BY BRIANNA BRIGGS
“You’re only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it.” – Robin Williams
Robin Williams was known and beloved for his ability to improvise comedy gold at the drop of a hat, but he also proved himself to be a beautiful and poetic actor when it came to his more serious roles.
Working his way around the San Francisco Bay area during the mid-1970s Williams would perform in various comedy clubs. After ending up in Los Angeles he was cast for a single episode on the sitcom Happy Days where he impressed the director with his improvisation skills so much so that he would soon land his very own spin off, Mork & Mindy.
The character of Mork was so popular that Williams soon became popular with Hollywood’s comedy writers. Although the first movies he starred in were commercial flops, he never wasted the opportunity to show the business his abilities.
Good Morning Vietnam earned Williams his first Academy Award nomination for his role as a shock jock who kept soldiers spirits high with his comedic impressions and philosophies. Producer Mark Johnson admitted to giving Williams little to no script and just put a microphone in front of him allowing him to come up with something new every take.
The nominations would continue to come in for Williams as he solidified himself as a comedian who was also talented when it came to the drama genre. Films such as Good Will Hunting and Dead Poets Society showcased Williams’s ability to take a character with serious undertones and give them a light-hearted nature. He was often able to include improvised jokes that were too special to cut.
An example of this is the memorable scene in Good Will Hunting where Williams’s character as a psychologist tells Matt Damon’s character that his wife will often fart in bed. The anecdote caught everyone so off guard that the camera shakes slightly from the cameraman’s laughter.
Robin Williams also showed a certain charisma that was perfect for children’s fantasy movies including Hook where he played an adult Peter Pan, and Jumanji where he played a character that must escape a cursed board game.
The family comedy Mrs Doubtfire would also show Williams as a sensitive character hidden throughout a man of laughs.
As his career progressed Williams dipped into voice acting where he could really let his improvisation loose. Films including Disney’s Aladdin (the character of Genie was created specifically for Williams) allowed him to say whatever he felt was right as there was often no script even written for the character he would play.
The death of Robin Williams spread shock throughout the entertainment industry. A coroner’s report revealed that Williams had committed suicide by hanging after suffering for many years with depression.
His death prompted an overwhelming response to the national ‘RU OK?’ Day, helping to draw attention to mental illness and support people living with depression.