Last night I learned of the sad news that comedian and actor Robin Williams passed away yesterday at only 63. To add to the shock of losing such a master craftsman we learned that it appeared that he took his own life. I hope that I will never truly understand the terrible disease that is substance addiction and the depression he sought help with but I cannot condone his choice which I regard as an act of utter selfishness.
Nevertheless, one cannot deny the contribution that Williams gave to the entertainment industry and the world of comedy over the past 40 years. Williams was firstly a stand-up comedian and performed on stage every chance he got all throughout his professional career. His big break was in 1978 when he portrayed the alien Mork in an episode of Happy Days. The character was such a hit he soon had his own spin-off TV Series Mork & Mindy which lasted four seasons and made him a household name.
Williams made dozens of movies throughout his illustrious and prolific career. He made family favourites like Hook, Jumanji and Mrs. Doubtfire. He delivered 4 Academy Award nominated performances including Dead Poets Society and won for his performance in Good Will Hunting. Like most actors who have worked as long as he did, he also made some monumental disasters like Popeye and Cadillac Man. He explored his darkside in Insomnia and One-Hour Photo. He lent his voice to dozens of animated characters from Aladdin to Happy Feet. Two of his final roles will be as U.S. Presidents - Eisenhower in The Butler and Roosevelt in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.
Everyone who watches movies has their own favourite Robin Williams movie. Mine is Good Morning Vietnam. Despite what I think is Williams' greatest performance for which he received his first Oscar nomination, the movie taught me about censorship [and why it's needed] and that no matter how shitty the job is, even if it's against your personal beliefs - if you're the best at it, you have to do it.
In life, Williams was a D&D and tabletop RPG player and an avid video gamer playing Battlefield 2 and and World of Warcraft. He named his daughter after Princess Zelda and it's believed his son Cody is named for the character in Final Fight.
There have been many tributes on TV, online and in the press today from actors, comedians, writers, directors and even President Obama but one that I was most surprised to see was when I read today's Press Releases from the Pentagon and among the usual DoD and military announcements issued daily was official note from the Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel:
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. NR-424-14
August 11, 2014
Statement by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on the Passing of Robin Williams
The entire of Department of Defense community mourns the loss of Robin Williams. Robin was a gifted actor and comedian, but he was also a true friend and supporter of our troops. From entertaining thousands of service men and women in war zones, to his philanthropy that helped veterans struggling with hidden wounds of war, he was a loyal and compassionate advocate for all who serve this nation in uniform. He will be dearly missed by the men and women of DoD - so many of whom were personally touched by his humor and generosity.
I know other entertainers who have died in recent years have done USO shows but I honestly can't say I recall reading an official DoD press release for someone who has not served in uniform or in office for the Department of Defence, so this is truly special, just like he was.