. He had smaller roles in less successful films over the next few years before landing the role of Adrian Cronauer, in Barry Levinson’s Good Morning, Vietnam (1987). For his outstanding performance playing the charismatic and eccentric disc jockey assigned to the US Armed Services Radio station, Robin Williams received his first Academy Award nomination. This recognition led to bigger and more dramatic roles, including playing an inspiring English professor in Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society (1989; for which he received his second Academy Award nomination), a passionate doctor opposite Robert DeNiro in Penny Marshall’s Awakenings (1990), and a disturbed homeless man in Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King (1991; for which he received his third Academy Award nomination), as well as retaining his hilarious and witty presence in comedies like Roger Donaldson‘s Cadillac Man (1990).
After playing a grown-up Peter Pan in Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991), Robin Williams became a huge draw in family-centered films. He did voice work for FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992), Aladdin (1992), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), Robots (2005), Happy Feet (2006) and Happy Feet 2 (2011), as well as live action family drama/comedies like Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995), Flubber (1997), Patch Adams (1998), and Bicentennial Man (1999). In 1997, Williams took on his deepest, most challenging role to date in Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting. Williams played a psychologist with problems of his own, and deservedly walked away with the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for 1997. He continued to show his versatility by playing darker, villainous roles in films like Mark Romanek’s underrated One Hour Photo (2002) and Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia (2002).
Robin Williams has four projects underway, including The Big Wedding (due out later this year) – which has a pretty impressive cast that includes Robert DeNiro, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, and Katherine Heigl – Look of Love, The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, and The Butler, the latter of which he will play former President Dwight Eisenhower.
My Circuit 3 for Robin Williams is:
- Good Will Hunting (1997)
- Dead Poets Society (1989)
- Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
What are your three best/favorite Robin Williams films? You can view his filmography here.