“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams
I think it was a shock for everyone to learn yesterday that Robin Williams, the beloved comedian and Academy-Award winning actor, passed away at the age of 63.
The circumstances of his death have still not been completely revealed by his publicist and family, but I’m not writing this article to not talk about his death, and what may have caused it. I’m here to celebrate an American icon that provided audiences with dozens of jaw dropping performances in a career that spanned decades.
As many know, Williams first gained prominence in Mork and Mindy (1978). The show spent more time writing the lines for the other actors than Williams. An expert at stand-up and improv, Williams would never do the same thing twice while on set, and would offer a different line or take on scene after every single cut.
Even after Mork and Mindy’s cancellation in 1982, Williams’ career wasn’t slowing down. In 1987, the actor would receive not only praise from audiences, but critics as well for his performance in Good Morning Vietnam. His role as a wartime journalist frustrated by the censorship of the time gave Williams yet another chance to show off his abilities as a master of improvisational comedy. Much like in Mork and Mindy, Williams requested to do multiple takes on scenes, especially when filming the fictional broadcasts.
Williams would continue to earn critical acclaim for his work in films like Dead Poets Society (1989), where he plays an eccentric poetry professor, and Aladdin (1992), in which he lends his voice to the breakout character of the film, Genie.
Aladdin is a personal favorite of mine since I was a child of the 1990s. As any parent knows, kids love to re-watch movies over and over again. Aladdin was one of those films for me. I must have watched that movie at least once a week every Friday. Williams’ vocal work as Genie probably contributed to the films infinite re-watchability.
Even with all of these numerous successes and critical recognition, nothing could prepare audiences for one of Williams’ most beloved roles of all time, Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). Mrs. Doubtfire is not only considered a classic, but one of the greatest family-films of all time. The story of a recently divorced father trying to spend time with his children is both hilarious and poignant. Disguising himself as a Scottish nanny named Mrs. Doubtfire, Williams’ cross dressing Daniel Hillard made great efforts to be with his children. As creepy as the premise may sound, the film is nothing short of endearing and heartfelt.
Yes, Williams typically liked to star in comedies and family films, but his choice to do more dramatic work truly showcased his dedication to deliver a complicated and flawed character to filmgoers.
With films like Awakenings (1990), Insomnia (2000) and One Hour Photo (2001), Williams was allowed to show his range as a performer and give audiences a chance to see him in a new light. Gone were the more wild antics commonly seen in many of his comedic characters. In the place of his comedic style was an often soft spoken and thoughtful person, who had a desire to connect with those around them. This was shown in spades in his supporting role in Good Will Hunting (1997). While not the leading man, Williams still delivered the powerhouse performance of the movie. Playing a grieving psychiatrist mourning the death of his wife, Williams’ Dr. Sean Maguire worked tirelessly to help a troubled youth played by Matt Damon. His role in the film is still looked at as one of the actor’s best.
Like so many people who watched him, I was moved by Robin Williams’ characters. He was able to capture so much emotion in the roles he inhabited. He could make you laugh, cry and stop and think about what was truly important in your life. It’s these three things that I hope people remember about him. His dedication to entertain people will not be forgotten, and he will live on forever in the minds of those that watched him work his craft.
What about you reader? What’s your favorite Robin Williams movie? Let us know in the comments below.