Inside the Actors Studio

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Robin Williams Robin Williams recounts his experience with Robert Altman in "Popeye."

Season 7, Episode 710

Original Airdate: June 10, 2001

Known for his frenetic improvisational comedy style, one would never guess that Robin Williams was the only child of a wealthy Ford executive.

Trained in drama at Juilliard, Robin began as a mime and a stand-up comic before breaking into film and TV roles. He became a household name in the 70s, playing a zany alien on the hit sitcom Mork and Mindy. His first leading big screen role was in Robert Altman's live action Popeye (1980). He rebounded from this film, with his role in the adaptation of John Irving's novel, The World According to Garp (1982).
Robin ran through a string of comedies including films like The Survivors (1983), Moscow on the Hudson (1984) and Club Paradise (1986). He finally achieved recognition as an actor (and not just a comedian) in 1987, with an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award for his work in Good Morning Vietnam. Playing DJ Adrian Cronauer, Williams got to show off both his talent for hysterical ad libbing, and serious acting.

Robin Williams continued to demonstrate his surprising range, blending comedy and drama, in the films that followed including Dead Poets Society (1989), which brought another Oscar nomination. He was surprisingly somber as the shy doctor in Awakenings (1990), co-starring Robert DeNiro. But his mania was again evident in his third Oscar-nominated performance in Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King (1991).

His work as the wise-cracking Genie in Disney's huge hit Aladdin (1992) brought him a new generation of G-rated fans. After divorcing his first wife, Williams married his son's former nanny. She produced Mrs. Doubfire (1993), and allowed Robin to do what he does best, improvise and ham it up. The result was a blockbuster that further cemented his standing as a comedic icon. Films including Jumanji (1995), The Birdcage (1996), Jack (1996), Fathers' Day (1997), and Flubber (1997) followed.

Robin's work as Professor Sean McGuire in Good Will Hunting (1997) finally won him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He then starred in a string of films including What Dreams May Come (1998), Patch Adams (1998), Bicentennial Man (1999) and Jakob the Liar (1999).

He and good friends Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg regularly host the Comic Relief fundraisers. Upcoming roles include the American remake of the Scandinavian thriller Insomnia, and a vengeful children's show host in Death to Smoochy.

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