When a beloved cultural icon like Robin Williams passes away, fans watch impactful performances and talk show interviews to celebrate his life and mourn his death — wishing they could have gotten the chance to ask their own questions and get to know the person behind the roles.
In September 2013, some lucky Reddit users had the opportunity to ask Williams anything they wanted — and receive his thoughtful answers — when he participated in a Reddit AMA. Here are some of the most humorous and touching of Williams' responses, from his favorite roles to his recipe for success.
On his different roles
mikerob21: My favorite movie of yours would probably have to be One Hour Photo. What was it like playing that role, especially the brutal bloody eye scene?
Robin Williams: That was so surreal because it was a bit like a bad drug flashback. And the joy about doing that movie was creating a character that lived vicariously through other people's lives. And now we have networks that do that.
Aqpwod: Oh captain, my captain! (Can't you believe that movie is 25 years old now?) I realize that you have done both drama and comedy films over the years. Which do you have a preference in? Btw: I'd just like to say, despite the poor reviews received, I still think Patch Adams was one of your most heartwarming performances.
RW: It's hard to pick, it's like saying pick your favorite child, I can't. I like doing both comedies and dramas, so it's very difficult to say which one I prefer. I've been very blessed to have had the chance to explore such a variety of characters. And thanks for the Patch Adams shout out! Anytime compassion can be contagious, it's a good thing.
CassaSwack: Hello! As to your question, I'm wearing a dress. I went all rebel with it and abandoned the idea of tights or pantyhose. I wept like an emotionally disturbed infant when I watched "What Dreams May Come." What was the most valuable thing you learned about your acting from that movie/what criticism stuck with you the most afterwards? Can't wait to catch your CBS show, looks hilarious. Cheers!
RW: You go girl!
That every moment in life is precious? That the gifts of your relationships with others, don't miss it. That was one of the hardest movies I think I ever did in my whole career. Every day was literally hell, because of the nature of the subject matter, dealing with death and being in hell literally. When I watched the final movie, I felt it was extraordinarily beautiful but I felt disappointed by the ending. There was a different ending that they shot that I felt was much more true to the story. It was about reincarnation, basically, that they were going to meet again. The movie ended with two babies being born simultaneously, one in Bombay and one in the United States, and they held them up, and then the screen went to black. I don't know if it's anywhere.
Thank you so much.
masteractor: Welcome to reddit Mr. Williams. What was your fav role that you played, and what is your dream role you wish you had played?
RW: I think playing Oliver Sachs in Awakenings was a gift because I got to meet him, and got to explore the human brain from the inside out. Because Oliver writes about human behavior subjectively and that for me was the beginning of a fascination with human behavior.
Dream role - the Fool in King Lear?
Afarian: Robin, When 'Aladdin' was made they made the Genie just for you, how did it feel that they didn't even think of any other actor to voice the greatest Genie in the world?
RW: I don't know - initially they came in and I was just doing the scripted lines and I asked "Do you mind if I try something?" and then 18 hours of recording later, they had the genie. I just started playing, and they said "just go with it, go with it, go with it." So I improvised the character. I think that in the end, there were something like 40 different voices that I did for that role.
On his colleagues:
asian_noodle_soup: Who was your favorite person to work with? Is there anyone you really want to work with? Edit: "a night at the met" is the funniest stand up I've ever heard. Just wanted to say.
RW: My favorite person to work with as a director was my friend Bobcat Goldthwait. My other favorite director would be Peter Weir. It's hard to pick a favorite actor because I've been so blessed to have worked with so many great ones.
People I'd love to work with in the future? Oh, let's see... I'd love to do a movie with Patton Oswalt. Just because I think he's such a gifted standup but also a really, really great actor.
Thank you! It was really fun to do. Performing on the Met Opera. Who knew that I could be on the same stage as Pavarotti? It's one of the signs of the apocalypse.
DiegoVonCosmo: According to IMDb, you would frequently call Steven Spielberg during the filming of Schindler's List to cheer him up. How did this arrangement begin? What was a typical conversation like?
RW: I think I only called him once, maybe twice. I called him when I was representing People for the Valdheimers Association. A society devoted to helping raise money to help older Germans who had forgotten everything before 1945. I remember him laughing and going "thank you."
uwpg2012: I love your work and Mrs. Doubtfire is one of my favourite movies. Two questions: What was it like working with Robert de Niro in "Awakenings"? You were friends with Christopher Reeve. What is your best memory of him?
RW: He is SO good, and such a method actor, that Oliver Sachs wanted to hook him up to an EEG to see if he actually duplicated the brainwaves of the actual patients. No joke.
Him being such a great friend to me at Juilliard, literally feeding me because I don't think I literally had money for food or my student loan hadn't come in yet, and he would share his food with me. And then later after the accident, just seeing him beaming and just, seeing what he meant to so many people.
loveyouinblue: Robin Williams: A True Friend (Link: Gallery of photos with Christopher Reeve)
RW: He was an amazing friend. It started at Juilliard. Went through to him being the godfather of my son Zachary and even till the end.
rememberzack: Who is your favorite celebrity to impersonate? What celebrity does an impersonation of you that you enjoy?
RW: Oh my god, Jack Nicholson. He once was with me at a benefit and leaned over and said "even oysters have enemies." In a very intense voice. I responded with "Increase your dosage."
Dana Carvey does my personal favorite impression of myself. It's accurate. And kind.
On everything else:
The_Rain_Check: If you could be any animal what would you be? And why?
RW: A dolphin. Just their abilities, how social they are, how sexual they are, how intelligent they are, mainly how social they are.
bonesoup: What is something you've gotten into and gotten excited about lately?
RW: My wife's art. To realizing that painting is a full-contact art form. She came out of her art studio all day and I thought she had been attacked because she was covered in red, but it was just paint, and she had this great stunned expression, almost post-orgasmic. The painting was exquisite, a very dramatic landscape. And I realized that she had the same type of emotional response as I do when I perform.
lawlshane: Can you come to Canada so I can hug you? I love you for naming your daughter Zelda.
RW: I will be there as soon as I can! You have to give me a more specific location, you are a big country. You are the kindest country in the world. You are like a really nice apartment over a meth lab.
And thank you. My other son, Mario, sends his greetings.
aperturecake: What is your favorite book? What were your favorite things to do as a child? And what still gives you a sense of wonder?
RW: My children give me a great sense of wonder. Just to see them develop into these extraordinary human beings. And a favorite book as a child? Growing up, it was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - I would read the whole C.S. Lewis series out loud to my kids. I was once reading to Zelda, and she said "Don't do any voices. Just read it as yourself." So I did, I just read it straight, and she said "That's better."
RudeIntent: Robin, your movie Good Morning Vietnam inspired me to become a broadcaster. Now I am stationed on the island of Crete, your character Adrian Cronauer's original duty station. Any advice you would give to my fellow radio hosts and myself?
RW: Enjoy the time! If your intent is to pursue this once you get out of the service, see if you keep going once you get out. And know that you mean something.
TheSkylerMc: Mr. Williams, I have to two things to share with you. The first is that your work especially in Aladdin will always be a source of inspiration to me and is one of the main reasons I want to be a voice actor/performer.
The second is that when your episode of Inside the Actor's Studio first aired my brother, mother and I were outside in sideways rain boarding up the house for a hurricane while my father was in the hospital. I have always wanted to tell you how watching that show laughing until our cheeks and abs were sore was a gift. We continue to watch it almost as much as Aladdin.
Thank you. Do you have any advice for aspiring actors?!! PLEASE?
RW: Just please make sure that you really love doing it. Because that will get you through the hard times. And the good times.
xdxaxvxox: Hello Mr. Williams, I just wanted to say congratulations on being a recovered alcoholic. You keep strong my man. I wanted to ask, would you change how things turned out with your alcoholism? Or did your experiences from that shape how you are now?
RW: They definitely shaped how I am now. They really made me deeply appreciate human contact. And the value of friends and family, how precious that is.
Anderminator: Hello, Mr. Williams. My father wanted me to ask you: "What is, in your opinion, the recipe to success? Thank you, and have a lovely day!
RW: Truly loving what you do. Because there will be good days and bad days.
Elementary_Holmes: Thank you for showing me and my family that life is truly what you make it and is full of happy sides you are a true inspiration. On the subject of life: What do you believe is the key to life?
RW: Once again: family and friends. And a good pet. For pure loyalty there is nothing like a pug.
inconsequentially: Hi Robin, I've been lurking reddit for a very long time but never really wanted to make an account up until now. I'm not going to delve into the nitty-gritty of my personal situation but I feel like it's suffice to say that i'm going through a bad time at the moment. Any advice for people out there like me who may be going through bad times themselves, for whatever reason?
RW: Reach out to friends. They're out there. And know that you are loved.