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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams & his Financial Demons

By now everyone knows that yesterday comedian and Oscar winner Robin Williams passed away by means of suicide via self-asphyxiation.

And everyone mourns and talks and writes about his battles with addiction and substance abuse and severe depression over the years that seemed to manifest itself recently..

And few to none in the genuinely awful media have bothered to do one ounce of sincere research on this subject because when you do, it becomes very clear that for whatever other demons Williams was fighting, this latest battle also involved personal finances..

And that's the aspect we cover here at A&G
His personal finances had taken quite a toll lately due to two large divorce payouts totaling over $30 million and a Napa Valley vineyard home he put on the market for $35 million in 2012 that just wasn't selling..

It rests on a 640 acre lot and estate itself includes a 20,000-square-foot, 5 bedroom villa, as well as tennis courts, a wine cellar, 18.4 acres of planted vineyards, and private horse and hiking trails.

The home also possesses a 12-seat theater, a 65-foot pool with infinity edges, and a hot tub. There is also a partially-covered “belvedere” (bell tower) that provides 360-degree views of the estate and surrounding land, a 7-stall horse barn, and a spring-fed pond stocked with Bass.

In April, Williams lowered his asking price to $29.2 million with still no takers as of his passing.  Forbes magazine cheerfully opined in an April article it was the perfect home a foreign investor would be interested in  (No American investors anymore??)
His movie career sadly was also in the tank over the past 7-8 years.

According to, the last financially successful film Robin Williams starred in that wasn't a cartoon voice over or a small part in a larger ensemble cast was the film 'RV' which came out in late April, 2006 and domestically grossed $71 million

In fact it was the 1998 film 'Patch Adams' which audiences either enjoyed or absolutely abhorred which was Williams' last true commercial success on his own with a box office domestically of $135 million

That is about 16 years ago... an eternity in Hollywood
This is why out of desperation Williams agreed to go back to television in the short lived CBS comedy "The Crazy Ones" and rumors were loud that he was considering doing a Mrs. Doubtfire sequel -- 21+ years since its release..

Actors usually only consider doing sequels for two reasons: contractual obligation or money, and actors only consider reprising roles decades after release for one: desperate need for money...

Williams was asked about this and his reason for returning to TV in Parade magazine last year:

"The idea of having a steady job is appealing. I have two [other] choices: go on the road doing stand-up, or do small, independent movies working almost for scale [minimum union pay]. The movies are good, but a lot of times they don’t even have distribution. There are bills to pay. My life has downsized.."
The media mentions he had a few projects he was finishing up at the time of his passing..

One is a yet-released Christmas film..  Honestly not sure who wants to see a holiday comedy starring someone who killed oneself..  The others were a small-part reprisal of Teddy Roosevelt in the 3rd installment of 'Night at the Museum' and a voice over as a dog.

And at least according to, nothing else stirring..

So add it up.. financial woes that would force someone to have to start liquidating assets, a stalled market preventing this from happening and an acting career that was in a death-spiral, forcing Williams to take on inconsequential bit parts and the emptiness of a TV sitcom.
That can drive someone to drink and drug and despondency as much as any childhood or adult traumas rearing its ugly head.

And think about it like this..  Robin Williams ultimately became an actor that people wanted to pay to hear but not pay to see!

Let's use his post 'RV' movies as examples

After 'RV' was released, his next film was 'The Night Listener'..  it grossed $7.6 million..
A couple months after that, 'Man of the Year' came out and it only grossed $37 and the following year, 'License to Wed' was released gaining $43 million

This was followed by a supporting turn in 'August Rush' ($31 million domestic), 'World's Greatest Dad' ($221k - yes, $221 thousand)  and in 2009, 'Old Dogs' with John Travolta ($49 million)

Now compare to box office as just a voice:

In 2005, Williams was one of the voices in the animated film 'Robots'.. It earned worldwide $260 million..
Then the next year the cartoon 'Happy Feet' which worldwide grossed $384 million with its sequel a couple years later making another $150 million..

And we all know of the success of Disney's Aladdin back in 1992 that started it all.. $502 million world wide which adjusted to today's economy would mean around $700 million if released now..

So as an actor you go from once being the 'Star'; the face of a project and main reason for its success, to being basically a voice-over actor and your 'face' is now an cartoon penguin or monkey or talking tea kettle

And time keeps on a-tickin'..  And fickle fans move on..
Williams won his Oscar for 'Good Will Hunting' in 1997 -- that was 17 years ago..

Yes time does fly..

RIP  (1951-2014)