As many of you are no doubt aware, Robin Williams, one of America’s best-known and most well-loved comedians and actors, passed away Monday at his home in Marin County, California yesterday. He was 63.
Robin Williams was known for his humor, his ability to make people laugh, and his gentle nature. Even in his most dramatic roles, he brought a depth of talent and humor that could make even the darkest part of the film brighter. Williams never let himself be pigeonholed as “the funny man.” He took on roles like Chris Nielsen in What Dreams May Come, Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting, John Keating in Dead Poets Society, and Dr. Malcolm Sayer in Awakenings. In each of those films, Williams was able to bring to life a complex, complicated, and sometimes dark character and give them a depth and lightness that transcended a man merely acting a role. And, even when he was playing an irreverent funny-man, such as in Good Morning, Vietnam or Aladdin, he handled the darker twists of the plot with a humanity that helped to make those films such rich and enjoyable experiences.
Williams got his start by playing the alien Mork in Happy Days and his character’s popularity was such that it resulted in a spin off — the well-known (and still one of my personal favorites) show Mork and Mindy. From there, he went on to headline several stand-up comedy acts such as Off The Wall, An Evening with Robin Williams, and Robin Williams: Live at the Met. He went on to star in some of the his most famous roles — several of which have already been listed — and in some roles in films that have a very strong following despite not achieving box-office or critical success. One of these films is my all-time personal favorite Williams film: Bicentennial Man.
If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it for you. The role Williams played in that film was something akin to the “man from Mars” type role he played as Mork. However, the humor in Bicentennial Man was much more poignant and moving. In the scenes between Williams and Australian actor Sam Neill, the emotions are palpable and I think that anyone who doesn’t at least have a hitch in their breath during the final scene with those two actors doesn’t have a heart. There are many other parts in the movie where Williams’ humor and gentle nature bring a smile to the lips and a tear to the eyes which is why, even if it flopped at the box office, I think that Bicentennial Man is one of the best films made in the late twentieth century.
What are some of your favorite Robin Williams roles or moments? And, if you had the chance to meet him, what would you say to him? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
– da Bird