Robin Williams, the acting legend who has been a constant presence in films and television for over forty years, was found dead this morning in his Tiburon, CA home, in a reported suicide. He was 63 years old.
The Marin County Sheriff’s Office reported that Williams was found earlier today in his home, dead by asphyxiation. The tragic news was confirmed by Variety, with the actor’s publicist Mara Buxbaum confirming the actor’s passing, and that he had been suffering from depression.
This is a sad day for Williams’ family, friends and legions of fans around the world.
Williams was no less than an icon, from his early days as a stand-up comedy superstar to his immortal television breakthrough as the alien Mork from Ork in Mork & Mindy, to his countless film and television roles, which encompassed a variety of genres, leading to his Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his performance as a tough-love psychiatrist in 1997’s Good Will Hunting. He was truly one of a kind.
Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider said in a statement:
“This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. 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.”
Robin McLaurin Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 21, 1951 to Laura McLaurin, a former model, and Robert Fitzgerald Williams, a senior executive with the Ford Motor Company. He grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, before moving to Woodacre, in Marin County, California.
Williams described himself as a shy child, who only began to break out of his shell in his high school drama class. In 1973, he was one of just two students chosen by the great John Houseman (famous for his collaborations with Orson Welles) to attend Julliard School’s Advanced Program. The only other student chosen was the late Christopher Reeve, with whom Williams remained closed friends until his death.
After leaving Julliard in 1976, Williams quickly made a name for himself in the realm of stand-up comedy, starring in three HBO comedy specials by 1986. Williams first entered the homes of America en masse as the alien Mork in a guest spot on Happy Days, a role which proved so popular that Mork from Ork would go on to star in his own sitcom, Mork & Mindy, which ran on ABC from 1978 to 1982.
Mork & Mindy was shaped to fit Williams’ improvisational style, and quickly catapulted him to stardom. His breathless, rapid-fire style of delivery and nonstop good humor left an impression on generations of not just comedians, but actors in general. His influence and inspiration simply cannot be overstated.
After a string of less than memorable comedies in the mid-80’s – Moscow on the Hudson, Club Paradise, The Best of Times – Williams starred in director Barry Levinson’s 1987 Good Morning Vietnam, loosely based on the real-life experience of Armed Services DJ Adrian Cronauer. The blend of Williams’ signature improvised comedy (all of the radio broadcast scenes were ad-libbed) and the story’s more dramatic elements exposed a new dimension of Williams’ talent.
From there, Williams arguably reached the peak of his stardom during his run of roles in the late ’80s and ’90s, from his inspirational English teacher in Dead Poets Society, the homeless man with a tragic past in Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King, a grown-up Peter Pan in Steven Spielberg’s Hook, and his showstopping voice acting as the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin to his desperate divorced father of Mrs. Doubtfire.
Such an extraordinary run of performances was capped with Williams’ 1997 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as misunderstood genius Matt Damon’s wise and empathetic psychologist in Good Will Hunting. Throughout all this, Williams was also famous as one of the faces of Comic Relief, a non-profit dedicated to helping the nation’s homeless, founded by Bob Zmuda, partner of the late Andy Kauffman, also a friend of Williams.
The ability to switch seamlessly from comedy to drama served Williams well later in his career, when he began moving into interesting character-actor territory. Despite his manic public persona, Williams brought an unexpected stillness to what the late Roger Ebert called his “smiling psychopath” roles, in One Hour Photo and as the killer in Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia.
While star turns in films like License to Wed never caught on, he was always a welcome presence, be it his suitably wild-eyed Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum films or surprising and satisfying guest spots in shows like Wilfred or Louie.
The influence of Robin Williams on literally generations of audiences, comedians and actors cannot be overstated. The man has been described by one veteran comic as a comet, caught inside of a room. His struggles with addiction and depression may have sadly overtaken him, but the sheer joy he exuded in his most famous roles have touched us all.
Perhaps our feelings are best summed up by the image below, submitted by Screen Rant reader Wayne W.:
Robin Williams is survived by his wife, Susan Schneider, and his three children. All of us here at Screen Rant wish to express our deepest condolences to his family, friends and fans around the world. We’ll miss you, Genie.
R.I.P. Robin McLaurin Williams – July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014.