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Rest in Peace, Robin Williams 1951 – 2014

We all have our favourite Robin Williams roles.

There are numerous memorable parts he played, accompanied by lines only he could deliver. You only need to hear “gooood mooorrrniiiinnnggg, Vietnam!” to think of his irrepressible, feather-ruffling DJ in the Armed Services, or “hellloooo” to think of Mrs Doubtfire and see his face covered in pie. “Oh, Captain, my captain” takes us to his inspiring turn in Dead Poets Society, where he told us “we don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute; we read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.” The park bench scene in Good Will Hunting where he schools Matt Damon’s character is unforgettable. Sure, it won him the Best Supporting Actor accolade, but he won over 50 other awards, and was nominated over 60 times. His career was as memorable as they come. Yes, he had a few dud comedies, but on the whole, he left a body of work behind that is a treasure for many.

The authorities in North California where he was found dead at his home say they believed he died of asphyxiation, and that it was a suicide. Williams’ battles with depression and addiction had been public knowledge – he was in rehab just last month, after a stint in 2006 too. But, as has been noted by many people, just because we were aware that he had his struggles, doesn’t make his death easier to accept. He is one of those actors who is truly beloved. For certain, we didn’t know him personally, but as it was with Philip Seymour Hoffman, we just want to know that someone we admire and respect, who has given us so much pleasure as fans, is happy, and healthy, and well.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, on July 21 1952, Williams became one of Hollywood’s greatest – adept at both comedy and drama. He shot to fame on the TV show, Mork and Mindy, and from then on continued to feature in our lives, on our TV screens, in our cinemas, on our stages. The Julliard-trained performer has been remembered by colleagues for his generosity of spirit, his knack for impersonations and improvisation, and his kind heart. Everyone from US President Barack Obama to Questlove have shared memories about him. He leaves behind 3 children, and countless fans across the world.

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I had the chance to meet him once, when I first moved to New York, and I had hoped I would get to again, for an interview. Although his TV show with Sarah Michelle Gellar, The Crazy Ones, had been cancelled, he had 4 movies he was working on, so I always thought that I would still get that chance.

I had the chance to meet him once, when I first moved to New York, at the gallery his daughter-in-law ran in New York’s Chelsea neighbourhood. I had hoped I would get to again, for an interview. Although his TV show with Sarah Michelle Gellar, The Crazy Ones, had been cancelled, he had 4 movies he had still coming out, so I always thought that I would still get that chance. 

There was the sequel to 1993’s Mrs Doubtfire that was still in the early stages, but he had reprised his role as Teddy Roosevelt in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, another sequel, which wrapped production in May, and is due out in December. Another Christmas movie, titled Merry Friggin’ Christmas is also due out then. At the TriBeCa Film Festival earlier this year, he starred in a drama called Boulevard that hadn’t yet been set for release, and he voiced a dog in an animated British film called Absolutely Anything, alongside Simon Pegg and Kate Beckinsale.

Nonetheless, he remains one of my all-time favourite actors, and I know for many, the same is true. I will be watching The Birdcage for the gazillionth time in his honour, and hugging my friends a little tighter this week.

[Pic: Williams in Good Will Hunting]

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