Unexpected, shocking and tremendously sad news arrives this afternoon. Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams has passed away today at the age of 63. Early reports indicate that Williams may have taken his own life.
Whatever the details surrounding his death, his career was remarkable, with Williams conquering whatever medium he managed to touch — stand-up, Broadway stage, television and the movies. He attended Julliard where his skill was quickly noticed, and within a couple of years of leaving school, Williams would be leading his own primetime sitcom, "Mork & Mindy." The "Happy Days" spinoff was a tremendous success, and was an early display for his quick wit and improvisational skills. But there was much, much more to come.
It wasn’t long before the movies came calling, and Williams carved out an impressive career with roles both comedic and dramatic, or more often with elements of both. Directors such as Barry Levinson ("Good Morning Vietnam"), Terry Gilliam ("The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen," "The Fisher King"), Steven Spielberg ("Hook," "A.I."), Mark Romanek ("One Hour Photo"), Gus Van Sant ("Good Will Hunting"), Kenneth Branagh ("Dead Again"), Penny Marshall ("Awakenings," "Hamlet"), Christopher Nolan ("Insomnia") and countless others all found different shades of his talent in the work. And even in an animated role, playing the genie in Disney‘s "Aladdin," Williams’ ferocious energy couldn’t be contained.
But the actor showed he could turn off the persona and charisma that made him famous, and fearlessly took on darker roles, often in independent productions. He consistently challenged himself through his work, but never completely left behind his comedic skills that won him a devoted audience. And for these efforts he was honored time and again by audiences and the industry, winning an Oscar for "Good Will Hunting" (he was nominated a total of four times), in addition to two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globes, five Grammys and more.
Williams’ final roles were in the comedy "Merry Friggin’ Christmas" and in the Monty Python animated picture "Absolutely Anything." He had been filming "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb," but there’s no word yet on whether he completed his scenes for the movie.
Williams was a drug addict during the ’70s and ’80s, but had quit. However, he was re-admitted to rehab in 2009 for alcohol addiction, and more recently checked in again last month where he had planned to stay for several weeks.
It’s hard to properly summarize Williams’ impact, but this video from Peter Weir‘s "Dead Poets Society" pretty much says it all. Williams will be greatly missed.