Very sad to hear about the death of Robin Williams. There goes another piece of our childhoods.
“Death,” Robin Williams once said, “is nature’s way of saying, ‘Your table is ready'”.
Robin Williams is one of those guys you don’t really even have to be a particular fan of to have been familiar with his work and have had at least some of his work have been a small part of your landscape. Whether you were watching Aladdin as a kid or something more grown-up like Good Will Hunting, there will have been something you’ll remember him for.
For me, I remember watching re-runs of Mork and Mindy when I was younger and loving that guy through my five-year-old lens. Stuff like that isn’t as funny when you get older, but Robin Williams’s extremely varied body of work means that even as your inner five-year-old is remembering things like Mork and Mindy, you’re grown-up self is able to remember Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poet Society or Good Will Hunting. Although actually I still have a soft spot for Mork and Mindy too.
Good Morning Vietnam and Good Will Hunting are probably his two best films, in my opinion. He appeared in a number of truly awful films too; but those are films I’m looking at through my grown-up lens and films that, were I a child still, I might have regarded very differently. Indeed that was in part the reason he took on a lot of those roles – to appeal to and entertain younger audiences. The fact that he took on more serious, darker roles in more recent years demonstrated that he was a performer of varied, expansive capabilities.
While his often excess of energy and loudness isn’t always to everyone’s tastes (apart from Jim Carrey I can’t think of a comedy actor with that kind of frantic energy – as if there’s just too much energy building up inside and begging to be released), he also showed in more serious roles that he could be just as measured and subdued as any actor. I actually never got around to watching One Hour Photo, partly because I was uncomfortable with the idea of seeing him in such a dark, creepy role – I guess my grown-up self was just protecting my five-year-old self.
The fact that he was also a major contender for playing The Joker in both the Tim Burton Batman film of the late eighties and the more recent Christopher Nolan movie, as well as The Riddler in Batman Forever, provides one of the great ‘what ifs” of film. I’d love to see Robin Williams’ interpretation of The Joker. BTW, Disney’s Aladdin was only good because of Robin Williams’ Genie.
The last thing I saw him in, curiously enough, was an old Richard Pryor Roast from the early eighties that I found on You Tube – and he was very funny in that. The Richard Pryor Show was, in fact, one of Robin Williams’s earliest breakthrough gigs; and it’s sad to think that both of them – both similar in some ways and yet very different in others – have passed away before their time.
Weirdly – and I guess this is just one of those strange synchronicity moments in life – the episode of Family Guy I was watching on BBC3 last night just before the news of his death broke on the news channels was one where everything Peter touches turns into Robin Williams 🙂 The episode, which I’d never seen before, was full of references to most of Robin Williams’ movies and one-liners. Strange.
“You’re only given one little spark of madness,” Robin Williams is quoted as saying once, “you mustn’t lose it.”