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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams, Oscar-Winning Actor, Comedian, Humannitarian Dies at 63

 

This report is from the New York Times followed by the obituary from the LA Times...

Robin Williams, Oscar-Winning Comedian, Dies at 63 in Suspected Suicide

CreditJay Paul for The New York Times

Robin Williams, the comedian who evolved into the surprisingly nuanced, Academy Award-winning actor, imbuing his performances with wild inventiveness and a kind of manic energy, died on Monday at his home in Tiburon, Calif., north of San Francisco. He was 63.

The Marin County sheriff’s office said in a statement that it “suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia.” An investigation was underway.

The statement said that the office received a 911 call at 11:55 a.m. Pacific time, saying that a man had been found “unconscious and not breathing inside his residence.” Emergency personnel sent to the scene identified him as Mr. Williams and pronounced him dead at 12:02 p.m.

Mr. Williams’s publicist, Mara Buxbaum, said in a statement that Mr. Williams “has been battling severe depression.”
His wife, Susan Schneider, said in a statement, “This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings.” She added: “As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”
Robin Williams performs an excerpt from Rajiv Joseph’s Broadway play, “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.”
Video Credit By Erik Piepenburg and Mekado Murphy on Publish Date March 31, 2011.
The privileged son of a Detroit auto executive who grew up chubby and lonesome, playing by himself with 2,000 toy soldiers in an empty room of a suburban mansion, Mr. Williams, as a boy, hardly fit the stereotype of someone who would grow to become a brainy comedian, or a goofy one, but he was both. Onstage he was known for ricochet riffs on politics, social issues and cultural matters both high and low; tales of drug and alcohol abuse; lewd commentaries on relations between the sexes; and lightning-like improvisations on anything an audience member might toss at him. 

His gigs were always rife with frenetic, spot-on impersonations that included Hollywood stars, presidents, princes, prime ministers, popes and anonymous citizens of the world. His irreverence was legendary and uncurtailable.

“Chuck, Cam, great to see you,” he once called out from a London stage at Charles, Prince of Wales, and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. “Yo yo, wussup Wales, House of Windsor, keepin’ it real!”

And yet he never seemed to offend.

Almost from the moment that he first uttered the greeting “Nanoo, nanoo” as Mork from Ork, an alien who befriends a wholesome young Colorado woman (Pam Dawber), on the sitcom “Mork and Mindy,” Mr. Williams was a comedy celebrity. “Mork and Mindy” made its debut on ABC in September 1978, and within two weeks had reached No. 7 in the Nielsen ratings. By the spring of 1979, 60 million viewers were tuning in to “Mork and Mindy” each week to watch Mr. Williams drink water through his finger, stand on his head when told to sit down, speak gibberish words like “shazbot” and “nimnul” that came to have meaning when he used them, and misinterpret, in startlingly literal fashion, the ordinary idioms of modern life.

He went on to earn Academy Award nominations for his roles in films like “Good Morning, Vietnam,” in which he played a loquacious radio D.J.; “Dead Poets Society,” playing a mentor to students in need of inspiration; and “The Fisher King,” as a homeless man whose life has been struck by tragedy. He won an Oscar in 1998 for “Good Will Hunting,” playing a therapist who works with a troubled prodigy played by Matt Damon.

In a statement, President Obama said of Mr. Williams, “He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most — from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets.”

Robin McLaurin Williams was born in Chicago on July 21, 1951, and was raised in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and Marin County. He studied acting at the Juilliard School.
 
He is survived by a son, Zak, from his marriage to Valerie Velardi, and a daughter, Zelda, and a son, Cody, from his marriage to Marsha Garces.

Beginning with roles in the 1977 sex farce “Can I Do It ‘Til I Need Glasses?” and “The Richard Pryor Show,” a variety series hosted by one of his comedy mentors, Mr. Williams rapidly ascended the entertainment industry’s ladder.

Soon after “Mork and Mindy” made him a star, Mr. Williams graduated into movie roles that included the title characters in “Popeye,” Robert Altman’s 1980 live-action musical about that spinach-gulping cartoon sailor, and “The World According to Garp,” the director George Roy Hill’s 1982 adaptation of the John Irving novel.

He also continued to appear in raucous stand-up comedy specials like “Robin Williams: An Evening at the Met,” which showcased his garrulous performance style and his indefatigable ability to free-associate without the apparent benefit of prepared material. Alongside his friends and fellow actors Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, Mr. Williams appeared in an annual series of HBO telethons for Comic Relief, a charity organization that helps homeless people and others in need.

Mr. Williams’s acting career reached a new height in 1987 with his performance in Barry Levinson’s film “Good Morning, Vietnam,” in which he played Adrian Cronauer, a nonconformist Armed Forces Radio host working in Saigon in the 1960s. It earned Mr. Williams his first Oscar nomination. He earned another, two years later, for “Dead Poets Society,” directed by Peter Weir and released in 1989, in which he played an unconventional English teacher at a 1950s boarding school who inspires his students to tear up their textbooks and seize the day. (Or, as Mr. Williams’s character famously put it in the original Latin, “Carpe diem.”)
Robin Williams was one of the most explosively, exhaustingly, prodigiously verbal comedians who ever lived, says film critic A. O. Scott. And the only thing faster than Williams’s mouth was his mind.
In dozens of film roles that followed, Mr. Williams could be warm and zany, whether providing the voice of an irrepressible magic genie in “Aladdin,” the 1992 animated Walt Disney feature, or playing a man who cross-dresses as a British housekeeper in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” a 1993 family comedy, or a doctor struggling to treat patients with an unknown neurological malady in “Awakenings,” the 1990 Penny Marshall drama adapted from the Oliver Sacks memoir.

Some of Mr. Williams’s performances were criticized for a mawkish sentimentality, like “Patch Adams,” a 1998 film that once again cast him as a good-hearted doctor, and “Bicentennial Man,” a 1999 science-fiction feature in which he played an android.

But Mr. Williams continued to keep audiences guessing. In addition to his Oscar-winning role in “Good Will Hunting,” which saw him play a gently humorous therapist, his résumé included roles as a villainous crime writer in “Insomnia,” Christopher Nolan’s 2002 thriller; Teddy Roosevelt in the “Night at the Museum” movies; and Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 2013 drama “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”

Mr. Williams made his acting debut on Broadway in 2011 in “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” a play written by Rajiv Joseph and set amid the American invasion of Iraq. (He had starred with Steve Martin in an Off Broadway production of “Waiting for Godot” in 1988.) In 2013, Mr. Williams returned to series television in “The Crazy Ones,” a CBS comedy that cast him as an idiosyncratic advertising executive, but it was canceled after one season.
Mr. Williams had completed work on several films that have not yet been released, including a third installment of the “Night at the Museum” franchise that Fox has scheduled for December, and “Merry Friggin’ Christmas,” an independent comedy about a dysfunctional family. He also provided the voice of an animated character called Dennis the Dog in a British comedy, “Absolutely Anything,” that is planned for release next year, and appeared in “Boulevard,” an independent movie that was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival but does not yet have theatrical distribution.

Mr. Williams was an admitted abuser of cocaine — which he also referred to as “Peruvian marching powder” and “the devil’s dandruff” — in the 1970s and ‘80s, and addressed his drug habit in his comedy act. “What a wonderful drug,” he said in a sardonic routine from “Live at the Met.” “Anything that makes you paranoid and impotent, give me more of that.”

In 2006, he checked himself into the Hazelden center in Springbrook, Ore., to be treated for an addiction to alcohol, having fallen off the wagon after some 20 years of sobriety.

He later explained in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer that this addiction had not been “caused by anything, it’s just there.”
“It waits,” Mr. Williams continued. “It lays in wait for the time when you think, ‘It’s fine now, I’m O.K.’ Then, the next thing you know, it’s not O.K. Then you realize, ‘Where am I? I didn’t realize I was in Cleveland.’ ”

In 2009, he underwent heart surgery for an aortic valve replacement at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, an event that Mr. Williams said caused him to take stock of his life.

“You appreciate little things,” he said in an interview in The New York Times, “like walks on the beach with a defibrillator.”

More seriously, Mr. Williams said he had reassessed himself as a performer. “How much more can you give?” he told The Times. “Other than, literally, open-heart surgery onstage? Not much. But the only cure you have right now is the honesty of going, this is who you are. I know who I am.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Williams checked himself into a rehab facility. His publicist told People magazine that he was “taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment, of which he remains extremely proud.”

Correction: August 13, 2014 Because of an editing error, an obituary on Tuesday about the actor and comedian Robin Williams misstated the name and title of Prince Charles’s wife, with whom the prince once attended a London performance by Mr. Williams. She is Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall — not Lady Camilla Bowles.

Bruce Weber and Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed reporting.

Robin Williams dies in apparent suicide; actor, comic was 63

LA Times

 

Robin Williams dies at 63 of an apparent suicide, the Marin County Sheriff's Office says. It appears he may have hung himself.

The nation reacts to the death of actor and comic Robin Williams
Robin Williams, a comic and sitcom star in the 1970s who became an Oscar-winning dramatic actor, died Monday at 63 in Marin County. The Marin County Sheriff's Office said he appears to have committed suicide.

The news of the beloved actor’s death rocked the nation. Channels broke into their usual programming to make the announcement, and within minutes, Williams dominated online trending topics. Even President Obama noted his passing.
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FOR THE RECORD
Aug. 11, 6:25 p.m.: An earlier version of this story said "Mrs. Doubtfire," the comedy starring Williams, was released in 1994. It was released in 1993.
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Along with an Antoine de Saint-Exupéry poem, Williams' daughter, Zelda, tweeted: "I love you. I miss you. I will try to keep looking up."

Williams, hailed as a comic genius, was a star of movies and television for more than three decades. He also suffered from substance abuse problems.

The actor "has been battling severe depression of late," his publicist Mara Buxbaum said. "This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time."

Williams was found unresponsive at his home in Tiburon around noon Monday, sheriff’s officials said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Dubbed “the funniest man alive” by Entertainment Weekly in 1997, Williams brought audiences hours of laughter, putting his imaginative spin on characters in film and television. He was lauded for his serious roles as well, winning a best supporting actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire, the therapist who counsels Matt Damon’s math genius in “Good Will Hunting” (1997). He also received nominations for “The Fisher King” (1991), “Dead Poets Society” (1989) and “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987).

Williams was known for being open about his problems with cocaine and alcohol over the years.

The actor spent time on a Hazelden campus in Oregon in 2006. He later explained that drinking had gradually become a problem again after 20 years of sobriety.

"You're standing at a precipice and you look down, there's a voice and it's a little quiet voice that goes, 'Jump,'" the "Mrs. Doubtfire" star told ABC News in October of that year. "The same voice that goes, 'Just one.' … And the idea of just one for someone who has no tolerance for it, that's not the possibility."

This summer, he returned to rehab to "fine-tune" his sobriety.
Born in Chicago in 1951, Williams was accepted into John Houseman’s prestigious acting program at Juilliard along with Christopher Reeve, who became a lifelong friend.

Williams came to Hollywood prominence in the late 1970s with his starring role in “Mork & Mindy,” a spin-off of the then-popular “Happy Days.” Williams played an alien baffled by the ways of Earth, the comedy often resulting from the contrast between how he viewed the world and how the world really worked.

After the show went off the air in 1982, Williams’ reputation for rapid-fire impersonations — not to mention a seemingly bottomless talent for comic improvisation — landed him a number of high-profile stand-up specials as well as numerous film roles. In “Good Morning Vietnam” he played a deejay who ruffled feathers with his truth-spewing, quip-cracking ways.

Although now common, the tear-up-the-script style of improvisation practiced by Williams was unusual in major Hollywood productions, and the actor seemed able to rewrite the rules by sheer force of personality — or, as was frequently the cases where Williams was concerned, personalities. That talent also landed him a gig co-hosting the Oscars in 1986, a turn that further cemented his A-list status.

Williams’ protean comedic skills reached perhaps their apex in “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993), a cross-dressing comedy in which he played both a crusty older nanny and the divorced father who takes on the character to be closer to his children.

Walt Disney Company chairman Robert Iger said Williams would be remembered for bringing some of the worlds most beloved characters to life. 
"He was a true Disney Legend, a beloved member of our family, and he will be sorely missed," Iger said in a statement.  "We join Robin’s friends and fans everywhere in mourning, and offer our thoughts and condolences to his family during this difficult time."
A melancholy current ran under Williams’ dramatic roles. He played an unconventional teacher in “Dead Poets Society," a doctor who tended to the mentally troubled in “Awakenings" (1990), a disturbed vagabond in “The Fisher King” and a widowed psychologist in “Good Will Hunting." That last role — in which he famously counseled a hotshot Damon while grappling with his own demons — landed him his first Oscar win.

Further demonstrating his persona-stretching skills, Williams also had well-regarded parts playing presidents — as Dwight Eisenhower in last summer’s hit “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and as Teddy Roosevelt in the comic franchise “Night At the Museum,” the latter of which he will reprise for the final time when the Ben Stiller film hits theaters this holiday season.

He returned to the small screen after more than 32 years to star in the CBS comedy "The Crazy Ones," which ran for a single season before its cancellation.

At one point during his career, Williams had to fight to be seen by the public as something more than just a funny guy.

"It's hard because people want to know you're a certain thing," he told The Times in 1991. "They still say, 'That's the little manic guy. He's the little adrenaline guy. Oh, yeah, he touches himself. He doesn't do that anymore. But wait a minute. He's the little manic guy who played the really quiet guy and then the really scary guy. Oh, no, wait....' "

Williams' talent for ad-libbing functioned as a gift and a shield.
"He was always in character — you never saw the real Robin," said Jamie Masada, founder and chief executive of the Laugh Factory. "I knew him 35 years, and I never knew him."

"He was a wonderful guy," Masada added. "I remember John [Belushi] and Robin, both of them always complained to me — no matter where they were people would recognize them. They sold their privacy to the public. They could be in the middle of talking in the street and someone would come up for an autograph.... he [Robin] didn't realize how much he sold his privacy to people."
The sign on the Laugh Factory Monday night in Hollywood read “Robin Williams Rest in Peace. Make God Laugh.” A group of mostly comedians milled about in front of the Comedy Store shortly after the news broke and the marquee there read “RIP Robin Williams.”

The U.S. president issued a statement about Williams' passing. "Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan and everything in between," Obama said. "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. He made us laugh.  He made us cry.  He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most — from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets."
“We have lost one of our most inspired and gifted comic minds, as well as one of this generation’s greatest actors,” said Chris Columbus, who directed Williams in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and was scheduled to work with him again on “Mrs. Doubtfire 2,” a sequel recently set in motion.

“To watch Robin work was a magical and special privilege,” Columbus said. “His performances were unlike anything any of us had ever seen, they came from some spiritual and otherworldly place.... We were friends for 21 years. Our children grew up together, he inspired us to spend our lives in San Francisco and I loved him like a brother.”
Williams' dramatic turn as the fast-talking genie in the 1992 Disney animated movie “Aladdin” also stood apart, recalled Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks Animation and former chairman of Walt Disney Studios.
“His was truly one of the most brilliant and singular performances in the history of animation,” said Katzenberg, who worked closely with Williams on the hit movie that helped revive Disney’s storied animation studio. “'Aladdin' would not be the classic movie it is without his brilliance.”
At Williams' home on a quiet street that backs onto stunning views of San Francisco Bay, neighbors and strangers began arriving Monday evening to lay flowers at the gate and share remembrances.
Neighbor Kelly Cook, 50, called him "brilliant" as well as "really quiet and private." The upscale neighborhood respected that privacy, and Williams always greeted neighbors with a wave, she said.
An avid cyclist, he was often seen riding the winding Paradise Loop.

Cook's children called him "the funny man" and would greet him as such when he was out walking his pug. He joked easily with them, Cook said, "because they were kids."

Cook's voice cracked Monday as she walked toward Williams' home carrying bright orange gerbera daisies, chosen because "I thought the color would be uplifting."
"It's just so sad when depression takes someone like that," she said.
Megan Thorpe, 25, of Mill Valley brought three red roses.
The nanny had worked all night Sunday and was sleeping when the texts about Williams’ death started pouring in. Thorpe said she fell in love with Williams watching "Aladdin." When she moved to the Bay Area a year ago, one of the first things she did was pay a visit to the "Doubtfire house." She knew she had to pay her respects Monday.

Some celebrities turned to Twitter to mourn him.

"I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul," fellow actor-comedian Steve Martin said on Twitter.

"Robin Williams was like no other," actor and director Henry Winkler said. "To watch him create on the spot was a privilege to behold.. Robin you are an angel now !!! REST IN PEACE"
The Marin County Sheriff’s Office is scheduled to hold a news conference on the death investigation at 11 a.m. Tuesday. 
Williams is survived by his wife, Susan Schneider; brother McLaurin Smith Williams; children Zachary Williams, Cody Williams and Zelda Rae Williams; and stepsons Casey Armusewicz and Peter Armusewicz.


Recent Comments


Bruce Rozenblit

Kansas City
He didn't just stand and tell jokes. He became the joke. He danced the joke. He acted the joke. He was truly a multi-dimensional performer.

 

DEJ

I have the feeling that those who suffer from severe depression would like to hit the "pause" button, but the only one left is "delete."

HapinOregon

Jonathon has a peer for company and G-d will never ever be bored.AveFare Well

Melissa

I accompanied my brother to see the "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" because a friend of his was in the play and had heard he was in New...

  • @K-DOGGY Try swimming upstream against a drowning pushing tide. Inhale when it feels as though you're already holding your breath. Hope for those few random moments of bliss, wake up fighting to live every day against the beautiful backdrop of nothing to live for! I doubt depressed...
    dutchctud

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