Robin Williams, best known for his frenetic, free association standup comedy and his television triumph in Mork and Mindy leading to more serious movie roles, died on August 11, 2014 at age 63. The cause of death was suicide by asphyxiation. Williams is mourned around the world.
As if his standup comedy wasn’t enough to make your head spin, Robin Williams stepped into the role of Mork from Ork in the hit television series Mork and Mindy in 1978, for four seasons of goofy, sentimental, and often strange sit-com episodes. While he had worked briefly on other programs, Mork and Mindy was his big break.
Hollywood certainly took notice. They latched onto Williams’ uncanny ability to make people laugh by casting him as the Popeye, the spinach eating sailor. He continued to act in mostly comedic roles in works like The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in 1988. Of course, everyone recognized his voice and style as the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin.
His acting skills were just barely tapped in comedies. What he needed to take off were the roles of Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning Vietnam and John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society. He received nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role for both films, as well as one in 1992 for The Fisher King, as Perry, an insane homeless man.
But the true turning point, in most people’s opinions, was the role that earned his one and only Oscar. As Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting, he showed the world that he could really act. Respect for his skills increased exponentially. His roles after that were incredibly diverse. From the frightening Seymour Parrish in One Hour Photo to a hilarious Teddy Roosevelt in Night at the Museum, Williams was simply incredible.
Williams’ personal life was often troubled. He struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol druing than twenty years of his professional career. He was once divorced and remarried his son’s nanny. The tabloids ate up the news, but they couldn’t take the luster off of his ongoing success with big screen hits. He had proven himself as one of the most versatile actors to ever his Hollywood. Scary, insane, sad, happy, funny, serious, and those were just the traits conjured up by his voice.
He scored a second divorce in 2008, the same year that he began a standup tour. The tour was cut short by ongoing health issues. He remarried in 2011. After heart surgery, he returned to the big screen and most recently, back to our televisions with only one season of the show The Crazy Ones.
People are continuing to speculate about the reason for his suicide. His wife believes it was related to a recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. This neurological disorder, which affects actor Michael J. Fox, can cause difficulty with controlling body movement as well as interfering with speech. He was also suffering from depression and anxiety. The combination of the idea of losing his rapid-fire dialogue and physical humor was likely devastating.
We will still see and/or hear him on the big screen with three films in post-production stages right now. After that, we will remember him as we revisit his movies and remember the truth of his quote: Do I perform sometimes in a manic style? Yes. Am I manic all the time? No. Do I get sad? Oh yeah. Does it hit me hard? Oh yeah.