Robin Williams, seven years without his "sad smile"

Robin Williams, seven years without his sad smile

Robin Williams

Seven years ago Robin Williams passed away: it was so difficult to suddenly learn from the news broadcasts broadcast in the early morning appointments the too early and sudden death of one of the cutest actors that Hollywood cinema has ever been able to present to us. on screen, we would dare to say in the last thirty abundant years. It was 11 August 2014, and remembering the shock of the news still fills the eyes with tears, especially remembering her sad smile. The media of the time (when our life was not yet so besieged by social networks) announced the suicidal disappearance of Robin Williams, whose memory is immediately linked to Mrs Doubtfire, Mork & Mindy, The fleeting moment and several other titles of films and TV series that have made him a real movie star, a "diamond in the heart" for all the spectators who followed him in search of inspiration, smiles and a few tears.

How a star is born

Robin McLaurin Williams, this was his full name, was born in Chicago on July 21, 1951, when he still did not know he was becoming a world star and loved by the general public. The family, however, had a fortune and a not inconsiderable fame: his father, Robert Fitzgerald Williams, was an executive of Ford's Lincoln-Mercury Division, while his mother, Laurie Mclaurin, was a former model, whose great-grandfather was the senator. of Mississippi and governor Anselm J. McLaurin.

The peculiarity of Robin Williams was not only in his roots, but also in the real melting pot that was his blood: in fact he had English, French, German origins, Irish, Scottish and Welsh. Faith also played a very precise and fundamental role in his formation and in his entire existence: Williams grew up according to the episcopal faith followed by his father.

The actor has always described himself as a very quiet child for his age, never really being able to overcome his shyness, until the decisive turning point for his life and career: involvement at the time high school at his theater department. Not only did this help shape the man we met on screen, but his relationship with his mother was also very influential.

During a television interview in 2001, Williams attributed to her an important influence on her humor, recalling how he tried to make her laugh to get her attention. And in retrospect we can admit with certainty that he has managed to attract ours too.

Education and friendship with Christopher Reeve

Williams grows and, after graduating from high school, yes enrolled at Claremont Men's College in Claremont, California, to study political science. A student career interrupted to pursue acting, studying theater for three years at the College of Marin, a community college in Kentfield, California.

According to this college's theater professor, James Dunn, the depth of the young actor's talent became evident when he was cast in the musical Oliver! in the role of Fagin.

Williams often indulged in improvisation at the time, pestering the cast members in hysteria, but managing to catch Dunn's attention, who told his wife that Williams "was going to be something special. ".

In 1973, Williams was awarded a scholarship to the J uilliard School in New York, one of 20 students accepted in the freshman class, and he and Christopher Reeve were the only two accepted by John Houseman in the advanced program of the school that year.

Reeve, who remained his close friend until his passing in 2004, recalled his first impression of Williams when they were new students at Juilliard claiming that his friend dressed really bizarre and spoke really fast, giving off a incredible energy and perceptible to anyone around him.

Williams and Reeve attended together a dialectic course held by Edith Skinner, considered by Reeve himself as one of the leading teachers of voice and language in the world. Also according to Reeve, Skinner was baffled by Williams and her ability to instantly perform in many different accents, perhaps a gift linked to her multiple nationality? We will never know. Their main acting teacher, Michael Kahn, was also "equally baffled by this human dynamo."

Williams therefore already had a reputation for being funny, but Kahn had criticized his antics, considering them as "simple cabaret". In a later production, Williams silenced criticism with his well-received performance in Night of the Iguana.

A prestigious career made up of only high-cachet activities? Not at all: during the summers from 1974 to 1976, Robin Williams worked as an assistant waiter at Trident in Sausalito, California, leaving Juilliard in his first year in 1976 at Houseman's suggestion. Motivation? Houseman himself told him that there was nothing more Juilliard could teach him.

Gerald Freedman, another of his teachers at that school, said that Williams was a "genius" and that the school's conservative and classic style of training did not suit him; no one was surprised that he was gone.

Na-no Na-no

The seventies therefore marked an important decade for the actor, who began to perform mainly in the genre of stand-up comedy at the San Francisco Bay Area in 1976. His first performance took place at the Holy City Zoo, a San Francisco comedy club, where he made his way from the most popular public places.

Nothing to do with the titles for which he is best remembered, on the set of which he arrived thanks to his performances at The Comedy Store. There, in 1977, he was spotted by television producer George Schlatter, who asked him to appear in a revival of his he show Laugh-In.

The show aired in late 1977 and was his first television appearance, a failed production in itself, but which set the springboard for Williams. The demonstration is given in the following year, 1978, with his appearance in an episode of the cult series Happy Days as an alien, Mork.

The success of that episode was such that it proceeded with the creation of a TV series, Mork and Mindy, which lasted until 1982 and which remained impressed for the opening theme, as well as the classic gesture with the hand that the alien Mork frequently did to say hello, a reference linked to the Star Trek saga.

Lights and shadows

Thanks to his success with this series, Robin Williams began to reach a wider audience with his comedy, starting in the late seventies and throughout the 1980s He began appearing in three HBO specials, Off The Wall (1978), An Evening with Robin Williams (1983) and A Night at the Met (1986). Williams also won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for recording his 1979 live show at the Copacabana in New York titled Reality… What a Concept.

But let's not forget the actor's fragile and shy personality, two traits that, combined with the stress of his activities in the spotlight, led him to take drugs and alcohol, abusing them often. The first signs of a comedy that hid a dark and difficult side. He himself claimed that he did not drink or take drugs and then go on stage, but occasionally performed when he had a hangover from the previous day.

During the time he was using cocaine, he said that this substance made him paranoid when he was performing on stage. What exactly are these difficulties due to? Williams once described the life of comedians this way:

It's a brutal industry. They run out. You really pay a price for it. Add the lifestyle dictated by parties, alcohol, drugs. If you're on the go, it's even more brutal. You have to come back down to soften your ass and then performing brings you back up. They go out because this work comes and goes. Suddenly some of them are famous, then someone else is. Sometimes they get very bitter. Sometimes they give up. Sometimes there is a kind of revival and they come back again. Sometimes they break. The pressure is felt. You become obsessed and then you lose the focus you need.

Characterized by a profound critical and self-critical analysis of the world in which he found himself, Robin Williams seems to be the perfect prototype of the classic duality of the theatrical mask, which can not only be comic, but also dramatic.

Goodbye, rebellious genius

Alongside titles such as Mrs Doubtfire and Hook, as well as Jumanji and A Night at the Museum, we find the actor also in dubbing, giving the voice of Aladdin's Genius in the version original of the film, but also in films with thicker themes. Among these, Good Will Hunting - Rebel Genius, Bicentennial Man or Patch Adams, allowing the general public to discover the other side of the actor, the deeper one, who manages to capture the audience and make them always cry, be it of emotion or hilarity.

Let's remember then the monologue dedicated to the theme of Carpe diem, "seize the moment", in The fleeting moment, one of the most symbolic moments of the cinema of the nineties of the last century:

It is with these words that we close this brief but intense digression to the discovery of how the star of Robin Williams was born, one of the actors who has best known how to awaken in us the most good, honest, feelings. just, upright and correct.

A story, his, which ended perhaps too soon, perhaps for fear of showing himself weak to the world because of his neuro degenerative disease which had been diagnosed shortly before he committed suicide. There is talk of Alzheimer's, which he never revealed to the world with his voice, and then of the discovery during the autopsy of the development of Lewy bodies, anomalies that contribute to Parkinson's disease and other diseases that cause dementia. >
Who knows what really turned off that sad smile, what gave the coup de grace to his too frequent depressive state. A star who left us, ironically, in a city called Paradise City. Have a good trip Robin, captain, or our captain.

Retrieve some of Robin Williams' best films, such as the Mrs Doubtfire DVD collection, the first two Night at the Museum and Toys films, or a second collection on DVD with Jumanji, Patch Adams, Hook and Bicentennial Man!

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