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Nathan Lane Recalls Working With Robin Williams On ‘Birdcage’ Film

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Nathan Lane has loads of good things to say about his late Birdcage co-star Robin Williams, who died by suicide in 2014. During the 2024 Drama Desk Awards at the NYU Skirball Center, Lane took a few minutes to pay tribute to Robin, who he claimed was “incredibly generous” to him.

Lane’s condition for accepting his role as Albert Goldman in the late ‘90s series was to work with only nice people, and director Mike Nichols made sure of that, bringing on the likes of Robin. The 68-year-old termed his time on the set of Birdcage a happy one, being surrounded by well-behaved and talented colleagues.

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Nathan Lane on working with Robin Williams in ‘Birdcage’

THE BIRDCAGE, Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, 1996, © United Artists / Courtesy Everett Collection

Robin was found dead in his home at Paradise Cay, California, with a belt around his neck and slits on his left wrist, proving he died by suicide. His death came as a shock to his wife, Susan Schneider Williams, and fans, who considered him a happy, stress-free person who made a living out of making others laugh.

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It was later discovered after a brain autopsy that Robin had Lewy body dementia, and according to Susan, he was misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s months before his passing. She admitted that his final days were marked with mood swings, difficulty sleeping, painful movements, and other discomforts, which led him to run a series of tests that came back negative. It was only after the sad news that the real problem was identified, to Susan’s dismay.

THE BIRDCAGE, Robin Williams, 1996. ©United Artists/courtesy Everett Collection

He was a supportive friend

Lane and Robin played the gay couple on Birdcage, with Lane himself being homosexual in real life but yet to come out at the time. Lane recalled how Robin was supportive of his sexuality, even when he hesitated to announce his true preference to the world. When they appeared together on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Robin made efforts to help Lane avoid uncomfortable questions from the host about his gay status.

THE BIRDCAGE, Nathan Lane, Robin Williams, 1996, © United Artists / Courtesy Everett Collection

On learning about Robin’s passing, Lane was devastated and stated via TIME, recalling how Robin made him laugh so hard on the set of Birdcage, forming a friendship that would last for years. He noted that the late star was a talented actor and a brilliant person with a big heart. Robin left behind three children, Zak, Zelda and Cody.

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