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For those of us who were in school during the early 1990s Robin Williams (63) was not a man. He was a warm, hilarious, buxom, larger-than-life nanny to two little children in San Francisco, whom he loved so very dearly that he was willing to squeeze himself daily into a curvaceous body suit and slap on dubious makeup so he could be near them.
Heartbreakingly sad though the news of his death on Monday evening was, it was clear to me, and I suspect to all those who savoured the talent of this slapstick humanist genius, that he has accomplished what he might have entered this earth to achieve, to imbue us all with a sense of hope that we each have something within us that might end up being our very salvation.
While his filmography is easily lengthy and profound enough to classify him among the greatest Hollywood stars ever, and indeed even Disney, with whom he had several disputes, designated him a ‘Disney Legend,’ it was as if his own life mirrored the same struggles of the soul that he portrayed so effortlessly in his work.
Mr. Williams waged a multi-decade battle against addiction, initially struggling with cocaine use in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and then in August 2006 he checked himself in to a substance-abuse rehabilitation centre for what he later admitted were problems with alcoholism.
In the end another of his demons, severe and recurrent depression, appeared to have pushed him over the edge, as the Marin County Sheriff’s Office ruled his death a case of apparent suicide due to asphyxia, which occurred at his home in Northern California.
Mr. Williams had fought the darkness fiercely though, and in fact produced some of his most spectacular works from the very depths of his most turbulent years.
Among these three films stand out above all others: Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), and what many would describe as his magnum opus, Good Will Hunting (1997).
For each he won multiple nominations from the likes of the Academy, BAFTA, the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild, and for Good Will Hunting he swept away the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his devastating portrayal of psychologist Sean Maguire as he gently brought into daylight the unparalleled genius that lurked beneath a frightened, abused kid from South Boston.
Yet Mr. Williams’ popularity, some would say cross-generational cult status, among actors of his time came partly from the ease with which he balanced heavier roles with utterly farcical, perfectly delivered comedic avatars, including the eccentric veterinarian-turned-OBGYN doctor from ‘maather Russia,’ in Nine Months.
In fact according to Robin Williams trivia he reprised this role when visiting his old film school buddy Christopher ‘Superman’ Reeve in hospital after a 1995 horse-riding accident left Mr. Reeve a quadriplegic – and walking into his room he was said to have announced that he was there to perform a colonoscopy, prompting Mr. Reeve to laugh for the first time since his accident.
This, and doubtless many more such moments in Mr. Williams’ life, are what his fans and friends world over will remember him for, that he lifted us all up with such effortless, light-hearted humour, that we surprised ourselves. In Dead Poets Society the favourite phrase of his inspirational English literature teacher John Keating was ‘carpe diem,’ or ‘seize the day.’ You truly did Mr. Williams, and that day was your life.
From: The Hindu