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Here's What Robin Williams Was Really Going Through While Filming Dead Poets Society

One of the funniest individuals to ever grace the entertainment world, and a genuinely good-hearted human being away from it, there will never be another Robin Williams. Over the course of his career, he found time to do it all — stand-up comedy, television, voice acting, and, of course, film, where he really made himself a household name. His work on features such as Hook, Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, and more made him a legend, and in turn made it so that these movies stuck around in pop culture far beyond anyone's wildest expectations.

For instance, even at just over 30 years old, Dead Poets Society still stands out in Robin Williams' filmography as one of his all-time greatest titles. Set against the backdrop of the Welton Academy boarding school in the late 1950s, the film follows a handful of students and their embrace of their English teacher's valuable life lessons. Williams plays the educator in question, John Keating, who uses his love for poetry and life itself to teach his pupils the value of unapologetic individuality and how to make the most of all the world has to offer.

Despite his character's glass-half-full outlook, it turns out that Robin Williams wasn't able to conjure up that same positivity away from the cameras. Here's are the hardships that the late actor had to endure in real life during the filming of Dead Poets Society.

Robin Williams' personal life took a rough turn during Dead Poets Society's filming

Robin Williams' wacky sense of humor and quick wit were not things the late actor tried to hide in any setting. Much like his John Keating character, he always found ways to light up a room and get a laugh out of those around him. However, deep down, he faced personal battles that few could relate to, including addiction and depression throughout his adult life. It just so happened that a serious one emerged during Dead Poets Society's production, making his work all the more difficult. 

As his castmate Ethan Hawke attested in 2014 to CBC Radio, "Even (to me) at 18, it was obvious he was in a tremendous amount of pain. Anybody who was watching knew." Fellow Dead Poets Society actor Norman Lloyd expanded on this point in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that same year, noting "[...]his first marriage [to Valerie Velardi] was breaking up, and it was then that he began to go with and then married the babysitter of his kids [Marsha Garces]." 

Lloyd mentions that "He masked the whole thing very carefully. It was never evident in the work. It was all kept under control," which speaks to Williams' tremendous willpower. Divorce is rarely ever easy to go through, but the responsibility of leading a major motion picture simultaneously would surely be impossible for most actors to handle. Not for Robin Williams though, who went on to put in an Oscar-nominated performance and help Dead Poets Society take its place as a cinematic classic.