Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Those skills enabled him to create such delightful comic characters as Mrs Doubtfire, the faux Scottish nanny he disguised himself as in the 1993 hit, and the shape-shifting genie in Disney's Aladdin - a free-wheeling force no bottle could contain.
Yet Williams was also capable of more nuanced work, receiving a best supporting actor Oscar for playing a sympathetic yet troubled psychologist who comes to Matt Damon's aid in 1997's Good Will Hunting.
He could also play against his ebullient persona and the affection audiences had for him by bringing chilling psychotic villains to life in films such as Insomnia and One Hour Photo.
Born on 21 July 1951 in Chicago, Illinois, the young Williams developed a quick wit as a means of overcoming shyness and boosted his confidence further by joining his school's drama club.
Robin Williams was a superb, mercurial standup comic with a staggering talent for improv and verbal riffing, though his movie career finally evolved into an intriguing split – sugary sentimentality or an ambiguous, menacing darkness. Something similar happened with Steve Martin and Jerry Lewis. The “Mr Hyde” in Robin Williams’s movie persona was well known.
So the news of his death, and the indication he has taken his own life, is deeply shocking. He clearly suffered from depression – these were symptoms hiding in plain sight – and his brilliance assumes a deeply sad aspect.
Williams could suspend his merciless, crazy irony almost entirely for glutinous family movies like Patch Adams, in which he played a doctor who treated sick kids using his irrepressible sense of humour, or the solemn fantasies like Bicentennial Man, or even his second world war drama Jakob the Liar. Or he could be chilling and sinister, as he was in One Hour Photo, a disturbing drama from 2002 in which he played the drugstore photo lab employee (in the days before digital cameras) who becomes obsessed with the pictures he develops showing a suburban family. Then there was his performance in the ice-cold, ultra-black comedy World’s Greatest Dad, in 2009, in which he plays another creepy yet tragic character, a high-school teacher whose son dies in a grisly accident, and who then concocts a bogus suicide note and rides a wave of celebrity and sympathy.
Williams had a big-hearted side, a love of broad comedy and a muscular, intensely physical talent for it, which he showed off in his smash-hit drag act Mrs Doubtfire from 1993. He played a divorced guy who disguises himself as a housekeeper with a bizarre Scottish accent, employed by his unsuspecting ex-wife, so that he can keep an eye on the children. It was a role that showed off Williams’s talents – the zaniness, the dressing up, the bizarrely transparent absurdity, combined with his big-hearted, faintly lachrymose vulnerability and sentimental concern for children.
Robin Williams apparently killed himself by hanging, according to a preliminary coroner's report released today. Marin County sheriff's spokesman Lt Keith Boyd told reporters that the actor and comedian, who was 63, had hanged himself in his bedroom at his home in Tiburon, in northern California.
The Oscar-winner was last seen alive by his wife, Susan Schneider, at home late on Sunday evening. Believing he was still asleep, Schneider left the house at around 10.30am on Monday. When Williams's personal assistant arrived just over an hour later, police said, she became worried when he failed to answer the door. She gained entry, only to find him dead.
The Marin County sheriff’s office said in a statement that it “suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia.” An investigation was underway.
The statement said that the office received a 911 call at 11:55 a.m. Pacific time, saying that a man had been found “unconscious and not breathing inside his residence.” Emergency personnel sent to the scene identified him as Mr. Williams and pronounced him dead at 12:02 p.m.
Mr. Williams’s publicist, Mara Buxbaum, said in a statement that Mr. Williams “has been battling severe depression.”
When Robin Williams graduated from Redwood High School in Marin County, his classmates couldn't help themselves: They voted him both "most humorous" and "least likely to succeed."
He topped them.
Williams became one of the world's most successful entertainers, an actor and comedian whose energy animated characters who, like himself, seemed to be spinning hilariously out of control — sometimes into dark places that only the "most humorous" can understand.
Williams, whose first major role was as a lovable alien in the TV series "Mork & Mindy" but who soon graduated to films such as "Good Will Hunting," "Dead Poets Society," "Mrs. Doubtfire," and "Good Morning, Vietnam," died Monday in what appears to be a suicide from asphyxiation, Marin County authorities said.
Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014) was an American actor, comedian, film producer, and screenwriter.
Rising to fame with his role as the alien Mork in the TV series Mork & Mindy (1978–82), Williams went on to establish a successful career in both stand-up comedy and feature film acting. His film career included such acclaimed films as The World According to Garp (1982), Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), Awakenings (1990), The Fisher King (1991), and Good Will Hunting (1997), as well as financial successes such as Popeye (1980), Hook (1991), Aladdin (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995), The Birdcage (1996), Night at the Museum (2006), and Happy Feet (2006). He also appeared in the video "Don't Worry, Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin.
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times, Williams received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Good Will Hunting. He also received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and five Grammy Awards.
Williams suffered from depression throughout his life, and also struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. On August 11, 2014, he was found dead after apparently committing suicide by hanging himself at his home in Paradise Cay near the town of Tiburon, California.
Robin Williams in Movies
1982 The World According to Garp
1984 Moscow on the Hudson
1987 Good Morning, Vietnam
1988 The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
1989 Dead Poets Society
1991 The Fisher King
1992 The Timekeeper
1993 Mrs. Doubtfire
1994 Being Human
1994 In Search of Dr. Seuss
1996 The Birdcage
1997 Good Will Hunting
1997 Deconstructing Harry
1998 What Dreams May Come
1999 Bicentennial Man
2001 A.I. Artificial Intelligence
2002 One Hour Photo
2006 Night at the Museum
2006 Happy Feet
2009 World's Greatest Dad
2009 Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian