I really do not understand why, but I feel compelled to write about Robin Williams tonight. He was found dead this morning, an apparent suicide after suffering from severe depression. While there have been many of the obligatory “RIP” posts on Facebook and Twitter (including one from myself), there have been just as many, if not more, talking about mental illness and how to help/get help if you or a loved one is suffering. That’s great and all, but do we really need to wallow on the circumstances of his death, or should we be praising the resume of incredible work this gifted comedian and actor left behind?
I remember him best as the voice of The Genie in Aladdin, where an animated character was finally able to truly capture his multiple personalities and traits (ironic that it was released months after another voice performance in the nearly forgotten FernGully: The Last Rainforest). I nearly wore out my VHS tape of Mrs. Doubtfire and could likely recite it line for line, beat for beat. I wrote papers on Dead Poet’s Society. I watched Jumanji more times than I can count. And I remember travelling to the worst rundown theatre in town to see the utterly ridiculous Death to Smoochy. But what I keep coming back to tonight is the absolute joy and wonder he displayed as the older version of Peter Pan, the boy who said he would never grow up, in Steven Spielberg’s Hook. I adored that movie as a kid, and despite its obnoxious length, watched it religiously. It is only in the past decade that I found out it is not nearly as universally loved as I had initially thought.
But while I think of these memorable roles, there were parts in dozens of other films that others may remember even better.
Mork & Mindy.
Good Morning, Vietnam.
The Fisher King.
Night at the Museum.
One Hour Photo.
The list goes on and on. But it would be his seminal work in Good Will Hunting that would net him the Oscar, in a performance that speaks volumes to what an incredibly talented thespian he was. Not to mention his absolutely hysterical broadway stand-up shows.
When I first read that he had died, I was dumbfounded. How could Robin Williams possibly be dead? And then in my loss of words, I gained an even greater sense of profound sadness. This was a man who had entertained multiple generations of filmgoers and fans, and like so many before him, we have been reduced to talking about his illness and what took him from us – and not his craft.
But I have been sad enough tonight.
Instead of continuing on that path, I will just say that I am eternally grateful for the hours of hard work Williams put into his performances and for all of the laughs he provided me over the years. I will never be able to thank him myself, but then, I do not think I would ever have to if I did have a chance. I am certain that he knew he touched so many lives, and that he was very good at making people laugh.
Oh Captain, my Captain. I wish you well in the next life, and know that you will be missed dearly by generations of fans and admirers. You were truly one of a kind.