Billy Crystal reportedly said recently that his heartfelt homage to the late Robin Williams at the Emmy Awards was the hardest thing he’s ever done. His speech was honest and extremely moving. So much so that it’s provoked me to publish my tribute to the comedy genius, and to the man I’ve never met, but always adored.
Reading of Robin Williams’ death left me feeling like a family member had died. He had always been one of my role models growing up. I remember watching him in Hook, the quirky Peter Pan remake, when I was a small child and giggling uncontrollably. I’d watch it almost every day on repeat; it drove my parents crazy.
As I got older I’d turn to his films in times of deep depression and anxiety; his hilarity and wit has helped me wade off my own demons – if only for an hour or two – which made hearing of his tragic suicide, after succumbing to depression, even harder to take.
When I was a kid, my two go to movies were Jumanji and, of course, the unforgettable Mrs Doubtfire. And in my teens I’d regularly turn to Jack; the uplifting yet equally saddening, Patch Adams; or the hilarious, Good Morning Vietnam, to help me raise a smile. As I got older, and my film taste matured, I watched of the warmly inspiring Good Will Hunting; the harrowing Dead Poets Society; and the emotionally gripping Awakenings. A truly amazing collection of movies.
Robin Williams’ films gave me a real-life education and allowed me to experience a rollercoaster of emotions, and all through the medium of film. Whether it was a side-splitting comedy I was in search of, or a deeper, darker movie, I could, and always will, count on him and his undeniable acting talent to entertain me. He had a natural born knack of being able to make people laugh on cue and his ability to ad-lib was second to none, which stemmed from his early days as a stand-up comic.
The charismatic actor’s skill set was extremely diverse, although he’ll mainly be remembered for his comedic side, and understandably so. His quirky mannerisms and outlandish facial expressions made me smile even on the saddest of days. But, his acting dexterity was not restricted solely to comedy; he could comfortably fit into the role of a quirky, introverted oddball – as he demonstrated in One Hour Photo. And he pulled of a washed-up writer turned grieving teacher in The World’s Greatest Dad – an offbeat black comedy – impeccably well, too.
He has left behind a legacy that is huge in scope and undeniably memorable. He did, however, make a handful of poor film choices in his later years, the Man of The Year, License to Wed and Old Dogs were all panned by critics, and deservedly so. Though it is devastating to hear now that Williams’ choices may have been forced by his reported money problems. Whether that’s the case or not it would take a lot more than a handful of ordinary films to pollute his vast body of work, which is as impressive as any of Hollywood’s best actors.
He is, and always will be, one of the greatest natural performers of all time regardless of his off screen problems. In fact, how he managed to juggle depression and addiction with a successful career makes his acting endeavours even more commendable. I’d never have thought of Robin Williams as anything other than one of the loveable, flamboyant characters he portrayed on screen, if not for post suicide reports. And as a person that sufferers from depression myself that now seems very naive.
I guess it is only those close to him that truly knew this other darker side to him. Though that’s not to say his problems went unmentioned in the media, looking back he openly spoke about his battle with addiction, whether that be booze or cocaine. So maybe my ignorance was a subconscious act and I didn’t want to believe one of my idols was, in fact, human after all.
But just like many other great artists and heroes of mine – from the talented singer-songwriter, Elliot Smith, to the more recent death of Oscar-winning actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman – Robin Williams has met a similar, gut wrenching fate at the hands of a the dark evil. Depression is a vicious and destructive disease.
It’s a tragedy, as it always is, to lose such a talent, and a generous, kind soul. If he’d had someone to turn to in the same ways I had turned to him, maybe, just maybe things would have turned out different. But I guess we will never know. Life has many sad clowns, but Robin Williams is one that I will truly miss forever.