Robin Williams: 1951-2014

The Academy Award-winning comedian was 63.

by | August 12, 2014 | Comments



Academy Award-winning actor Robin Williams, whose manic energy and expressive dramatic range helped to make him one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, was found dead Monday morning in his Tiburon, CA home of an apparent suicide. He was 63.

Born in Chicago in 1951, Williams studied acting at the Juilliard School. His big break came in 1978 when he landed the role of Mork, an alien sent to Earth to study humanity, on the ABC hit Happy Days. The popularity of the character spawned a spin-off series, Mork & Mindy, which ran for four seasons. At the same time, Williams gained notoriety as a live-wire standup comedian, whose rapid-fire jokes and spot-on impressions led to a series of concert specials and sold-out live performances.

Williams’ first major film performance was the title character in Robert Altman’s Popeye (1980), but it was the made-for-TV feature Seize the Day (1986) — the tale of a down-and-out, recently fired salesman on the verge of divorce — that showed off his dramatic range. The following year, Williams expertly melded comedy and pathos in Good Morning Vietnam, and the result was his first Oscar nomination. In 1989, he was nominated for another dramatic role, playing an anti-authoritarian teacher at a posh private school in Dead Poets Society.

By the early 1990s, Williams had joined the ranks of cinema’s biggest stars, and his choice of projects proved both eclectic and challenging. From 1990 to 1992, he starred opposite Robert De Niro in the medical drama Awakenings; turned in a sinister cameo in the Hitchcockian thriller Dead Again; played a mad treasure hunter in the comedy/fantasy The Fisher King (for which he was nominated for another Oscar); and gave a vibrant voice performance as the genie in Aladdin (which ushered in an era of big stars in animated features).

Williams’ comic chops helped to make Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and The Birdcage (1996) big hits, but it was a smaller film — written by a pair of Hollywood fringe dwellers named Matt Damon and Ben Affleck — that gave him the role that would lead to his Best Supporting Actor Oscar win. Williams delivered a warm performance as the Boston-accented therapist Sean Maguire, who helps to keep scofflaw math wiz Will Hunting (Damon) on the straight-and-narrow.

Williams’ track record was admittedly spotty from the late 1990s on, but he still produced striking work from time to time; he delivered menacing turns in the dark thrillers Insomnia and One Hour Photo (both from 2002) and played a vulnerable writer in the critically acclaimed black comedy World’s Greatest Dad (2009). Most recently, Williams starred alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar in the high-profile CBS comedy The Crazy Ones, playing an oddball advertising executive.

Williams had been open about his struggles with sobriety, and was reportedly suffering from depression recently. The Marin County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement that they will investigate the cause of death. Williams is survived by his wife Susan Schneider and three children from two previous marriages.


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    Academy Award-winning actor Robin Williams, whose manic energy and expressive dramatic range helped to make him one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, was found dead Monday morning in his Tiburon, CA home of an apparent suicide. He was 63.

    Born in Chicago in 1951, Williams studied acting at the Juilliard School. His big break came in 1978 when he landed the role of Mork, an alien sent to Earth to study humanity, on the ABC hit Happy Days. The popularity of the character spawned a spin-off series, Mork & Mindy, which ran for four seasons. At the same time, Williams gained notoriety as a live-wire standup comedian, whose rapid-fire jokes and spot-on impressions led to a series of concert specials and sold-out live performances.

    Williams’ first major film performance was the title character in Robert Altman’s Popeye (1980), but it was the made-for-TV feature Seize the Day (1986) — the tale of a down-and-out, recently fired salesman on the verge of divorce — that showed off his dramatic range. The following year, Williams expertly melded comedy and pathos in Good Morning Vietnam, and the result was his first Oscar nomination. In 1989, he was nominated for another dramatic role, playing an anti-authoritarian teacher at a posh private school in Dead Poets Society.

    By the early 1990s, Williams had joined the ranks of cinema’s biggest stars, and his choice of projects proved both eclectic and challenging. From 1990 to 1992, he starred opposite Robert De Niro in the medical drama Awakenings; turned in a sinister cameo in the Hitchcockian thriller Dead Again; played a mad treasure hunter in the comedy/fantasy The Fisher King (for which he was nominated for another Oscar); and gave a vibrant voice performance as the genie in Aladdin (which ushered in an era of big stars in animated features).

    Williams’ comic chops helped to make Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and The Birdcage (1996) big hits, but it was a smaller film — written by a pair of Hollywood fringe dwellers named Matt Damon and Ben Affleck — that gave him the role that would lead to his Best Supporting Actor Oscar win. Williams delivered a warm performance as the Boston-accented therapist Sean Maguire, who helps to keep scofflaw math wiz Will Hunting (Damon) on the straight-and-narrow.

    Williams’ track record was admittedly spotty from the late 1990s on, but he still produced striking work from time to time; he delivered menacing turns in the dark thrillers Insomnia and One Hour Photo (both from 2002) and played a vulnerable writer in the critically acclaimed black comedy World’s Greatest Dad (2009). Most recently, Williams starred alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar in the high-profile CBS comedy The Crazy Ones, playing an oddball advertising executive.

    Williams had been open about his struggles with sobriety, and was reportedly suffering from depression recently. The Marin County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement that they will investigate the cause of death. Williams is survived by his wife Susan Schneider and three children from two previous marriages.

    Written by Tim Ryan

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