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The Religious Affiliation of Actor, Comedian
Robin Williams is an Episcopalian. His mother was a Christian Scientist.
From: Sarah Gristwood, "Bobbin' Robin" in Mail & Guardian (Africa), 18 June 1998 (http://www.chico.mweb.co.za/mg/art/film/9806/980618-robin.html; viewed 26 August 2005):
[Robin Williams] insists that his childhood (only child, with half-brothers he didn't know about until later, travelling businessman father, busy Christian Scientist mother) was solitary but not unhappy. But something there once led him into a moderate cocaine habit that seems incongruous today. He was cleaned up, he says, by the impending birth of his first child - and by the death of friend John Belushi.
From: Tom Heinen, "New governor practices quiet faith: Christian Science's democratic tenets guide McCallum" in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9 February 2001 (http://www.jsonline.com/lifestyle/religion/feb01/scott09020801a.asp; viewed 26 August 2005):
Other famous people had mothers who were Christian Scientists. That includes comedian Robin Williams, who has referred to his mother and her friends as "Christian Dior Scientists" because it seemed fashionable to them to follow the faith, Graunke recalled.
Robin Williams grew up as an only child in a relatively wealthy family. Robin Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois, but his family moved not long after his birth to the exclusive Bloomfield Hills district in the Detroit, Michigan area, where he spent his childhood years growing up in a 30-room mansion situated on a private 20 acre estate. Robin Williams' father was a senior executive for an automobile manufacturing company, and spent considerable time away from the home at work and on business trips. But Robin Williams' father retired and moved the family to California when Williams was in high school. (Source: Andy Dougan, Robin Williams, Thunder's Mouth Press: New York, 1998, pages 7-15.)
No matter. The church welcomes formal followers and dabblers alike.
About Robin Williams' time at Detroit Country Day School, an exclusive private school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, which he began attending in seventh grade. From: Andy Dougan, Robin Williams, Thunder's Mouth Press: New York (1998), page 13:
Perhaps as a defense against the bullying of his WASP classmates, Williams found himself gravitating towards the Jewish boys at the school. They were obvious targets of discrimination because of their background and that perhaps provided soem common ground between them. Mot of his school friends were Jewish and they proved to be much more accepting of Williams than the other classmates had been. Williams says, with some pride, that as an 'honorary Jew' he went to 14 bar mitzvahs in a single year. His new friends also provided him with a working knowledge of Yiddish which survives now in the words and phrases that sprinkle his conversations and his stage act.
From: Jay David, The Life and Humor of Robin Williams, Quill/William Morrow: New York, NY (1999), page 1:
In spite of his love for an occasional raunchy, off-color routine, and in spite of the fact that most comedians seem to come from the wrong side of the tracks, Robin Williams was born to affluence and gentility. He had no bruising struggle to better himself economically; he faced no arduous climb up the ladder to fame and fortune. He was born the quintessential WASP--white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant from the get-go.
David, page 69:
With his world caving in on him, and with the news that he was going to be a father [with his wife, Valerie Velardi], Robin Williams came to a hard decision. He knew what he had to do. He could do it, and he would. Not many people could succeed at what he planned to do, but he could. He was going to stop drugs and liquor cold turkey.
Robin Williams married Valerie Velardi on 4 June 1978. Williams eventually separated from Valerie and began a long-term relationship with Marsha Garces, their son Zachary's nanny. The marriage of Valerie and Robin Williams officially ended when they divorced in 1988. Williams married Marsha soon thereafter, on 30 April 1989. Marsha and Robin Williams had two children together, and remain married as of this writing (2005).
"No visit to the Betty Ford Center, no therapeutic support," a friend said of Robin's action. "He just quit, and he never touched drugs or drink again."
Valerie: "Robin has an incredibly strong will. He didn't need help. He has inner resources and he used them."
Robin had simly gone back to his origins; he knew he could do this if he willed himself to do it. And that was exactly the turn he took. He had read the boks. He knew how tough it would be. But he had made his mind up. He managed it. After all, he once pointed out, his mother had been brought up as a Christian Scientist, believing in "mind over matter."
When he did stop drugs and alcohol, he knew he was through with them for life. "For me there was the baby coming. I knew I couldn't be a father and live that sort of life."
David, pages 114-115:
Is he [Robin Williams' son Zachary] a vegetarian, as his father has been? someone asked.
Robin Williams' career was launched indirectly by George Lucas and the success of the hit 1977 science fiction movie Star Wars. Nine-year-old Scott Marshall was fascinated by Star Wars and suggested to his father, Happy Days producer Garry Marshall, that he should do an episode with an alien. Although it would be an unusual idea for Happy Days, a non-fantastical sitcom set in the 1950s, Garry Marshall toyed with the idea and eventually a script was written. Robin Williams was one of about twenty actors who came to an open audition for the part of the alien. He won the part and guest-starred in the episode, which aired in February of 1978. Fans loved the episode and mail poured in demanding to see Robin Williams' alien character again. ABC executives quickly planned a series featuring Williams' character, "Mork from Ork." The series, titled Mork and Mindy, debuted at the opening of the next TV season, in September, and quickly sent Williams to national fame. [Source: Jay David, The Life and Humor of Robin Williams, pages 20-23.]
"No, no. He's Michelin. He's been raised on four-star restaurants, 'This salad is al dente.'"
"Right now," Robin said, "it's like living with a tiny Mormon. If you say something -- say you're driving and somebody cuts you off - you go, you use that wonderful f word, and he says, 'Don't say that; they can't hear you.' 'Oh, I'm sorry, little Donny Osmond. Was that you eating a bug or am I crazy?'"
[This was not the only time that Robin William called his well-spoken and surprisingly serious son Zachary to a "Mormon." Williams made this same comparison during an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."]
Robin's second marraige, when it occurred, was a surprise to almost everyone who knew the bride and groom, and to the press, which was out of the loop. Obviously a divorce [between Robin Williams and Valerie] had been discussed and, in fact, finalized.
On Sunday, April 30, 1989, Robin Williams and Marsha Garces were married in a private ceremony at Lake Tahoe, California. A few close relatives and friends attended the wedding, including Robin's good friends Billy Crystal and Bob Goldthwait, both comedians. The newlyweds had given their guests only forty-eight hours' notice.
...One interesting thing abouit this wedding was the fact that Robin and Marsha had what they called a "development project in the works. Marsha was pregnant, and the baby, by alla ccounts, was due to arrive in August 1989. And so the buzz continued. Robin could hardly contain himself.
Dougan, page 35:
Once again Robin Williams was in the middle of a deep depression. His early days back in San Francisco after dropping out of Julliard were among the unhappiest of his life. His girlfriend with his girlfriend, which had seemed so full of promise back in New York, had now come to a sudden and abrupt end. It's interesting to speculate on the reasons, even though Williams himself seldom speaks publicly about it. In an interview in Playboy magazine some years later, the subject turned to the Bush administration's stance on abortion. Williams agonised about the plight of the poor who would be forced into a terrible dilemma of either having an unwanted child or consulting a potentially deadly backstreet abortionist. Williams offered that making the decision to have an abortion was not an easy one, which begged the obvious question from interviewer Lawrence Grobel about whether he had ever found himself in that position.
Dougan, pages 219-220:
'Long, long, long time ago,' Williams replied candidly, 'and it was because we were too young and it wasn't right.'
The period of time between the 1992 Playboy interview and the break-up of his relationship in 1976 would certainly constitute a 'long, long, long time ago.' That being the case, did Williams and the love his life split up because she had become pregnant?
The Birdcage was an Americanised version of the classic French comedy La Cege aux Folles... In the original two gay Frenchmen are thrown into a panic when the straight son of one of them announces that he is about to be married. The meeting of the prospective and very strait-laced in-laws is a potential nightmare. If they discover his father is gay and living with another man, then the whole thing will be off. In desperation his father's partner pretends to be the boy's mother and the whole thing descends into hilarious farce...
Dougan, page 222:
Williams' initial reaction when he was offered the movie was to turn it down. He felt it was a mistake to remake a classic, but once he read the few pages of the script he had been sent he was laughing so hard that he knew it would work on its own terms. Williams had only one further reservation. He had been offered the part of Albert the drag queen, but he wanted the role of Armand.
'First of all I've done that,' [i.e., dressed "in drag", as a woman, in movies such as Mrs. Doubtfire] he said to explain his choice. 'I wanted to try something different. I wanted to play off of him. I still get to go nuts many times, but it was like learning a whole new job.'
Subconsciously Williams' choice of Armand over Albert may also have been a reaction to another criticism. Over the years Williams had been criticised by gay [GLBT] groups for the extravagant way in which he had portrayed them in his stand-up performances. It was an issue that he had addressed in some length in his 1992 Playboy interview.
I understand what they're talking about and I have tried to cut back a little [he conceded]. I can see their point because they have always been portrayed as being that way. But don't tell me, if you walk down a street in San Francisco, you won't see a lot of people that . . . How do you not offend anyone. Finally you just say, '[Screw] it. I have to do what I do. If it pisses you off, I still do other things that piss other people off.' I've got the born-again Christians after my ass because I defend gays, and gays are mad at me because I do effeminiate characters. You can't keep modifying or you're like a chamelon in front of a mirror.
Williams began to seek out projects which would challenge him as an actor. One was a film about the assassination of San Francisco's gay leader Harvey Milk. The Mayor of Castro Street, as the project was known, had been in development with Williams' good friend and fellow San Franciscan Gus Van Sant. These two men had wanted to work together for some time and the script was gelling slowlly but surely, even if it wasn't quite there yet. Another project he was keen on was Damien of Molokai, the inspiring story of a priest who founded a leper colony on the island of Molokai. Father Damien eventually contracted the disease and died himself, but was later canonised by the Catholic Church.
Dougan, page 225-227:
Williams was already hard at work on a new film for Disney which was tipped to be one of the big holiday hits of 1997.
Disney was remaking The Absent-Minded Professor [the feature film adaptation of a popular story written by devout Latter-day Saint author and screenwriter Samuel W. Taylor]. The original starred Fred MacMurray as a scientist who invented a remarkable elastic compound which he called 'flying rubber' -- or Flubber -- which alloweed anything it came into contact with to effectively defy gravity. The Absent-Minded Professor had been the highest-grossing film of 1961 and had spawned a sequel, Son of Flubber. Now Williams was taking on the MacMurray role in a remake called simply Flubber. He was playing Professor Philip Brainard, a man so preoccupied with his work that he forgets everything else -- even his wedding day. When he invents the miraculous Flubber it seems all his troubles are over, but before that can happen he has to prevent some unscrupulous rivals from getting their hands on it.
Williams claims to be not very astute when it comes to judging a script... For Flubber... he did some market research. He held a private screening of The Absent-Minded Professor for five-year-old Cody [his son] and asked if he thought he should do his own version. When Cody said he should, Williams signed on.
'This film was made for kids, make no mistake about that,' says Williams. 'You can't say, "I was trying to achieve scientific reality." That's bullsh--. It's a children's movie and when I took mine to the premiere of Flubber they were laughing like crazy, which is a good sign. And the audience was full of kids and they were laughing too.
'My kids don't analyse what I do,' he continues. 'They don't say, "Hey Dad, your acting has less depth than Fred MacMurray." They just have a natural reaction to a film and they laugh if they think it's funny. And that's the way it should be.'
In Flubber, as in Hook and Jumanji, Williams was extensively involved in optical effects. He has a number of scenes in which his car flies, courtesy of a tank full of Flubber, and others where he bounces ceiling-high because of the effects of the stuff. And when he's not flying around himself, he has to share almost every scene with Flubber, a green computer-generated goo with a personality of its own, or Professor Brainard's flying robot Weebo.
There are other people in the room so I still had someone to talk to [he says of the lonely experience of acting to nothing for computer-generated imaging]. I was a mime so I had a running start on that stuff, so you start from there and you just play and improvise. The animators pick what they like, so it wasn't as hard as it seems . . . Once they have explosions and things breaking, then it becomes a little more precise. But in the scenes when you first see it [Flubber] when I discover it, they let me try a lot of different things.
Flubber also meant Robin Williams had to log more flight time in his flying harness for the aerial scenes...
Flubber was Disney's major family movie release for the Thanksgiving season in November 1997. It was opening on Thanksgiving weekend against what was perceived to be stiff competition in the shape of the keenly anticipated but twice-delayed Alien Resurrection. Not only that, but Flubber was also following on from Fox's high-priced animated version of Anastasia [directed by legendary Latter-day Saint animation legend Don Bluth] which had opene dstrongly over the previous weekend. The reviews for Flubber had not been overly enthusiastic. Director Les Mayfield seemed to be at aloss to know what to do with Williams' character. There are so many effects and so much mayhem in some scenes that Williams has nothing to do, and for much of the film he plays second fiddle to a lump of computer-generated green jelly. But, as Williams pointed out, Flubber was made for kids not critics. It finished the five-day Thanksgiving weekend in top spot at the box-office with a shade under $36 million. Alien Resurrection trailed well behind in second place with just under $26 million.
Although it started with a bang, Flubber didn't demonstrate the staying power for which Disney had hoped. One of the box-office trends of the Nineties was that films tended to have shorter shelf lives -- the total box-office take is now rougly three times the opening weekend, compared with five times around ten years ago. Flubber was a shining example of this theory, finishing up with just over $96 million at the American box-office.
Flubber had just fallen short of the $100 million mark, which was becoming a trademark of Robin Williams films in the Nineties. If Williams was concerned about his appeal slipping, however, he need not have been. The best was only a matter of weeks away [i.e., his film Good Will Hunting, which grossed $138 million domestically].
Webpage created 28 July 2005. Last modified 26 September 2005.
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