Oscar-winning actor, comedian Robin Williams dead of apparent suicide
An iconic Bay Area tunnel, commonly known as the Waldo Tunnel or Rainbow Tunnel, will be named after the late actor Robin Williams.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead on Monday from an apparent suicide at his home in Northern California, Marin County Sheriff’s Office said. He was 63.
The sheriff’s coroner’s division said it suspects the death was a suicide due to asphyxia, but the cause of death is still under investigation and an autopsy will be conducted Tuesday.
“This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken,” Williams’s third wife, Susan Schneider, said in a statement.
Williams’ appeal stretched across generations and genres, from family fare as the voice of Disney’s blue Genie in “Aladdin” to his portrayal of a fatherly therapist in the 1997 drama “Good Will Hunting,” for which he earned his sole Oscar. He introduced his frenetic style to audiences on the late 1970s TV series “Mork & Mindy.”
But many remembered the master of impressions on Monday for his portrayal in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” when he played the part of a British nanny whose identity he assumed as a divorced father to be with his children.
Williams had been suffering from severe depression recently, his publicist Mara Buxbaum said. Williams had struggled with addiction in the past and had entered a Minnesota rehabilitation center last month to help him maintain sobriety.
His representatives at the time said Williams was not using drugs or alcohol but had gone to the center to “fine-tune and focus” his sobriety after working a longer-than-usual schedule.
The Marin County Sheriff’s office said it received an emergency call about noon local time on Monday, saying that Williams was unconscious and not breathing at his home near Tiburon, north of San Francisco. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Fellow comedic actor Steve Martin said in a tweet: “I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul.”
Presidentcalled Williams a “one of a kind” actor who could make people laugh and cry in his array of characters.
“He arrived in our lives as an alien - but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit,” Obama said in a statement.
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), and receiving nominations for “The Fisher King” (1991), “Dead Poets Society” (1989) and “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987).
Williams is scheduled to appear in “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” on Dec. 19, playing the statue of Teddy Roosevelt who comes to life at night. Twentieth Century Fox, which will distribute the film, had no immediate comment.
In April, the Hollywood Reporter said that Fox’s Fox 2000 division was developing a sequel to his 1993 hit “Mrs. Doubtfire” that would reunite Williams and director Chris Columbus.
In the film, Williams played one of his most enduring roles as a struggling actor and divorced father who assumes the identity of a British nanny to be closer to his children.
The actor was most recently in the CBS television comedy “The Crazy Ones,” which was canceled in May after one season.
Born in Chicago in 1951 and raised in a 30-room mansion in the affluent Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Williams became one of only two students accepted into John Houseman’s prestigious acting program at Juilliard, the other being Christopher Reeve, who became a lifelong friend.
Williams gained fame as Mork, the bizarre, suspenders-sporting alien on the sitcom “Mork & Mindy,” a spinoff from “Happy Days.” Williams departed from the script so often that producers intentionally left blank moments on page for Williams to have space to indulge his ad-libbing genius.
Williams married three times, most recently in 2011 to Schneider. He has three children.
In 1978, he married Valerie Velardi, a dancer. They had a son before divorcing. He married Marsha Garces in 1989 and had two children with her before they divorced.
It was his first wife who suggested Williams move to Los Angeles and direct his talents at television. His routines at prominent clubs — including a skit playing the chain-gang escapees portrayed by Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in the 1958 drama “The Defiant Ones” — won him the attention of TV producers in the audience. This led to guest appearances on shows, including ABC’s sitcom “Happy Days” as the alien Mork.
The show’s producers had turned down 50 performers for the role before Williams auditioned for Mork. “About five o’clock, in walked this boy with rainbow suspenders,” producer Jerry Paris told The New York Times. “When he sat down, I asked if he would sit a little differently, the way an alien might. Immediately, he sat on his head. We hired him.”
His death also deeply affected his local artists’ community, far from the hype of Hollywood.
“He embodied what it meant to be humble,” said Lucy Mercer, executive artistic director at Throckmorton Theatre, a small venue near Williams’ home, where the actor was known to try out new material.
“He doused us in his love and positive glow and never asked for anything in return.”
Reuters, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post
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