He was the man that said, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” He charmed his way into all our hearts through his witty comedy and gentle nature. He was one of the good ones, and it came as a shock to many people when he took his own life. We all asked ourselves how someone with such a great sense of humor and willingness to laugh could be someone who was also depressed enough to kill himself. It’s been almost two years since we all lost the beloved actor, and we thought it was time to remind everyone why we loved him so much. He was the kind of actor who never lost himself when he rose to the top. He always remembered where he came from and looked out for others. He seemed to have a full and wonderful life before his death, which made it all the more tragic that he passed.
There was so much that we didn’t know about the famous actor like the period of time that he struggled as a mime on the streets of New York or how he used to lift the spirits of the troops in Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Iraq. He sent a young girl to Juilliard; she was the first in her family to go to college, and he paid her full ride. He had a good soul and one that will be missed. We’re betting that you’ll be surprised about these unknown facts about the late Robin Williams.
15. Aladdin Was Improvised
We all loved Robin Williams’ role as the genie in Aladdin. But what you may not know about the character was that most of it was improvised by the actor. The movie was originally being considered for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay but was turned down because they considered that the role he played was improvised too much. He had prepared almost 70 impressions for the film, and William explained during a Reddit AMA that “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.”
14. He Was a Huge Gamer
A fun little fact that you may not have known about the actor is that he was a huge gamer, and his son joined him in his love for games. He loved gaming so much that he named his daughter after one of his favorite games. If you’ve ever wondered if Williams’ daughter was named after The Legends of Zelda, you’d be correct. The name “Zelda” was picked by his son from the game. Williams admitted as much during an interview with Reddit AMA in 2013 when a fan asked him if that was where he got the name from. “It wasn’t actually me; it was my son Zachary who came up with the idea. But once Marsha [his ex-wife] and I heard it, we said it was great.” Some of Williams’ favorite games were Call of Duty, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Portal, and Battlestations Pacific.
13. He Always Struggled With Addiction
Robin Williams’ problems with addiction started early on in his career when he was playing the role of Mork from Mork and Mindy. It was a great show and one that really showed his range as an actor. It was at the time when his career was just taking off, and maybe that caused a lot of stress for him. Fame has certainly caught many celebrities off guard. It was at that point in his career that he developed a problem with alcohol and drugs. He never did get a handle on the problem and continued struggling with the addiction for another two decades. There were a lot of rumors surrounding his death that claimed that it was the multiple pills that he was on that caused his death and that it may not have been a suicide but an accidental death.
12. He Had an Affair
Williams certainly wouldn’t be the first actor to have an extra-marital affair, but his caused quite the scandal. His first marriage was to Valerie Velardi whom he married in 1978 and had a son with. He met a woman named Michelle Tish Carter in 1984 and began an affair with her. She was a cocktail waitress that he met one night that he was out partying with friends. The affair lasted a few years, and in 1986, Michelle sued the actor claiming that she got the herpes simplex virus from him and that he didn’t tell her that he was infected. The case was settled out of court, and the two parted ways. His marriage also ended, though not until another few years when Velardi and Williams divorced in 1988. What a tangled web he weaved.
11. He Cheered Up Steven Spielberg
It’s pretty obvious that Williams made it his goal in life to cheer up his friends when they needed it. He would often do rounds of phone calls when he was needed, and his friends appreciated his kindness. During the filming of Schindler’s List, Williams made sure to contact Spielberg a few times to lift his spirits during filming. “I think I only called him once, maybe twice. I called him when I was representing People for the Valdheimers Association, a society devoted to helping raise money to help older Germans who had forgotten everything before 1945. I remember him laughing and going ‘thank you,’” he said to Reddit AMA. Spielberg called these phone calls “comic care packages over the telephone.” It was part of his charm that the actor was so thoughtful toward his friends. It would have been a blessing to have that kind of friend around.
10. He Trained With Lance Armstrong
Robin Williams was a huge fan of cycling, so who better to learn from than Lance Armstrong. Williams had a passion for the sport and was able to share it with his close friend. Oh, celebrities… they basically have whomever they want at their disposal. Could you imagine having the opportunity to be friends with and train with someone who excelled as much as Armstrong did? When it came time to train, Armstrong always made time for Williams, and the two had a blast together. Williams even accompanied Armstrong to his races a few times. Talk about an amazing experience. ESPN Magazine reported that Williams “would even ride shotgun in the Lance Armstrong team car at many of his races!” That must have been quite the high, being there when someone who mentored you won huge races. He was quite the athlete and definitely someone that you can learn from.
9. He Loved C.S. Lewis
Williams was a huge fan of the works of C.S. Lewis. His favorite book was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He read the book multiple times and then read the books to his kids as they were growing up as well. “Growing up, it was The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe — I would read the whole C.S. Lewis series out loud to my kids. I was once reading to Zelda, and she said, ‘Don’t do any voices. Just read it as yourself.’ So, I did; I just read it straight, and she said, ‘That’s better.'” Most kids just love the sound of their parents’ voices when they read to them; there was no need for one of his many impersonations in this case. It’s also one of my favorite books, and it’s rich with history and fantasy, truly a classic for the ages.
8. He Was Best Buds With Christopher Reeve
The two had been longtime friends since they went to Juilliard together. The two actors became fast friends and made sure to stay close throughout the years. Robin Williams became a huge supporter of Reeve after his accident. In fact, he was the one person that was able to make the actor laugh after the tragic accident that left him paralyzed. It must have been difficult to find humor in his situation, yet Williams was able to bring the actor back to life. Reeve told the story in his memoir, Still Me: “He announced that he was a proctologist and had to examine me immediately, and for the first time since the accident, I laughed.” Williams was always good for a laugh; it was his best attribute, and clearly, his friends agreed. We’re sure that Reeve appreciated having someone like Williams in his life.
7. He Was Not a Salesperson
Williams loved making movies and was obviously great at bringing big dollars into the box office. What he didn’t like, though, was the merchandising that often went along with it. In the case of Aladdin, Disney went nuts with merchandising, for obvious reasons — they wanted to make a ton of money. When they sold the genie toys and dolls, they used Robin Williams’ voice in them, which pissed the actor off. The actor was so pissed off that he told New York magazine, “I don’t want to sell stuff. It’s the one thing I won’t do.” Disney was afraid that they had gone too far with the actor and wanted to make up for it. They ended up sending Williams a gift of a Picasso painting in which the “artist imagined himself as Vincent Van Gogh.” The painting was rumored to cost $1 million.
6. He Hit a Box Office Milestone
It’s not every day that you get two box office hits in one week, but that was the case for Robin Williams. They were movies that went huge during the first week of their release, and it’s the reason why directors loved when Williams was in one of their movies. He was basically box office gold when it came to making money for the movies that he was in. Not many actors can say they hit a box office milestone in the same week, so it’s quite the accomplishment for any actor. In 1996, he had two of his movies reach $100 million at the box office during the same week when the movies released in the US. Those movies were Birdcage and Jumanji; they were hugely popular, and they brought in huge paychecks for Williams. Jumanji quickly became a classics. It was a great movie with a great cast.
5. “The Least Likely To Succeed Award”
We’ve all had to answer the quote in our yearbooks about who we believe would be more likely to succeed, have the prettiest children, be a loser for life, etc. No one ever took them seriously, but it was always funny to look back at them to see if any of them came true. In Robin Williams’s case, he was voted in his high school yearbook as the “Least Likely to Succeed.” Wow, they really had that guy pegged badly. Maybe it was because he was a jokester that they thought would amount to nothing more than a class clown — it’s hard to say. The students of Redwood High School must have been shocked when Williams went on to win two Emmys, an Oscar, and five Grammys. I would certainly consider that to have been a huge success. It looks like he proved them all wrong, after all.
4. His Car Was Old School
Usually, when celebrities make it big, they cannot wait to get a fancy car like a Mercedes or a Porsche. When Justin Bieber, for example, made it big, he went after a Lamborghini. Not that we blame these celebrities. If you have the money then why not get yourself a sweet-looking ride? But that wasn’t the way that Williams thought at all. When he started rising to fame during the TV show Mork and Mindy, he had no interest in getting a fancy car. He just wanted to keep his 1996 Land Rover, and he was just as happy to do so. He had no interest in the Rolls Royce or Mercedes that people were trying to talk him into buying. “I can’t deal with new cars. I like a car that’s like me — you never know what’s going to happen next.”
3. He Improvised in Good Will Hunting
Robin Williams did a lot of improvising during his career; it was kind of his thing. He was really good at it, too — things just seemed to roll right out of his head, and they were always funny. During the scene in Good Will Hunting where he talks to Matt Damon’s character, he told a story about his wife’s farting. The story was not scripted at all, and it took everyone off guard. He just came up with it out of nowhere, and no one saw it coming. Even the cameraman was caught off guard, and you can see the camera shaking during the scene because he was laughing so hard. Don’t believe me? Check it out sometime. It’s at around the 1:00 mark in the movie, and trust me — you’ll die laughing, too. It’s interesting to discover things like that because otherwise, you would have no idea that it happened.
2. He Was Overweight As a Child
You may have wondered, like so many others, how Robin Williams ever got around to coming up with his impersonations. For Aladdin, he was able to come up with a whopping 70 impersonations just in case they needed it for the film. That’s insane! So, why did he ever get into doing impersonations? It turns out that it was because he was overweight as a child and didn’t have many friends as a result. “He was overweight as a child and began talking in different voices to entertain himself when he didn’t have anyone to play with,” reported Reddit. He probably wouldn’t be the first child to do something like that to compensate for a lonely childhood. He was quite skilled at impersonations and was able to lend a uniqueness to all the characters that he played over the years.
1. He Acted Like An Alien
Robin Williams knew how to score a good interview even at the beginning of his career. When he auditioned for the role of Mork, an alien for Mork and Mindy, he knew he had to do something to get the director’s attention. When asked to come in for an interview, producer Gary Marshall told Williams to sit down so that they could proceed. Instead of doing what he had been asked, Williams went and sat his head on the chair without skipping a beat. Gary Marshall loved it, of course, and hired Williams on the spot. When later asked why he decided to hire Williams without continuing with the auditions, he said that Williams was the only one that behaved like an alien during auditions. Williams obviously knew what he was doing because that type of improv work made his character what it was.