Seven years after his untimely death, fans around the world are still grieving for Robin Williams — not just because of his iconic movie roles, but because he was a beloved, kindhearted person off-screen as well.
After decades in Hollywood touching people’s hearts, Robin Williams sadly passed away in August 2014. He had just celebrated his 63rd birthday.
But though he may be gone, his legacy remains strong as ever – in many aspects.
The world lost one of the greatest comic minds in 2014 when iconic funnyman Robin Williams died. Robin had a reputation for being a genuinely lovely person, a family man, and an all-around funny guy.
Born in 1951 in Chicago, Williams would embark on a career that made him one of the most appreciated actors of all time. But during his childhood, few could have imagined that the shy and quiet boy would go on to charm the entire world and make millions of dollars in the process.
But perhaps there were minor signs that Robin was something special when he was given an early chance to develop his humor. The reason for this? His mother, Laurie.
Wanted his mother’s attention
In an interview from 2011, Robin revealed that his mother was a vital influence on his humor; he always tried to make her laugh to get her attention.
In 1969, Robin graduated from high school and was voted “Most Likely Not to Succeed” and “Funniest” by his classmates.
After high school, he decided to study political science at Claremont Men’s College in California, but that didn’t turn out to be his cup of tea. Instead, he dropped out to follow his dreams – Robin wanted to be an actor.
After studying theatre for three years at a community college, Robin got a full scholarship to the Juilliard School in New York, regarded as one of the world’s best schools if you want to pursue a career in music, dance, or drama. It soon became apparent to Robin’s classmates and all the teachers that he was something extraordinary.
He became famous for his improvisational skills. According to one of the drama professors, James Dunn, he had never seen a talent like the young man with his larger-than-life personality.
”I first knew he was more talented than the other kids when he played Fagin in ‘Oliver!’ We were having light board issues and by midnight had only made it through half the musical. At one point he started talking to a baton he was carrying, and the baton talked back. It cut the tension and he had people laughing in hysterics. I remember calling my wife at 2 a.m. and telling her that this young man was going to be something special,” Dunn told The Marin Independent Journal in 2014.
But despite all the praise and cheerful words, Robin had a hard time getting a job as an actor after leaving Juilliard School. So in the mid-1970s, he moved back to his San Francisco home and became involved in stand-up – something he discovered after entering a church.
“So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo,” he told NPR. “And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there.”
Trying to survive as a stand-up comedian in San Francisco in the ’70s was far from the Hollywood glamor and big money that would surround Robin Williams later in life.
”I [was] led to comedy as a survival mechanism,” Robin said.
Salary on Mork & Mindy
In 1978, the aspiring actor got his big breakthrough via the iconic sitcom Mork & Mindy. The series ran from 1978 to 1982 and was a spin-off following Robin’s very successful guest role in an episode of Happy Days.
Robin played an alien from the planet Ork sent to observe human behavior, and brought to the role his unique energy that would also influence television as a whole. Watching clips of Mork & Mindy today, it’s amazing how many funny, rapid-fire one-liners Williams injected into the series. With his ability to change his voice and attitude so smoothly, it’s hard not to love his character.
I don’t know if it needs to be said, but the sitcom was a huge hit from the start. For Robin, the series also gave a nice boost to his account.
The deal with the production team gave him $3 million. According to a report from Daily News in 1979, Robin was getting $6,000-a-week at the beginning of Mork & Mindy. That changed to $75,000-a-week when series was at its peak.
Celebrity Net Worth claims that Robin earned around $35,000-per-episode, translating to about $130,000 an episode in today’s money.
After Mork & Mindy, Williams moved on to doing movies. His outstanding performances in Good Morning Vietnam and Dead Poets Society skyrocketed him to the top shelf of Hollywood. He suddenly became hot property, and as a result was booked throughout the ’90s. He starred in high-profile films like Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, Jumanji, and Good Will Hunting.
When Robin did the voice of Genie in Disney’s blockbuster Aladdin, he could probably ask for whatever he wanted. The producers had written the script with him in mind, so the Genie was literally tailored to him. But as always, Robin improvised a lot.
“He was so hilarious we were rolling on the floor in the control room. Then later on we’d have to try and boil it down to his funniest stuff. Which was hard, because Robin would just get to the point of a character, and then he’d just zing around something – and someone – else. We took the lines that Robin gave us and we basically just ran them,” Joe Haidar, one of the animators who worked on movie, told Daily Record in 1992.
Robin decided to accept a mere $75,000 for his part in the Alladin movie. That was far from was he could have earned, but his main object was “to leave something wonderful behind for his kids,” he said.
According to Robin, he didn’t want anything to do with merchandising surrounding the movie. He didn’t want to sell things and didn’t want to be in more than a quarter of the film.
Sadly, Disney didn’t respect his wishes, which led to Robin refusing to work with the company for many years.
“Not only did they use my voice, they took a character I did and overdubbed it to sell stuff. That was the one thing I said: ‘I don’t do that.’ That was the one thing where they crossed the line,” the actor explained on the Today Show.
All told, Disney’s Alladin would gross $500 million worldwide box office.
One of Williams’s career highlights came in 1997, when he was awarded an Oscar for his role as Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting.
Of course, that award only increased Robin Williams’ value. Two years after his Oscar win, Robin got his highest salary ever for a film when he was paid $20 million for starring as the robotic Andrew in Bicentennial Man. To Robin Williams’ anger, however, Walt Disney Studios decided to cut the budget by approximately $20 million.
The company also spent less money on marketing than they had initially planned. As a result, the film flopped when it premiered on Christmas Day of 1999. Once again, Robin fell out with Disney.
Net worth at the time of his death
During all his years in the entertainment industry, Williams managed to amass a considerable fortune. According to Celebrity Net Worth, his movies grossed about $5.1 billion worldwide.
Despite this, things didn’t look as bright towards the end of his life, and he facecd some financial problems. He partly blamed his economic decline on two costly divorces. Robin divorced his first wife in 1988 and separated from his second wife, Marsha Garces, in 2008. It’s said that the award-winning actor paid out $30 million in total to his two ex-wives.
When Parade asked the actor if he had lost all of his money in divorces, Robin explained:
”Well, not all. Lost enough. Divorce is expensive. I used to joke they were going to call it “all the money,” but they changed it to “alimony.” It’s ripping your heart out through your wallet. Are things good with my exes? Yes. But do I need that lifestyle? No,” he told the newspaper in 2014.
Speaking with the same newspaper, Robin revealed that he decided to star in the sitcom The Crazy Ones because he needed a “steady job” and because “there are bills to pay.”
“My life has downsized, in a good way. I’m selling the ranch up in Napa. I just can’t afford it anymore,” Williams said back in 2014.
The ranch Robin referred to was his 650-acre Napa Valley estate in the Mayacamas Mountains, sometimes called the “Villa of Smiles.” According to Forbes, the actor listed the house at $35 million in 2012 – but no one bought it. Instead, Robin was forced to sell it for $18.1 million in 2016.
All these setbacks led to the comic genius losing a lot of money and assets in the final years of his life. According to Celebrity Net Worth, when Robin Williams passed away, he had a net worth of $50 million.
A comedic genius able to make any character come to life, Williams was loved and revered by millions of people all over the world. He left three children, Zachary, Zelda and Cody, who often pay tribute to their much-adored father.
Do you miss Robin like I do? I just think he was such a once-in-a-generation talent. I hope he has found peace up in the sky with the other Angels who gained their wings!