There can’t be many people in the Western world who weren’t affected by Robin Williams’ death. He wasn’t a politician, or royalty, but it feels like, just like with the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Princess Diana, everyone remembers where they were when they heard about his tragic decision to take his own life.
(I was at the Edinburgh Fringe when it happened, doing a piece for a now-defunct magazine where I spoke to comedians and street performers about the last thing that had made them cry. Tell you what, it was pretty samey! That was a long, sad, exhausting day, which involved a lot people in silly clothes crying in my arms. As luck would have it, I was extremely drunk.)
It was difficult not to love Robin Williams. As well as being so, so, funny, there was a kind of all-pervading warmth that seemed to come from the screen whenever he was on it. Even at his most drug-fuelled and wacky, he seemed to exude decency. He did pure, childlike sweetness – like in Mork & Mindy, Jack and Hook – better than anyone, but it was in his dramatic performances that he really knocked people’s socks off. Awakenings, Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King, Dead Poet’s Society – all on-paper serious roles that he brought humour and humanity to. Everyone remembers Mrs Doubtfire for the wacky bits and silly voices, but it’s also a fairly heartbreaking look at divorce.
He had his detractors – there was a tendency towards schmaltz and sentimentality in some of his work (Bicentennial Man is 100% pure shit, for instance) that enraged certain critics, and his coke-fuelled manic energy on stage was a bit much for some – but there was no denying the talent and charisma of the man. Much of the criticism levelled towards him for his less impressive output was born out of frustration that the unfeasibly hairy-armed motormouth seemed capable of so much better.
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Now, nearly four years after his death, HBO is airing Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, a feature-length documentary compiled from hundreds of interviews Williams gave over the years, as well as home video footage and new interviews with his friends and family. HEY, ARE YOU GOING TO CRY WATCHING IT? YES YOU ARE. WE ALL ARE.
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is on HBO on July 16th, so probably on Sky Atlantic at some point