In his long career Robin Williams took on a number of roles, from crass stand-up comic to the alien Mork, from a goofy genie to the cross-dressing babysitter Mrs. Doubtfire. But some of Williams' characters were based on real people. Here's what they had to say about him...
In the 1987 film Good Morning, Vietnam Robin Williams took on the role of Adrian Cronauer, a radio DJ who from 1965 to 1966 hosted a show called “Dawn Buster” out of Saigon, Vietnam. Cronauer's show ran during the height of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, and Williams' movie was a comedic take on that tumultuous time. According to the Roanoke Times in an interview with Cronauer, the DJ and Williams never met during the film's production, but they did meet afterwards:
The two met after the making of the film, and later, in 1991, when Cronauer attended a birthday party for Williams with nearly 300 of his celebrity friends. Cronauer said that Williams “was always on,” doing a routine when anyone approached him.
“The only time we ever saw him let his guard down was when he was playing with his little kids,” Cronauer said.
Williams' 1998 film Patch Adams was based on the life of a real doctor, Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams. In 1998 CNN interviewed Dr. Adams. Though he was not fond of the movie, he said he appreciated Williams' portrayal of him:
I think Robin himself is compassion, generosity and funny. I like to think that that's who I am, and so I think he was the only actor I wanted to play me, and I think he did a fabulous job, and my friends around the country are feeling that he gives that basic message.
Williams' roles were not always comedic, and in 1990 he took on the task of playing Dr. Malcolm Sayer in the movie Awakenings. That character, says Rolling Stone, was loosely based on renowned neurologist and author Oliver Sacks. By then, Williams had relaxed somewhat: "When I met Robin in the Seventies, he was always on," the movie's director, Penny Marshall, told the magazine. "He was very funny, but it was hard for him to just say, 'Hello, how are you?' Now he does that very well."
Still, Sacks, who was on set for the filming of Awakenings, told Rolling Stone:
...between scenes there would be wild things. Things which other people keep deep down in their preconscious suddenly explode in him. There's an absolute — I don't know what to call it — phantasmagoric genius.
Williams' long career came to an abrupt end yesterday when he was found dead in his home at age 63.