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Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Robin Williams winning the Oscar for Good Will Hunting (1997)Robin Williams, Mork himself and Mrs Doubtfire... the clown, the blue genie, the Oscar winner, the charitable celebrity died Monday at 63. The actor, who had severe depression, apparently took his own life*. You never know how deep people's personal battles run but it's hard not to think of the unhappy cliche that many comics aren't laughing inside; the tears of a clown. To his credit the actor harnessed that duality in a few of his best roles.

But immediately our thoughts must go out to his friends, loved ones, co-stars, children and his wife who released the following 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 that the focus will not be on Robin's death but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.

Losing loved ones is traumatic enough when it's private. It surely can't be any easier when there are cameras and media and press releases. And there will have to be more of this since the actor had been quite busy recently, with a sitcom, three recent films and upcoming films, too. His new indie drama Boulevard about a closeted man played at Tribeca earlier this year (reviewed here) but it was only one of a handful of new projects. He recently completed work on three more films.

For my part I would just like to thank him for his best work over the years but especially that beautifully damaged and whimsical soul in The Fisher King (1991). As long as I live I'll cherish that gorgeous double date sequence with the big hearted humorous ensemble acting and conversation giving way to the hushed almost reverential moment when he sang "lydia the tattooed lady" to his new eccentric lady love. I'll just never forget it. 

The brilliant Terry Gilliam, his Fisher King director, shared this tribute to him...

Robin Williams, the most astonishingly funny, brilliant, profound and silly miracle of mind and spirit, has left the planet.  He was a giant heart, a fireball friend, a wondrous gift from the gods. Now the selfish bastards have taken him back. Fuck 'em!


What's your most cherished memory or role of his career?

* I know this is a horrible thing to mention but it's very upsetting that two Oscar winners have committed suicide in the same summer. Please if you are having such thoughts yourself seek help. Depression is a real illness and it shouldn't cause anyone shame and it doesn't discriminate. Successful people aren't any more immune to it than others.

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Reader Comments (34)

Very sad news. I always loved him but I didn't know how much I did. I actually cried when I got the news. He's such a big part of my childhood. My two favorites being Mrs. Doubtfire ("Hello!") and Aladdin. I didn't know he was suffering from depression and as someone who struggles with it daily it's always hard because, maybe it's just me, but I feel like I lost someone from my team. Maybe that's a dumb or selfish thing to think but I can't help it. And yes, to those who suffer from depression or any kind of mental illness please seek help. I know it's hard but just do it without thinking about it. If anyone here needs someone to talk to you can let me know in the comments.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

I am so heartbroken over this. Such a great actor and he always seemed like a man with a wonderful heart. Too many great performances he left us with. Favourite performance is Mrs Doubtfire and I also loved him in What Dreams May Come although the film was a bit weird. Aladdin of course, that push to get him nominated for a voice performance really changed animation too, after that a lot of big stars started doing voice for animated films.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRami

My favorite perfs were his appearances on late night talk shows and he could just rif on what ever was going through his head. The look of fear on the host's face as Robin would free associate with the threat of no filter was like the first taste of sugar to a baby. Your life was changed and you wanted more.

If I had to pick a film, it would be World according to Garp. There was also an episode of Homicide he did that was pretty brilliant.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I love his voice-work in "Aladdin." My favorite live-action performance of his is actually "Good Will Hunting." It's usually the norm that most classic stars get their Oscars way after their prime years for average performances that invite prizes only for sentimental, over-due reasons. And I do think that Williams was given the Oscar for sentimental and "we owe him" reasons, but it just so happened that it was a terrific turn. I love how he committed to the character, and (almost) did not milk the sadness about his situation. It felt understated and genuine, rather than capricious and ostentatious.
RIP Robin

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Heartbreaking news. :(

For me, it's always been Dead Poets Society. It's one of those movies that changed me and made me who I am today. I was the age of the boys when I first saw and so needed that movie, and John Keating. He was incredible, it was like he was my teacher too and I took everything he said to heart. O Captain! My Captain! :(

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

I just watched his new film The Angriest Man in Brooklyn two days ago, and he was playing a man dying of brain aneurism. I didn't feel particularly strong about the movie back then, but now I'm really sad that how close his life imitated art.

I posted on my FB that "Robin Williams has reached Jumanji in the game of life. May he be in a better place now.", and one of my friends rightfully pointed out that "What Dreams May Come" is a better comparison. I agree. That was actually one of my most favorite films of his, along with Hook and Mrs. Doubtfire. I missed Dead Poets Society and The Fisher King but one of my colleagues is his biggest fan and he recommends them so I'm gonna find them and watch.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPJ

I have shed many tears today for Robin Williams.

I feel as if his films were part of the background to my life. I first knew him as Mork in Mork and Mindy and then watched many of his films as the years progressed.

I loved The Fisher King, Dead Poets Society and my children and I watched Mrs Doubtfire many times.

I knew he suffered from depression and struggled with addictions and it is so sad that he could not see any other way out. I feel for his family and I hope they get the space to grieve and remember him in peace.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

Quite a few but i Love how i showed his love for his wife inGWH and his manic complete dedication to Mrs D,and he was a fantastic stand up,improviser and chat show guest.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

Jumanji and Hook were regular staples of my childhood movie viewing experiences, so those films hold a very special place in my heart. This news saddens me greatly, but I hope he found the peace he was looking for.

RIP, Mr. Williams.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKeelay!

He would have been a wonderful Oscar host

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

This is so, so sad. I was 14 when Dead Poets Society came out, and it was one of those films that made me love movies. I saw it many times over - so many times that I felt like I had Mr. Keating as a teacher. After that, I delved into his filmography and Peter Weir's, too.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I tend to think of him as a comedian first, just because he was so incredibly funny. My favorite roles were serious, though: Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society. He's one of a handful of people that could just walk out on stage at an awards show and I was automatically happy to see him. A tragic loss.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

It is a great loss. As Sad Man said, depression is a terrible disease. I also suffer from it and every day is a struggle. All those thoughts piling one over the other and you feel like there is no way out. But there is always some flicker of hope, to which we can hold on to. RIP

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

O Captain, my Captain.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Miley Cyrus: “I can’t take the Robin Williams news. I’ve never cried over someone I’ve never met but I can’t stop -----

Ah the internet, some people commented and said "I can't believe Miley made it all about herself", meaning she wrote the last part, I can't stop, to be clever and reference her song.
I'm not sure about that. If she had written "I can't stop, I won't stop" then I'd share the sentiment, but as it it stands, I think she wrote it unconsciously.

I mourn for his dramatic work, never cared much for his comedic work.
Good Will Hunting is one my favorite performances of all time... I know there is a lot of humour in that performance but it's very real, understated.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

Gosh, what to say?
He really was one of my favorite actors. I've seen so much of his movies and don't recall ever hating one.
Yes, quite a lot didn't get great reviews, like Hook, but I so love that movie, so I don't care much.
I also love Jumanji, Mrs. Doubtfire, Flubber, The Birdcage, Toys, What Dreams may come, The Fisher King, The World according to Garp, Aladdin and so on.
So many entertaining hours. I also liked his last TV Show, the Crazy Ones.
He's my personal Best Actor winner for his fascinating creepy turn in One Hour Photo.
RIP Robin :(

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

I'm a 90s kid, so Robin Williams was one of the first movie stars that I knew. In fact, the first movie that I ever saw in a cinema was Jumanji. (IMDb lists it under adventure/family/fantasy, but as a six-year-old, I found a lot of it to be straight-up horror.) And Mrs. Doubtfire is one of those films that I've enjoyed watching on TV countless times ever since I was little.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJan

If someone like Robin Williams ends up comitting suicide, the world sucks big time.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteriggy

I'm so shaken up and upset over this. I was watching "Aladdin" last night for the first time since the 90s and remembered how much I loved this as a kid. I'll miss Robin Williams's manic energy the most. He was so good in so many different kinds of roles, from "The Birdcage" to "Good Morning, Vietnam!" to "Dead Poets Society" ("O Captain! My Captain!") to "One Hour Photo" (so creepy) to "Good Will Hunting" (I'll always defend his Oscar win and call it much deserved). Ugh, depression is a motherfucker, isn't it. I wonder if he'll make the Emmys In Memoriam tribute in time. He should have been nominated for "The Crazy Ones." Half of that lineup sucks so bad. RIP to a master clown and genius. :*(

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSamson

His Oscar win for Good Will Hunting was fully deserved. I don't agree that it was a "we owe him-Oscar"... I thínk it was one of the more worthy Oscar wins, actually.
It wasn't a "we owe him", nor was it a "playing-dress-up-as-someone-else-mimicking-a historical/biographical-person-bullshit-performance-". Nor was it a "retard-disability-performance".

It was just a great performance.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

My barbaric yawp sounds pretty melancholy today. RIP

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

A range and a talent that we have not seen before and will not see again.

One film not being mentioned in a lot of tributes is Moscow on the Hudson. I saw it for the first time a few weeks back and was blown away by his performance and also his impeccable Russian accent, which changes throughout the film as his English improves.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

I'll second Moscow on the Hudson. I also liked his work in Deconstructing Harry.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry


A sensitive and emotional performance, so different from the comedic ones he was perfect at.

Good vibration to his family and friends, we'll miss him.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarcelo

I thought he was brilliant in Awakenings and Mrs. Doubtfire. He was also very fine in The Birdcage. And I agree he was robbed of an Emmy nom for The Crazy Ones, which should never have been axed.

The saddest thing about suicide besides the loss of the person is that this is what he will be remembered for. This act always colors every achievement, every memory. He was a shining talent and we were lucky to have had him.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

He really made my childhood: Hook, Aladdin, Jumanji, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Birdcage, Goodwill Hunting, Dead Poet's Society...

I had forgotten the vast body of work he left behind and many of them iconic films! What a talent...

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I was shocked but fine when Philip Seymour Hoffman died, but this one is difficult. Really difficult. I didn't know Robin Williams, but he was so fully committed (often scarily so) to each role he took that I often felt like I did - each performance felt like a new facet of his personality that he was sharing with the world. And the way he died. Just awful. There is always a better way. I just keep thinking of that one scene in Good Will Hunting, where he just keeps repeating, "It's not your fault" over and over and wanting to do the same thing to him now - or a couple of days ago.

Rest in peace, oh captain my captain!

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Dead Poets Society was an influential film for me as an adolescent. It's not a cool film, but it's one of those movies that hit me at a particular age and affected me. My favorite films, though, are of course the comedies. "Mrs. Doubtfire" still makes me laugh all these years, and "Aladdin" comes to life when he finally shows up.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

I am actually sadder now, almost a full day since hearing the news, than I was hearing it. I think it's because the initial hearing of it wasn't a great shock. Williams had his personal issues and depression is a drug one can never truly kick. Thus, my gut reaction was one of, "This was inevitable."

Now, it's all about thinking of his importance in culture as well as my own life. He was a staple of my childhood. He made me laugh as much as any other person. He was also the first actor I remember ever really turning on; not that his entire work was bad, but that in the late 90s/early 00s he seemed to be wasting his "talent" in my eyes. It's that strange connection to celebrity, where you feel like they sort of you...it's so silly.

I will think of him most for Good Will Hunting, a movie I have only seen twice, but when I recently stumbled upon was really taken over by his performance.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrianZ

who was the 2nd Oscar winner who committed suicide this summer?

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjimmy

^ ^ ^ The director of "Searching for Sugar Man"

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKylie

And now it's Lauren Baccall who has passed away.

May both of them rest in peace.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Rodrigues

The World According to Garp. He was the perfect realization of what the author had in mind. Along with the astonishing Glenn Close as his Mom Jenny Fields, those performances rang true for me and still do. Highly underappreciated film as it is all but forgotten these days. And that ensemble: Williams, Close, Lithgow, Hurt, Kurtz, Tandy, Cronyn.

August 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

Amazing actor, entertainer and human being. Love him. Maybe not the right timming, but someone in Hollywood should be already thinking of writting a biopic about the Robin Williams - Christopher Reeve life-long devoted friendship. One of the most uplifting, amazing Hollywood stories, about two great persons that also happened to be two great actors.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

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