As you will by now have heard, American actor and comedian Robin Williams has passed away of an apparent suicide.
The beloved entertainer, best known for roles such as Peter Pan in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Hook’, The Genie in Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ and as Radio DJ Adrian Cronauer in ‘Good Morning Vietnam’, was found dead in his Paradise Cay, California home on August 12th.
As the news spread via television, print and social media, shocked and heartfelt tributes flooded in from the star’s friends, colleagues and even US President Barack Obama.
Robin Williams began his career as a stand-up comedian whilst attending New York’s famous Juilliard School and, from there was cast as an alien named Mork in the popular US sitcom ‘Happy Days’. In 1978, Williams became a series lead in the spin-off series ‘Mork & Mindy’; the show proved popular and made a star of its lead.
Following the series’ end, Williams focussed largely on film work. He was known for bringing his cartoonish and charismatic presence to his numerous comedy roles, but also for portraying sensitive, troubled and emotionally brittle characters in more dramatic films.
His boyish smile and considerable acting range led to a string of critical and commercial successes including ‘The World According to Garp’ (1982), ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ (1989) and ‘Good Will Hunting’ (1997) – for which he won an Academy Award.
He was also very in-demand as a voice actor, appearing as the computerized Dr. Know in Steven Spielberg’s ‘A.I: Artificial Intelligence’ (2001) as well as lending his considerable vocal talents to animated features such as ‘Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest’ (1992), ‘Robots’ (2005) and ‘Happy Feet’ (2006).
Williams’ other notable live action roles include the cross-dressing father Daniel Hillard in ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ (1993), as well as Alan Parrish, one of the central protagonists in the 1995 adventure film ‘Jumanji’ He also portrayed the writer-turned-killer Peter Finch in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Insomnia’ (2002) and the emotionally disturbed Sy Parrish (no relation to Alan) in 2002’s ‘One Hour Photo’.
Williams struggled with depression throughout his life and battled with both cocaine addiction and alcoholism. Shortly before his death, he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
According to a recent study, newly diagnosed Parkinson’s sufferers are twice as likely to suffer from symptoms of anxiety or depression. This is due to the impact the disease can have on the brain.
In Michael J. Fox’s autobiography ‘Lucky Man’, the star describes his own encounters with depression during the early onset of the disease. It is something that often goes completely untreated.
Depression is also a known side effect of some Parkinson’s medication.
Mental depression is a very misunderstood illness even today and will affect 1 in 10 people at some point in their lives. It is caused by a chemical imbalance that can be extremely difficult to combat.
Robin Williams’ life and body of work have touched more people than it would be possible to mention here. He will be sorely missed.
Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider, asked that the family be allowed to mourn privately, but said in a heartfelt statement, “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.”