Robin Williams: a man of laughter and demons

Robin Williams has died aged 63
Robin Williams has died aged 63 AAP

THE Hollywood star Robin Williams was found dead on Monday at his home in Northern California from an apparent suicide. He was 63.

Marin County Sheriff's Office said it suspects the death was a suicide due to asphyxia, but the cause of death is still under investigation.

>>READ MORE: Tributes and shock at Robin Williams' death

Williams's wife Susan Schneider released a statement on Monday night in which she said: "This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken."

The star's publicist Mara Buxbaum said Williams had recently been suffering from severe depression.

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Williams, who had struggled with addictions to drink and drugs in the past, had entered a Minnesota rehabilitation centre last month to help him maintain sobriety.

Robin Williams and Sally Field had great chemistry in Mrs Doubtfire His representatives at the time said Williams was not using drugs or alcohol but had gone to the centre to "fine-tune and focus" his sobriety after working a longer-than-usual schedule.

The Marin County Sheriff's office said it received an emergency call about midday on Monday, saying that Williams was unconscious and not breathing at his home near Tiburon, north of San Francisco.



Fellow comedic actor Steve Martin said in a tweet: "I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul."

The thrice-married father-of-three was known to millions for his performances in films that ranged from the out and out manic comedy of Mrs Doubtfire, to more thought provoking fare like Dead Poets Society and The Fisher King.

In many films, like Good Morning Vietnam, Williams attracted widespread praise by successfully combining his gift for comedy with an exploration of more serious underlying themes.

Nominated for the best actor Oscar three times, Williams, he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the 1997 film Good Will Hunting, in which he played the therapist to Matt Damon's working class maths genius.

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Born in Chicago, he started off in stand-up comedy before first achieving widespread fame in the TV sitcom Mork and Mindy.  The show ran from 1978 to 1982 and Williams was frequently allowed to indulge his talent for improvised comedy while playing Mork, an alien living on Earth.

As Mork and Mindy became increasingly popular, Williams started to reach an even wider audience with a series of televised stand-up comedy shows.

During the late Seventies and early Eighties, however, Williams developed an addiction to cocaine.

Williams was a close friend of the comedian John Belushi who died of a cocaine and heroin overdose in 1982.  

Williams had enjoyed wild parties with Belushi and subsequently admitted that the death of his friend and the birth of his son prompted him to quit drugs: "Was it a wake-up call? Oh yeah, on a huge level."


Robin Williams on the stage for the television show Set List
Robin Williams on the stage for the television show Set List Dan Dion


On August 9, 2006, however, Williams checked himself into a rehab centre, later admitting he was an alcoholic.  His publicist announced: "After 20 years of sobriety, Robin Williams found himself drinking again and has decided to take proactive measures to deal with this for his own well-being and the well-being of his family."

Three years later, in March 2009 Williams was hospitalised by heart problems, and had to undergo surgery to surgery to replace his aortic valve.

A keen charity fundraiser Williams had his second wife, Marsha, founded the Windfall Foundation, with his ex-wife Marsha, to raise money for a wide variety of charities.

Topics:  editors picks robin williams

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