Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Robin Williams dies - tributes from the stars and the fans of tragic comedian, actor and Oscar winner

Robin Williams died at the age of 63
Robin Williams died at the age of 63
Na-Nu Na-Nu: Robin Williams as Mork and co-star Pam Dawber as Mindy McConnel in Mork and Mindy
Na-Nu Na-Nu: Robin Williams as Mork and co-star Pam Dawber as Mindy McConnel
Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Michael Caulfield/Getty Images for PCA)
Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choicre Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Caulfield/Getty Images for PCA)

The Hollywood star Robin Williams has been found dead at his home in Northern California from an apparent suicide. He was 63.

Marin County Sheriff's Office said it suspected the death was a suicide due to asphyxia, but the cause of death remains under investigation.

Williams's third wife Susan Schneider released a statement on Monday night in which she said: "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.”

The star’s publicist Mara Buxbaum said Williams had recently been suffering from severe depression.

In his final posting on Instagram on 1 August, Williams had wished his daughter Zelda a happy 25th birthday. Late on Monday, Zelda paid tribute to her father with an excerpt from French poet and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery's El Principito, which read: "You - you alone will have the stars as no one else has them... In one of the stars I shall be living.

"In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night ... You - only you - will have stars that can laugh."

She added: "I love you. I miss you. I'll try to keep looking up."

Williams, who had struggled with addictions to drink and drugs in the past, had entered a Minnesota rehabilitation centre last month to help him maintain sobriety.

His representatives at the time said Williams was not using drugs or alcohol but had gone to the centre to "fine-tune and focus" his sobriety after working a longer-than-usual schedule.

The Marin County Sheriff's office said it received an emergency call about midday on Monday, saying that Williams was unconscious and not breathing at his home near Tiburon, north of San Francisco.  Local newspapers reported that he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

Fellow comedy star Steve Martin said in a tweet: "I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul."

The thrice-married father-of-three was known to millions for his performances in films that ranged from the out and out manic comedy of Mrs Doubtfire, to more thought provoking fare like Dead Poets Society and The Fisher King.  In many films, like Good Morning, Vietnam, Williams attracted widespread praise by successfully combining his gift for comedy with an exploration of more serious underlying themes.

Nominated for the Best Actor Oscar three times, Williams won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the 1997 film Good Will Hunting, in which he played the therapist to Matt Damon’s working class maths genius.

As a stand-up, his explosive, improvisational talent was so hard to match that even the established star Billy Crystal once admitted that following Williams on stage was like trying to top the Civil War.

Robin Williams in 1980 with Pam Dawber, his co-star in the Mork and Mindy TV series Robin Williams in 1980 with Pam Dawber, his co-star in the Mork and Mindy TV series Such was his talent that he was allowed to ad-lib in many of his films – and his quick wit enlivened many a media appearance.

During a media tour for the 1990 film Awakenings, when director Penny Marshall mistakenly described the film as being set in a "menstrual hospital," instead of "mental hospital," Williams had the presence of mind to offer the explanation: "It's a period piece."

Williams once likened his act to the daily jogs he took across the Golden Gate Bridge. There were times he would look over the edge, one side of him pulling back in fear, the other insisting he could fly.

He also said: "Comedy can deal with the fear and still not paralyze you or tell you that it's going away. You say, OK, you got certain choices here, you can laugh at them and then once you've laughed at them and you have expunged the demon, now you can deal with them. That's what I do when I do my act."

 Robin Williams and Sally Field had great chemistry in Mrs Doubtfire Born in Chicago in 1951, Williams would remember himself as a shy kid who got some early laughs from his mother - by mimicking his grandmother. He opened up more in high school when he joined the drama club.

He began his career in stand-up comedy before first achieving widespread fame in the TV sitcom Mork and Mindy.  The show ran from 1978 to 1982 and Williams was frequently allowed to indulge his talent for improvised comedy while playing Mork, an alien living on Earth.

As Mork and Mindy became increasingly popular, Williams started to reach an even wider audience with a series of televised stand-up comedy shows.

During the late Seventies and early Eighties, however, Williams developed an addiction to cocaine.

Williams was a close friend of the comedian John Belushi who died of a cocaine and heroin overdose in 1982.  Williams had enjoyed wild parties with Belushi and subsequently admitted that the death of his friend and the birth of his son prompted him to quit drugs: "Was it a wake-up call? Oh yeah, on a huge level.”

 All star cast: Susan Sarandon, Robert De Niro and Robin Williams star in The Big Wedding All star cast: Susan Sarandon, Robert De Niro and Robin Williams star in The Big Wedding On August 9, 2006, however, Williams checked himself into a rehab centre, later admitting he was an alcoholic.  His publicist announced: “After 20 years of sobriety, Robin Williams found himself drinking again and has decided to take proactive measures to deal with this for his own well-being and the well-being of his family.”

Williams, though, appeared to have recovered well enough to joke, on a recent tour: "I went to rehab in wine country.  To keep my options open."

In March 2009 Williams was also hospitalised by heart problems, and had to undergo surgery to surgery to replace his aortic valve.

A keen charity fundraiser Williams had, with his second wife, Marsha, founded the Windfall Foundation, to raise money for a wide variety of causes.

The Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey tweeted: “Robin Williams made the world laugh & think. I will remember & honour that. A great man, artist and friend. I will miss him beyond measure.”

Steve Farell, the star of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and the US version of The Office, simply wrote: “Robin Williams made the world a little bit better. RIP.”

Williams will appear in upcoming film "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb," playing the statue of Teddy Roosevelt who comes to life at night, and holiday comedy "Merry Friggin' Christmas." He was also attached to a sequel to 1993 hit "Mrs. Doubtfire."

Further reading:

Robin Williams' Life in Pictures: from Mork & Mindy to an Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting 

Robin Williams dies: Oscar-winning performer and comic genius with equal ability to wring tears from his audience 

Robin Williams dies: Actor-comedian died in apparent suicide says coroner 

Robin Williams found dead at home

Robin Williams: The memorable roles from Mork to Mrs Doubtfire 

Stars share their memories of  'big-hearted' Robin Williams

Celebrity colleagues and admirers of Robin Williams have shared their reactions to his death at the age of 63 in an apparent suicide.

"What I will always remember about Robin, perhaps even more than his comic genius, extraordinary talent and astounding intellect, was his huge heart - his tremendous kindness, generosity, and compassion as an acting partner, colleague and fellow traveller in a difficult world" - The Birdcage co-star Nathan Lane.

"I am completely and totally devastated. What more can be said?" - Mork & Mindy co-star Pam Dawber.

"Robin was a lightning storm of comic genius and our laughter was the thunder that sustained him. He was a pal and I can't believe he's gone" - Hook director Steven Spielberg.

"I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul" - Waiting For Godot co-star Steve Martin.

"Robin and I were great friends, suffering from the same little-known disease: depression. I never could have expected this ending to his life and to ours with him. God bless him and God bless us all for his LIFE! I cannot believe this. I am overwhelmed with grief. What a wonderful man/boy and what a tremendous talent in the most important art of any time - comedy! I loved him" - Actor-comedian Chevy Chase.

"I saw him on stage the very first time he auditioned at the Improv and we have been friends ever since. It's a very sad day" - Talk show host and comedian Jay Leno.

"We have lost one of our most inspired and gifted comic minds, as well as one of this generation's greatest actors. To watch Robin work was a magical and special privilege. His performances were unlike anything any of us had ever seen, they came from some spiritual and otherworldly place. He truly was one of the few people who deserved the title of 'genius'." - Mrs Doubtfire and Bicentennial Man director Chris Columbus.

"His kindness and generosity is what I think of. How kind he was to anyone who wanted to connect with him. And he could not help but be funny all the time. He would do something as long as it would keep you laughing. He made many, many film crews laugh out loud before the audiences ever saw it. He made such a big impact on the world" - Night At The Museum co-star Ben Stiller.

"The thing that struck me about him is he had a great heart. He was very compassionate. But he was also like a benchmark. And what he did - he did what he did the best. And he set a very high benchmark for people to follow. Not only did he excel in that field, but he crossed over into all sorts of other fields as well. He's gone too soon" - Mel Gibson, in an interview with the Associated Press at The Expendables 3 premiere.

"Robin was friend, boss, brother, inspiration. His generosity and intelligence knew no limits. Only his home planet could destroy him" - Mrs Doubtfire co-star Harvey Fierstein.

"I am absolutely heartbroken. Robin was a national treasure and a beautiful soul" - The World According To Garp co-star Glenn Close.

"I've never known a sweeter, brighter, more considerate person than Robin. Robin's commitment as an artist to lifting our mood and making us happy is compared to none. He loved us all and we loved him back" - Old Dogs co-star John Travolta.

"He always lit up when he was able to make people laugh, and he made them laugh his whole life long - tirelessly. He was one of a kind. There will not be another" - Mrs Doubtfire co-star Sally Field.

"A big tenacious overflowing hyperkinetic eruption of compassion would be (the) best tribute to Williams" - Lee Daniels' The Butler co-star John Cusack.

"Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien - but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit" - President Barack Obama.

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