Robin Williams is a man who will be remembered for his ability to make us laugh. Many people have been touched by his heartwarming family flicks, but is there more to the actor than meets the eye? Here are some fascinating facts about Robin Williams that most people are unaware of.
Robin Williams did not want to market anything for the Disney production, Aladdin.
Robin Williams just wanted to do the voice of the Genie character in Aladdin, which most people would be startled to learn. He wanted to achieve something that would make his children proud. His agreement was that his name would not be used in any of the movie’s promotion. Disney, of course, went ahead and did it anyway… so to make up, they gave him a $1 million picture by Pablo Picasso.
“We had a deal… The one thing I said was I will do the voice. I’m doing it basically because I want to be part of this animation tradition. I want something for my children. One deal is, I just don’t want to sell anything — as in Burger King, as in toys, as in stuff.” said Williams
Being the voice for Genie in Aladdin inspired other celebrities to voice for animations
Aladdin was such a great hit that many people would credit it to Robin Williams’ outstanding voice acting. He gave the film a well-known iconic voice, and it prompted a slew of other celebrities to begin voicing other characters in various cartoons.
Williams wanted to play Hagrid in Harry Potter
Did you know that Robin Williams aspired to portray Hagrid in the Harry Potter films? Unfortunately, they rejected him down due to his nationality.
Oprah wanted to “out” Nathan Lane, but Williams intervened
Nathan Lane was comfortable enough with his sexual orientation in his adolescence to “come out” to his parents, and he was OK with the rest of the New York Theatre scene knowing about it. But he didn’t want the rest of the world to know about it just yet. Lane and Williams were welcomed on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1996. Lane didn’t want to talk about his sexual orientation with Oprah, but she was adamant about it. Lane recalls Robin’s attempt to divert her attention away from the topic:
“She says to me something like, ‘Oh, you’re so good at that girly stuff.’ Or whatever it was. And Robin obviously sensed she might be going toward the sexuality question and he immediately swoops in and diverts the interview away from that to protect me.”
Billy Crystal and Robin Williams had the longest chats!
While Billy Crystal was still alive, he had a close connection with Robin Williams. They would converse on the phone for hours, but they would never address one other by their first names.
Billy recalls: “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”
Robin Williams wrote a letter to get Lisa Jakub back in school
Lisa Jakub plays Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin’s on-screen daughter in the film. Her professors were unable to deal with her schedule while she was shooting, and she was eventually expelled from school. Robin Williams submitted a letter to the school’s principal in the hopes of being reinstated.
Williams wrote: “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work. She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … She is an asset to any classroom.”
He named his daughter, Zelda, after a video game character
Zelda Rae Williams, the daughter of Robin Williams and Marsha Garces, was born in 1989. Many theories exist as to where her name came from, but Roin Williams believes that it was inspired by the character Zelda from the Legend of Zelda video game series.
Williams said: “A lot of people come up and say, ‘Is she named after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife?’ “No, it’s Zelda from the Legend of Zelda.”
William’s debuted his comedy in church
This is one that many people will find shocking. When he graduated from Juilliard, he struggled to find employment as an actor, which drove him back to his hometown. He jumped at the chance to do some comedy at a church, and he jumped at it.
“So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was a 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. And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there.” said Williams.
Williams Pranked Christopher Reeve in hospital
Christopher Reeve was disabled after a catastrophic horseback riding accident. Robin Williams was one of the first persons to pay him a visit while he was in the hospital; the two had been friends since they were both at Julliard. Williams pranked Reeve by claiming to be his proctologist, complete with a Russian accent, just before his major operation.
Reeve recalls the memory fondly: “He came here one afternoon and just — thank God I wear a seatbelt in this chair because I would have fallen out laughing.”
Robin Williams and Koko the gorilla were friends
Robin paid a visit to the Gorilla Foundation in Northern California where Koko the Gorilla lived. After that one of the people who care for Koko showed her Robin Williams acting in one of his movies, and Koko seemed to be able to recognize him. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” said Williams.
When Williams passed away, the caregivers let Koko know of the bad news, and she became depressed according to the foundation.
Robin comforted Steven Spielberg during the filming of Schindler’s list
If you’ve seen Schindler’s List, you’ll know how difficult it was for Steven Spielberg to direct the heartbreaking passages. It was tough for him to get through the film’s production. But, happily, Robin phoned him once a week to help him work through his mental issues.
Spielberg remembers fondly: “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone. I would laugh hysterically because I had to release so much.”
He took his own life because he had dementia, not because he was depressed
Because he was candid and honest about his troubles, many people are aware that Robin Williams battled from depression. Many people were unaware that Williams had been diagnosed with Lewy dementia, which causes “fluctuations in mental state, hallucinations, and motor function impairment.”
People who were close to him started seeing his mental capacity deteriorate. “I definitely witnessed his dementia. You know, him processing things completely differently… He was frustrated trying to memorize dialogue and things like that. This was something that was attacking his brain…” Bobcat Goldthwait recalled.
1. “12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams.” Mental Floss. Garin Pernia. Apr 30, 2022,
2. “Ten fun facts about Robin Williams.”10 Facts About.