Influential actor Robin Williams died by suicide in 2014 while battling Lewy body dementia. He is still remembered for his legendary performances, banking over a hundred acting credits during his lifetime.
A legendary career
Williams was first discovered for playing the role of “Mork, from Ork,” an extraterrestrial from the planet Ork, in a “Happy Days” episode from 1974. The role led to the highly rated spinoff “Mork & Mindy,” which aired on ABC between 1978 to 1982. Williams was known to go off script often while filming and eventually, the producers started deliberately leaving gaps in the scripts, giving him room to improvise. “Mork can go off here,” the page would say, according to IMDb.
Meanwhile, he was also working on his debut feature film, starring in the 1980 film “Popeye.” After that, his career officially took off. Williams won 65 of 85 award nominations — including the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes.
Robin Williams’ death
Williams’ work has had cultural impact, inspiring young actors and viewers alike.
He was found dead in his home in Paradise Cay, California. Williams struggled with alcohol and drug addiction as he grappled with his declining mental health.
The late actor is survived by his wife Susan Schneider Williams, and his three children — Zelda, Zachary and Cody.
July 21 would have been Williams’ 71st birthday. The Deseret News has compiled a list of the best of Williams’ work to mark the occasion.
1. ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ (1987)
Only seven years after his debut in film, Williams received an Oscar nomination for this war comedy. He played Adrian Cronauer, a disc jockey in the Vietnam War era, loosely based on the real-life story of an army vet.
“The film is all Williams; he has a field day with this character and this country and this period in history, with all its horror — and comedy,” wrote Cathy Burke for United Press International.
2. ‘Dead Poets Society’ (1989)
As a cult classic, this garnered Williams his second Oscar nomination. The actor played the role of a young English teacher at a strict all-boys prep school, taking the liberty of improvising about 15% of his dialogue.
“That was the scene where I was supposed to read a poem in front of the class and it was the first time in my life that I ever experienced the thrill of acting and the thrill of losing yourself,” said Ethan Hawke, who plays a student in the movie.
“There’s this whole thing in the public that acting is this huge celebration of the personality and the ego, of course, and the irony is that whenever it’s any good, it’s devoid of ego. It’s a high that I’ve chased my whole life since that day with Robin. It’s this way of losing yourself, where you lose yourself inside a story, a story that’s in service of something way beyond you. And I felt that in ‘Dead Poets Society.’”
3. ‘Aladdin’ (1992)
A solid 95% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes is a testament to this movie’s success. In it, Williams voiced Genie, a role that allowed him free rein, morphing into anything from a “piano-lounge emcee to TV game-show host,” according to Maclean’s Magazine.
Scott Weinger, who was a teenager when he voiced Aladdin in the film, was starstruck by Williams, finding his energy dizzying, as he told Deseret News’ Lottie Johnson.
“I got to be in the little sound studio with him and watch him do his performance. I’ll never forget it,” he said. “There wasn’t a single take we did that was ever the same. … I guess (during) one of his takes, I was worn down by his imagination, … and he was so funny, that I literally fell down.”
4. ‘Good Will Hunting’ (1997)
Williams earned his only Oscar for the role of Sean Maguire, Will Hunting’s therapist, in “Good Will Hunting.” Although known for his comedy, this movie allowed him to show off a more serious side. The movie has a Rotten Tomatoes critic score of 96%.
“With only tiny hints of humor, Williams offers here a performance that is often tender, frequently intense and perhaps the truth underneath much of his comedy,” said The Independent Critic.
5. ‘Happy Feet’ (2006)
Voicing a few different characters, Williams “matches the high bar he set during the ’90s,” said Slash Film writer Scott Thomas.
“Oh man, it is a blast and he is so much fun because he just lets you rip,” Williams said about the film’s director, producer and co-writer, George Miller. “He put me in a room with all these Latino comics and it has been so much fun. I play about four different characters: An Argentinean penguin, a big Emperor penguin, and a sea lion, amongst others.”