The world has been left stunned by the news that Robin Williams has died in an apparent suicide at the age of 63.
Although he was best known as a comedic actor, he took on a huge variation of roles during a career that lasted more than four decades, attracting three Academy Award nominations for best actor and winning one for best supporting actor, as well as bagging two Emmys, four Golden Globes and five Grammys.
Here are just some of his career highlights.
Mork and Mindy
The role that launched the man, the merchandise and – of course – the catchphrase, Willams’ break-out TV role saw him play the alien who comes to Earth in an egg, endearing audiences everywhere.
Easily Williams’ most popular role, people forget how sinister this plot is on paper. Dude dresses up as an old woman to sneak into his ex-wife’s house. If it wasn’t a comedy, the story could easily serve as a thriller/horror. He even tries to murder Pierce Brosnan in it.
A career-best performance and he doesn’t even appear on screen. Genie could possibly be Disney’s greatest character, a unique slot in that he’s not the main hero or the villain. Bizarrely, Williams and Disney had a massive falling out over the film because they used him in more promotional material than he’d agreed. Friend Like Me and Prince Ali are far better songs than A Whole New World, too. Can your friends do this?
Good Morning, Vietnam
If ever there was a role written for Robin Williams, it was the war-time radio jock who pisses off his superiors but is popular with the troops. I say written, but he improvised most of the radio broadcast scenes. The role earned him his first ever best actor Oscar nomination, and the fact that he lost out to Michael Douglas in Wall Street is considered by some one of the Academy’s ‘wrong calls’.
The Fisher King
Earning him his third best actor nomination for playing a homeless man (he would lose out to Anthony Hopkins for Silence Of The Lambs), this film was the first time I was introduced to the concept of suicide as a child; I never would one day be writing about its star actually committing it.
It must have been a coin-toss to see who got to play the super-effeminate, uber-gay drag queen. Nathan Lane called it right, and Robin Williams nobly reigned it in as the ‘straighter’ partner, allowing Lane to crank the gay up to 11.
There simply is not another actor in the world who could play the grown up Peter Pan. In this scene, he finally makes the leap from old fart Peter Banning to the Neverland Hero with three simple words: ‘substitute chemistry teacher’.
Robin Williams a baddie?! Yup, and a pretty good one at that, as he’s chased across the eternal daylight of Alaska by Al Pacino in this Christopher Nolan thriller.
One Hour Photo
One of Williams’ best acting performances IMHO, he plays a super creepy photo developer obsessed with a family, yet you still sort of root for him.
Yes! He played Popeye! Not a lot of people realise this! Yes, the film is crap, but Williams is oddly convincing as the spinach-munching sailor-man.
Good Will Hunting
BFFs Ben Affleck and Matt Damon may have gotten all the attention for writing (and winning an Oscar for) the film while prepubescent, but it was also the film that finally landed Williams his first and only statuette, for his best supporting turn.
The board game every kid wanted for Christmas in 1995. Williams should have kept the beard though. Yet another display of Williams’ knack for mixing pathos with comedy.
Dead Poets Society
A million films have done the ‘unusual teacher’ bit, but none came close to the ‘oh captain my captain’ Robin Williams version, which got him a best actor nod and helped multiply the film’s meagre $16million budget by 15 at the box office
What Dreams May Come
This brilliant and somewhat underrated film also deals with suicide – which suggests those that kill themselves go to hell – and I reckon will be a much sadder watch next time I see it now.