Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and More Remember Robin Williams at SAG-AFTRA Center Opening

October 11, 2016 | By Graham Winfrey

Williams’ friends and colleagues remembered the late actor at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s new Robin Williams Center for Entertainment and Media in New York.

Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg



Five of Robin Williams’ friends and colleagues celebrated the opening of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Robin Williams Center for Entertainment and Media in New York on Wednesday by remembering the life and and work of Williams. In honor of his more than 40-year career that included more than 100 performances in TV and film, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation dedicated its new 154-seat screening room to the memory and legacy of Williams.

On hand for the event were Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Hank Azaria, Bonnie Hunt and director Barry Levinson, who directed Williams in three films: “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Toys” and “Man of the Year.” Each member of the panel spoke at length, remembering Williams and sharing insights into his personality. “He was not a sports guy,” Crystal said. “I would ask him who he rooted for, and he’d say, ‘The San Franciscos.’”

After screening a 30-minute video interview with Williams, filmed at SAG in 2003 following the release of “One Hour Photo,” the panelists spoke for nearly an hour remembering their late friend and colleague. Here are some of the highlights from their conversation, edited for clarity:


Billy Crystal

“He would keep a roll of $20 bills in his pocket, and when we would go out on the street when we were on the road together, whoever needed anything, he’d give them $20. It was part of his day — to help somebody out.”

Hank Azaria

“What struck me was his generosity with people…On set, I’d be standing at craft services and he’d say, ‘How was your weekend, boss?’ And I’d say, ‘Oh, I went bowling.’ And then Robin would do 15 minutes of comedy for you — alone — on bowling, and you would look around and say, ‘How could this be just for me?’”

Bonnie Hunt, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg and Barry Levinson

Billy Crystal 

“We were on vacation in Hawaii. Robin and I, Marsha [Williams] and the late Garry Shandling…and we were having dinner, but we weren’t having dinner because the food wasn’t coming out, and Garry is getting cranky and God knows I’m getting cranky, and we said, ‘Well, let’s just go in the kitchen and see what’s going on.’ And the three of us go in, and we got our food and brought it out, and 45 minutes later, Robin came out. He had stayed and done jokes for the crew inside the kitchen. I guess the heat lamp was on and he thought he was in a spotlight.”

Barry Levinson

“In ”Good Morning Vietnam,’ there is only about 12 minutes of his radio stuff. That’s the closest thing to doing standup, but there’s no audience. So he’s doing these lines and there’s no laughing, because you can’t, and it’s one thing after another. He would say, ‘Does it work? I’m not sure it works.’ And he was so upset about it. And I’ll never forget, he called me one day and said ‘Listen, if it doesn’t work and if it’s not funny, I’ll personally pay for it so we can reshoot the stuff.’ I said, ‘Robin, believe me, it works. There is more than you can imagine.’”

Whoopi Goldberg

“He could exhaust you. Billy and I would both say ‘Just stop! Oh my god!’… But he would always check on you to make sure you were okay. And that made you learn to check on him.”

Bonnie Hunt

“When I met Robin, he had come to Second City to do the improv set and I had just started working at the theater and I was an oncology nurse nurse during the day. Robin started saying, ‘If you want me to call some patients, I can.’ And this was just the two of us. Nobody knew about it. It wasn’t for any purpose except the healing power of humor…He knew he was given this gift but he also knew how important it was to share it, and I can’t tell you what it was like to be in a room with a patient and say, ‘I have somebody who wants to talk to you on the phone, and it’s Robin Williams.’ You would see them laugh and in that instant be completely pain-free and worry-free.”