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The Beautiful Lifelong Bromance Between Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve

The two longtime pals met in 1973 as Juilliard students and were best friends up until Reeve's death in 2004. In his autobiography 'Still Me,' Reeves recounted how Williams helped save his life.

In 1978, the cultural landscape was rocked by the arrival of two distinct aliens. Mork, the zany extra-terrestrial from the TV show Mork & Mindy, captivated audiences with his upside-down antics and gibberish. Meanwhile, Superman, the heroic Kryptonian, soared onto screens in Richard Donner's blockbuster. Portrayed by Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve, respectively, these characters left an indelible mark.

Their bond stemmed from their Juilliard days in 1973, where they were among the select few accepted into the prestigious program under John Houseman. Reeve fondly recounted their initial meeting in his autobiography, "Still Me."

“The first person I met at Juilliard was the other advanced student, a short, stocky, long-haired fellow from Marin County, California, who wore tie-dyed shirts with tracksuit bottoms and talked a mile a minute,” wrote Reeve. “I’d never seen so much energy contained in one person. He was like an un-tied balloon that had been inflated and immediately released. I watched in awe as he virtually caromed off the walls of the classrooms and hallways. To say that he was ‘on’ would be a major understatement. There was never a moment when he wasn’t doing voices, imitating teachers, and making our faces ache from laughing at his antics. His name, of course, was Robin Williams.”

Williams left his classmates in awe, effortlessly conquering various accents and leaving them in stitches with his comedic monologues, according to Reeve. Despite this, their acting instructor, Michael Kahn, initially struggled to comprehend Williams's immense talent. It wasn't until Williams's performance in Tennessee Williams's "The Night of the Iguana" during their third-year class that Kahn truly grasped the extent of Williams's abilities.

“Robin’s performance immediately silenced his critics,” wrote Reeve. “His portrayal of an old man confined to a wheelchair was thoroughly convincing. He simply was the old man. I was astonished by his work and very grateful that fate had thrown us together. We were becoming good friends. Many of our classmates related to Robin by doing bits with him, attempting to keep pace with his antics. I didn’t even try. Occasionally Robin would need to switch off and have a serious conversation with someone, and I was always ready to listen. For a time he had a crush on a girl in our class who thought he was an immature goofball. Robin was able to share his real feelings with me, and I always did the same with him. This has remained true for twenty-five years.”

After Superman II, Reeve grew disenchanted with Hollywood. He relocated his family to Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he starred in "The Front Page." During one performance, Williams surprised his friend, attending the show and treating him to dinner afterward.

“Robin Williams came up to visit during the run and seemed to enjoy it tremendously,” wrote Reeve. “One evening we went out to a local seafood restaurant, and as we passed by the lobster tank I casually wondered what they were all thinking in there. Whereupon Robin launched into a fifteen-minute routine: one lobster had escaped and was seen on the highway with his claw out holding a sign that said, ‘Maine.’ Another lobster from Brooklyn was saying, ‘C’mon, just take da rubber bands off,’ gearing up for a fight. A gay lobster wanted to redecorate the tank. People at nearby tables soon gave up any pretence of trying not to listen, and I had to massage my cheeks because my face hurt so much from laughing.”

When he was honoured by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2005, the Golden Globes's lifetime achievement award, Williams dedicated it to Reeve:

Reeve's autobiography highlights a poignant moment during his ICU recovery. Following the horse-riding accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down, Reeve endured excruciating pain and contemplated suicide. With severe damage to his cervical vertebrae, he faced life-threatening surgery to reconnect his skull and spine.

“As the day of the operation drew closer, it became more and more painful and frightening to contemplate,” wrote Reeve. “In spite of efforts to protect me from the truth, I already knew that I had only a fifty-fifty chance of surviving the surgery. I lay on my back, frozen, unable to avoid thinking the darkest thoughts. Then, at an especially bleak moment, the door flew open and in hurried a squat fellow with a blue scrub hat and a yellow surgical gown and glasses, speaking in a Russian accent. He announced that he was my proctologist and that he had to examine me immediately. My first reaction was that either I was on way too many drugs or I was in fact brain damaged. But it was Robin Williams. He and his wife, Marsha, had materialized from who knows where. And for the first time since the accident, I laughed. My old friend had helped me know that somehow I was going to be okay.”

Williams was, of course, playing his kooky Doctor Kosevich from the film Nine Months, which had just hit theatres.

“And then we spent time together,” added Reeve. “He said he would do anything for me. I thought: My God, not only do I have Dana and my kids but I have friends like Robin and Gregory [Mosher] who truly care. Maybe it can be okay. I mean, life is going to be very different, and it’s going to be an enormous challenge, but I can still laugh, and there’s still some joy.”

Throughout Reeve's last years, he and Williams maintained a steadfast friendship. Williams actively participated in events celebrating The Christopher Reeve Foundation, a cause he ardently championed. When questioned about his fondest memory of Reeve, Williams reflected on their closeness during a revealing Reddit AMA.

“Him being such a great friend to me at Juillard, 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," Williams said. "And then later after the accident, just seeing him beaming and just, seeing what he meant to so many people.”

Reeve passed away after experiencing an adverse reaction to an antibiotic on Oct. 10, 2004. Williams, meanwhile, was found dead on the morning of Aug. 11, 2014, of an apparent suicide.


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