The inimitable comic talent Robin Williams has been found dead at his home in California of an apparent suicide. He was 63 years old.
According to the Marin County Sheriff’s Department, officers were called to his home on Monday, where they pronounced Williams dead just after midday.
Williams’ widow, Susan Schneider, asked for privacy in a statement, whilst also hoping he be remembered for “the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”
Williams had long suffered with addiction and depression, checking into a Minnesota rehab facility in early July.
His career began with dazzling stand-up comedy sets and whirligig performances on The Tonight Show, earning him reputation enough to anchor his very own TV series: Mork and Mindy, an unlikely spin-off from Garry Marshall’s Happy Days, in which Williams starred as an alien sent to Earth primarily to riff.
He managed to avoid typecasting by appearing in dramatic films early and often, including The World According to Garp, Dead Poets Society and Awakenings, as well as tragicomic movies that bridged the divide between his favoured genres: Good Morning, Vietnam, Moscow on the Hudson, The Fisher King,The Birdcage and World’s Greatest Dad.
Williams would eventually win an Academy Award in 1998 for his supporting role in Good Will Hunting, wherein he played the muted psychiatrist to Matt Damon’s troubled genius. He had previously been nominated for Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, and The Fisher King. At the following year’s ceremony, he performed ‘Blame Canada’, the cheeky, Oscar-nominated tune from South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut. He was otherwise unaffiliated with the picture, and yet it made perfect sense. It’s hard to think of another performer who could sensibly be asked the same one year after graduating to the hallowed ranks of the Academy.
His voice work in Disney’s Aladdin also shifted the entire animated film industry, encouraging talk of whether or not a voice-over artist deserved to be Oscar nominated. He did, but he wasn’t.
Some of Williams ventures into the world of the dramatic inspired groans – Patch Adams, What Dreams May Come, and Jack chief among them – though he course-corrected in the early 2000s with a series of haunted performances in thrillers One Hour Photo and Insomnia, reminding there were further shades to his dramatic persona than simply “sad clown.”
A return to stand-up at the same time brought him further acclaim. Allegations of joke stealing had plagued his early days, which he sought to rectify on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. His career came to a close with his rep mostly reinstated.
He will next be seen in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, playing President Theodore Roosevelt for the third time. It’s not the only U.S. chief in his repertoire: he previously portrayed Dwight D. Eisenhower in Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and, though fictional, Tom Dobbs in Man of the Year. There had been talks of a Mrs. Doubtfire sequel, which sounds like a terrible idea, unless you are a child, and considering Williams was especially beloved by the three generations who had been raised by his work, that counts for something.
His career cut short, his legacy includes a slew of beloved features, countless memorable TV appearances, and, to go with his Academy Award, six Golden Globes, two Emmys, and five Grammys. Most actors can only hope for a singularly defining role. Williams had multitudes. And yet, he’ll achieve what few actors ever can: being remembered for themselves.
Williams is survived by his wife Susan, two sons, and a daughter.
Support is available for those who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.