Robin Williams passed away this morning. He has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.
The news comes as a pretty big shock, even if you consider that Robin Williams had a troubled past. He had certainly been open about his previous struggles with addiction. In any case, Robin Williams was one of Hollywood’s biggest success stories. It wasn’t enough that he became an overnight star playing a silly space alien in the ’70s sitcom Mork & Mindy. Williams still managed to overcome that initial burst of fame to become one of the industry’s most respected actors.
Williams’ first starring role was in a 1980 musical based on the cartoon character Popeye. It was a misfire, but a really brilliant and ambitious one. Williams then took on the title role of The World According to Garp in 1982, and John Irving’s hit novel gave Williams a real showcase for his dramatic range. That gave Williams the freedom to switch back to big-screen comedies–and by 1987’s Good Morning, Vietnam, Williams was a proper movie star.
Williams went into the ’90s with a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Dead Poets Society. He managed to stay a major Hollywood star through the ’90s, and then began to concentrate on indie films with the occasional big feature. He won over a generation of kids with his voice work in Disney’s Aladdin in 1992, and then found more young fans with his work as Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum films–with the upcoming Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb possibly offering his final role.
And, of course, Robin Williams could never stay away from doing his own brand of frantic standup. What had once been fueled by cocaine instead became fueled by outrage and a sense of disbelief at the human spirit–with Williams frequently referring back to his own personal problems. Some of that came up last year when he showed up on Reddit for an AMA interview.
But let’s honor him today by looking back at Williams at the end of the ’70s. This is a short clip, but we really like how it seems like something that the internet would put together today. Williams certainly had the talent and the diversity to cram all kinds of fun things into the search engine that he called a mind. That’s how audiences once got the spectacle of Elmer Fudd performing Bruce Springsteen’s sultry “Fire”…