In one of the most shocking and unfortunate incidents of the year, the famous Hollywood actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead at his home in California, an apparent case of suicide by asphyxia, though investigations are pending. The news took some time to digest, and even now it seems unreal. Fellow comedian Billy Crystal has probably tweeted the best reaction – “No words”. For there are no words to utter on the loss of one of the most talented actors I have had the privilege to see, there are no words to utter on the loss of one of the greatest comedians to have graced the world of television and cinema, there are no words to utter on the loss of a really fine human being. Words seem inadequate today.
A brief appearance in the famous TV series Happy Days led to a spin-off show called Mork & Mindy (1978-1982), and from there began the rise of Robin Williams. The film world came calling quickly and Williams comfortably slotted in. Talent of course finds a way to the top. A Golden Globe nomination followed soon with the 1984 film Moscow on the Hudson, but the first film to really showcase the depth of his acting talent has to be 1987’s Good Morning Vietnam, which earned him a Golden Globe win and his first Academy Award nomination. If you haven’t seen this film yet, then now is a good time to catch up on one of the most memorable performances delivered by Robin Williams. It is the tale of an unorthodox DJ who starts to stir things up when he is assigned to the US Armed Services Radio station in Vietnam. It’s a movie in which Williams showed the multiple layers of personality that he could bring to the table, as he switched from a funny and carefree DJ to someone who is deeply moved and affected by the on-going war, which makes him question the existing setup.
Goooooooood morning Vietnam! It’s 0600 hours. What does the “O” stand for? O my God, it’s early! Speaking of early, let’s hear it for that Marty Lee Drywitz. Silky smooth sounds, making me sound like Peggy Lee…
Not that far away was to be another stellar Robin Williams role. In 1989, Williams played the unconventional English teacher John Keating in Dead Poets Society who made his students fall in love with poetry and inspired them to seize the day. If you happened to see this film while still in your student days, then didn’t it make you wonder why your teachers weren’t that inspiring, why they weren’t so much fun, why they weren’t so unconventional? There can never be another John Keating, not in the world of Hollywood, at least. This performance deservedly got Williams a second Oscar nomination.
And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?
Then he was the homeless man in The Fisher King (his third Oscar nomination), but in the same year he was Peter Pan too. The boy who never aged, had aged. Hook was Steven Spielberg’s film, but I will always remember it as a Robin Williams movie. It will never feature in the best movies list of either of the artists, but there was something inherently innocent and appealing about Hook which will never make you forget this grown up Peter Pan.
To die would be a grand adventure!
He voiced Genie in 1992’s adventurous tale Aladdin. And he followed that up with one of the most memorable comic roles of all time, the one and only Mrs. Doubtfire. Robin Williams won a Golden Globe for that role, but this one was so much beyond just awards. It was the kind of tale that families go to, and then they fall in love with each other once again. Because Robin Williams makes you. Because he loves his children with such sincerity, and passion, and with such a big heart, that he becomes a role model, someone who teaches you on the lengths you should be willing to go to for people you really care about. Only a while back there were talks about a sequel to this 1993 hit, something which I had talked about here. Alas, we shall never meet the “real” Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire again.
But if there’s love, dear… those are the ties that bind, and you’ll have a family in your heart, forever. All my love to you, poppet, you’re going to be all right… bye-bye.
If someone has to talk about Robin Williams, then there is no way that can be done without bringing these three words in the frame — Good Will Hunting. Ain’t this a classic or what!? The 1997 movie that gave the world Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, also brought forth one of the best Robin Williams’ performances which earned him his first and only Oscar win (for Best Supporting Actor). Robin Williams wasn’t being funny in this one. He was a psychologist who had to deal with the supremely intelligent but highly obnoxious Will Hunting, and deal with him, he did! The back and forth banter between Matt Damon and Robin Williams was simply so marvelous, so fascinating, so captivating, that one wished this would never end. That this wisdom about life and its beauties which Robin Williams is imparting never stop, and never be forgotten. Robin Williams nailed this character to perfection, and once again showed the world what a terrific actor he was!
You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you… I don’t see an intelligent, confident man… I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you’re a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart…. Personally, I don’t give a shit about all that, because you know what, I can’t learn anything from you, I can’t read in some fuckin’ book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I’m fascinated. I’m in. But you don’t want to do that do you sport? You’re terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.
Robin Williams has been all this and more. He’s the lost kid who grew up in the wild in Jumanji, he’s the absent-minded professor in Flubber, he’s the unconventional doctor in Patch Adams, he’s the owner of a drag club in The Birdcage, he’s the android with a heart in Bicentennial Man, he’s President Theodore Roosevelt in Night at the Museum, and he’s a lot more. There are still four films featuring Robin Williams which are yet to be released, each one currently in post-production work. The fact that these would be the last works we would get to see of this incredible and true artist, is still hard to believe. There is so much that Robin Williams has given to the world of entertainment, which makes him immortal in the eyes of many. RIP, Robin Williams!