What People Who Worked With Robin Williams Said About Him
Robin Williams delighted audiences with his boisterous physical comedy in films like The Birdcage, Night at the Museum, and Mrs. Doubtfire, his childlike spirit in Hook, and his deeply moving portrayal of beloved characters in Good Will Hunting and Patch Adams. His passing in 2014 devastated his family, friends, and fans, but helped bring to light the importance of discussing mental health issues. Williams had a long and storied career in film, comedy, and television, working with a wide variety of actors and directors.
He forged lasting relationships with some of the biggest names in comedy, including Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, and still generously mentored young stars who remain grateful, to this day, for his kindness and leadership. Read on to hear what some of his many co-stars remembered about working with the legendary comedian.
- Photo: Patch Adams / Universal Pictures13,174 VOTES
Robin Williams Entertained Sick Children While Filming 'Patch Adams'
Cameron Brooke Stanley was 7 years old and fighting cancer when she met Robin Williams on the set of Patch Adams in 1998. Stanley remembered Williams being just like the kind doctor he portrayed in the movie, spending time with her and the other children on set who were sick:
He was such a real person so when, even off the set when we weren't filming, he was just trying to hang out with the kids and trying to make us forget that we were sick... Not just when the cameras are on, when they're off, he just wants to be someone's friend, like a best friend. He wants to make someone laugh that's sad. He was just so wonderful.
- Photo: Jumanji / Sony Pictures Releasing23,087 VOTES
'Jumanji' Star Bradley Pierce Recalls Williams Standing Up For Him During Production
Bradley Pierce was just 13 when he starred in the blockbuster Jumanji film with Robin Williams in 1995. Speaking with CBC Listen in 2020, Pierce recalled Williams standing up for him and the other cast members during a particularly grueling day on set:
We were filming the monsoon scene and I think it was day 7 or 8 in that rain tank. We were all in wetsuits, but spending 8 hours in the water was really draining. It was coming to the end of the day, and children on set can only be on set for a certain number of hours. Producers approached our parents and said, "We've only got a half hour left of shooting, is there anyway we can do a little bit of overtime just to get it done?"
Robin caught wind of these conversations happening and apparently he pulled the director and producers aside and said, "No we're not doing any extra time. You're gonna let everyone out of the pool now and we're going to be come back next week." For all the dollars that would have cost, nobody else could have stood up the way he did. In addition to being warm and generous and kind, he was also very protective of all of us. He told everyone, '"we're done today, time to go home."
- Photo: The Birdcage / MGM/UA Distribution Co.NEW#15 needs votes
He Protected Nathan Lane From Being Outed By Oprah Winfrey
In 1996, Williams and Nathan Lane starred in Mike Nichols's The Birdcage. The comedy, an English-language remake of the movie and musical La Cage aux Folles, is about a gay couple who run a Miami nightclub where drag queens perform, including Lane's character.
By the time he was 21, Lane had already told his family he was gay, and people in the theater community knew as well. But during the publicity tour for The Birdcage, Lane still wasn't prepared to share that information with the rest of the world. He said on the Today show in 2023:
I just wanted to talk about I finally got a big part in a movie and I didn’t want to make it about my sexuality, although it was sort of unavoidable because of the nature of the film and the character.
Before he and Williams appeared on Oprah Winfrey's show to promote The Birdcage, Lane told his co-star he was worried Winfrey might try to get him to talk about his sexuality, and he wasn't ready.
When Winfrey indeed steered the on-air conversation in that direction, Lane said, Williams saved him:
She was like, “How come you’re so good at that girlie stuff? Are you worried about being typecast?” And then Robin sort of swoops in and diverts Oprah, goes off on a tangent and protects me because he was a saint.
- Photo: Mrs. Doubtfire / 20th Century Fox32,218 VOTES
Mara Wilson Says Williams Really Knew How To Communicate With Children
Mara Wilson filmed the huge hit Mrs. Doubtfire with Williams in 1993, at the tender age of 5. After his passing, she paid tribute to the actor with a blog post remembering the delight that Robin Williams took in entertaining herself and the other children on set:
Robin would do anything to make me and the other kids laugh. He seemed to know instinctively what we would find funny... [but] my strongest impression came when we saw each other for the first time that day. Robin [came] to me from across the room, got down to my level, and whispered "Hi, how are you?" He asked how my family was doing, how school was, never raising his voice and only sometimes making eye contact. He seemed so vulnerable. "So this is what Mom meant," I thought. It was as if I was seeing him for the first time. He was a person now.
- Photo: Mrs. Doubtfire / 20th Century Fox43,423 VOTES
Robin Williams Wrote A Letter To Lisa Jakub's High School, Encouraging Them To Let Her Return
When 14-year-old Lisa Jakub filmed Mrs. Doubtfire with Robin Williams in 1993, she continued her high school work via correspondence, just like many other child actors did at the time. Although she kept up with her studies, the school decided to not let her return since her unique situation created extra work for teachers. Jakub wrote in a blog post how Williams stuck up for her, writing a letter to the school on her behalf:
When I arrived at work the next day, Robin noticed that I was upset and asked me what was wrong. I explained what had happened, and shortly after that, he handed me a letter that he had written to my school. He explained that I was just trying to continue my education while pursuing my career. He wrote embarrassingly kind things about my character and my work, and requested that they reconsider and allow me to return to my classes.
When I told him I still didn't think they would take me back, he said, "It's kinda like Amnesty International. That school just needs to know that people know the truth." The school framed the letter. They hung it in the principal's office. But they didn't invite me to return to school. But here's what matters from that story. Robin stood up for me. He was in my corner. I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.
- Photo: Hook / TriStar Pictures51,630 VOTES
Dante Basco Learned How To Be A Star While Working On 'Hook' With Robin Williams
Steven Spielberg's 1991 Peter Pan fantasy, Hook, featured huge stars like Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Julia Roberts along with many young first-time actors. Dante Basco, who played Rufio, the leader of the Lost Boys, remembered Williams as a mentor on set:
I think for all of us [Robin's passing] was the death of our childhood. There's sadness there, also there's a lot of space to kinda celebrate one of the most legendary artists of our time. He really taught me at a young age what it means to be a star, what it means to be a leader on a set. Everything you want Robin Williams to be he delivered in spades.
- Photo: Night at the Museum / 20th Century Fox61,806 VOTES
Ben Stiller Says That Robin Williams Was Kind To Every One Of His Fans
Ben Stiller starred with Robin Williams in the Night at the Museum trilogy, playing a security guard to Williams's rendition of Teddy Roosevelt. Stiller recalled Williams as an incredibly kind actor who genuinely cared about other people. Stiller tweeted:
I met him when I was 13 and a huge fan and he was so kind and I watched him be kind to every fan I ever saw him with. And with other actors he was so generous and brilliant. He made everyone feel special and equal around him even though he was the genius. His heart was so big and even if you didn't know him, what he gave everyone was that same spirit in his work, so we all felt it.