On Monday, Variety reported that actor Robin Williams had been found dead in his home. According to the Tiburon, California, coroner’s office, the cause of death appears to have been suicide via asphyxiation. Williams’ publicist revealed that he had been struggling with depression, and he had recently entered a 12-step program for drug abuse. His third wife, Susan Schneider, (whom he married in 2011) released the following statement: “I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”
“It is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”
After studying acting at The Julliard School, Williams established himself as an extremely distinctive stand-up comedian and comic actor. His appearances as the alien Mork on Happy Days made such an impression that the character was given his own spin-off series (Mork & Mindy). Williams managed to parlay that success into a string of successful comedies, several of which—The World According to Garp, Moscow on the Hudson—demonstrated that he was also a gifted dramatic actor. He earned his first of four Oscar nominations for 1987’s Good Morning, Vietnam. His other nominations were for Dead Poets Society (1989), The Fisher King (1991) and the film he finally won for, 1997’s Good Will Hunting.
In spite of the acclaim Williams’ earned for his more subdued dramatic work, he is best known for a one-of-a-kind comic temperament that made him one of the most unique acting talents of the ’80s and ’90s. His manic, unpredictable energy was on display in most of his biggest hits (scroll down to watch some of our favourites), including Aladdin (1992), The Birdcage (1996), Jumanji (1995), Night at the Museum (2006), Patch Adams (1998) and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). In recent years, he also returned to the stage with a series of hugely successful stand-up comedy tours.
In addition to Williams’ public comedy, he was also known for using his comic gifts in private. When Steven Spielberg, who had directed Williams in Hook (1991), was struggling with despair during the making of Schindler’s List, Williams cheered him up on a regular basis with high-energy phone calls. Similarly, he helped Julliard classmate Christopher Reeve following the accident that rendered him quadriplegic by appearing at the hospital disguised as a bumbling Russian doctor. In his book Still Me (Random House, 1998), Reeve said it was the first time after his accident that he knew he would be okay. A devoted philanthropist, Williams also made positive contributions to countless others through his work with Comic Relief and many other charitable organizations.
Rest in peace, Mr. Williams. With these and countless other unforgettable performances, you’ve left us forever in awe.