Robin Williams (1951-2014)

On August 11th 2014 the world seemed to stop for a time, as the sad news of Robin Williams passing reverberated around the globe, sending people into an instant state of mourning for a man beloved by millions.

In a career that spanned almost 40 years, Robin Williams was without a doubt one of the most successful and influential actors and comedians in the history of entertainment, who leaves us a legacy of performances that will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come.

To celebrate the life of this incredibly talented and kindhearted man, journey back to some of his most famous performances and the timeless classics that defined a generations childhood (mine included).

The Early Years

Before becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Robin Williams began his showbiz career as a stand-up comedian in San Francisco in the early 1970′s, and quickly became a major contributor to California’s comedy ‘renaissance’ in the 1970′s and 80′s.

It wasn’t until 1979 that Williams found himself propelled into the spotlight on a worldwide scale when he landed the part of Mork, in the hit television comedy sitcom,

Mork & Mindy (1978-1982)

This cult sitcom followed the story of Mork, a wacky alien who journey’s to Earth to study it’s inhabitants, but soon finds himself the lodger of an unsuspecting woman named Mindy (played by Pam Dawber). The comedy sitcom became an instant hit with audiences around the world, due much in part to the outstanding comedic performances by Williams, who quickly became one of television’s leading actors.

It may be surprising to some fans to know that Mork & Mindy was in fact a spin-off that came about due to Williams successful guest appearance as Mork on the hit show Happy Days in 1978.

Producers at ABC were so impressed by Williams comedic prowess that they quickly devised a pilot for a spin-off show based on the character.

Mork & Mindy lasted four incredibly successful seasons before being cancelled in 1982, but by then Robin Williams was already been propelled to super-stardom in Hollywood. During these four years, Williams had seen his stand-up comedy career continue to blossom having picked up a Grammy Award in 1979 his live show ‘Reality…What a Concept’, as well as gracing the cover of Time magazine in the same year.

Movie Star Teething Problems

For the first part of the 1980’s, Williams found that his movie career was developing some ‘teething problems’ in it’s early stages, with a string on unsuccessful films including Popeye (1980) and The Survivors (1983), though that didn’t signal the end for this talented actor.

In 1986, thanks mainly in part to his success on the small screen as well as his rock solid stand-up career, Williams found himself co-hosting the 58th annual Academy Awards, a moment that would prove to be the turning point in his acting career.

The Big Break

By now it’s the mid 1980’s and Williams has seen his career take off at alarming rates, first with a hit TV show, then an award-winning stand-up career, and followed up by a co-hosting spot on Hollywood’s biggest night – it’s no surprise then that Williams big break was literally around the corner.

Good Morning, Vietnam

It was the break his movie career had been waiting for, and man did Williams take the opportunity and spin it into pure magic…magic that resulted in an unforgettable performance, rightfully earning him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Leading Actor.

Set during the Vietnam War, Good Morning Vietnam sees Williams play the character of Adrian Cronauer, a slightly unorthodox radio DJ who decides to shake things up when he’s assigned to the United States Armed Forces radio station.

The film spawned some truly memorable scenes and one-liners that showed the world just why Williams was one of the most talented voice actors in the world.

Hitting the Ground Running

It was official – Williams was now one of Hollywood’s top leading men, capable of taking on any role without fear of failure, and turning in breathtaking performances that made people stand up and notice.

In 1989, only two years after the critical success of Good Morning Vietnam, Williams signed on to star in Peter Weir’s poetic masterpiece, Dead Poets Society, a coming of age drama about an English teacher who sets out to inspire his students to break from the norm that is private school and seize the day through the art of poetry.

The film netted Williams his second Academy Award nomination in the space of two years and cemented his place amongst Hollywood royalty. The film, despite taking on serious connotations, only helped to propel Williams comedic career, with sell out shows across the world, he was a man in demand on a global scale.

Yet the best was yet to come, for this versatile soul, as he was about to enter the golden years of his career, and inspire a generation growing up.

The Golden Years – Inspiring a Generation

The 90’s had arrived and Williams career was on top of the world, with a string of outstanding performances and two Oscar-nominations to his name, you’d forgive him for wondering if it was all about to crash down around him…well the complete opposite occurred, and Williams was about to embark on his journey to legendary status.

In 1991, Williams received yet another Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, taking the total to three, for his portrayal of a troubled homeless man in The Fisher King, co-starring Jeff Bridges.

For a performer like Robin Williams, the dream is to inspire people with the knowledge that anything is possible in this world, so long as you remember to laugh a little…or a lot if Williams has anything to do with it. What I’m sure he didn’t know heading into this pre-millenium decade, was how much of an impact he would have on an entire generation of children (myself included) and parents.

The Fantastic Four

If like me, you were a kid growing up in the 90’s, I’m sure if you think back to the films that stood out the most in your childhood, there will be four that come to the forefront of your mind pretty quickly… Hook (1991), Aladdin (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), and Jumanji (1995).

The Recognition So Rightly Deserved

There’s no denying the 90’s very infinitely better thanks to Williams and his unwavering talent to make us all laugh, cry, and cause mischief wherever possible. But this decade didn’t just belong to comedy, in 1997, a year thought to be one of the greatest in box-office history, Williams gave a career performance that finally secured him that Academy Award that has long since eluded him.

Oscar success: Williams (winner of Best Supporting Actor) alongside Best Original Screenplay winners Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

Good Will Hunting, written by and co-starring Hollywood supremos Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, this Gus Van Sant directed epic, follows Will Hunting (Damon), a troublesome janitor at the prestigious M.I.T university, who upon showcasing a gift for mathematics, seeks the help and guidance of psychologist Sean Maguire (Williams) to get his life back on the right track before it’s too late.

Good Will Hunting, written by and co-starring Hollywood supremos Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, this Gus Van Sant directed epic, follows Will Hunting (Damon), a troublesome janitor at the prestigious M.I.T university, who upon showcasing a gift for mathematics, seeks the help and guidance of psychologist Sean Maguire (Williams) to get his life back on the right track before it’s too late.

Adapting His Craft

Academy Award success, legendary actor status, and command of any film he wanted, Williams career had it all, yet despite the big bucks, he remained committed to what he does best, throwing peoples emotions into chaos with his outstanding performances. As the 90’s came to an end, Williams continued to make memorable characters come to life in ways only he could, and none so poignant then the character of Patch Adams.

Patch Adams (1998)

If there were ever a performance that showcased Williams roar and unchallenged ability to infuse his comedic prowess and heart-felt dramatic emotion, Patch Adams is that exact example.

Based on a true story, Patch Adams charts the life of a medical student, who’s belief that laughter is truly the best medicine, finds himself at logger heads with the medical and scientific community who feel his unorthodox methods of patient care are not welcome in his profession.

As well as being a box-office smash, Patch Adams developed a cult following amongst his fans around the world, with many adamant that Williams deserved Academy recognition for the performance.

Uncharted Territory

The new millennium brought new challenges for Williams actor career, taking a step back from the comedic drama’s we’d come to know him so well for, Williams delivered to incredibly chilling performances in One Hour Photo (2002) and Insomnia (2002). This was certainly a new side of Williams acting ability we had never seen and it only reinforced why he was one of the greatest, most versatile actors in history.

A Testing Time For The Movie Star

In the mid ‘naughties’, despite starring alongside Ben Stiller in the successful Night at the Museum franchise, Williams career seemed to hit a rut, with a string of unsuccessful family comedies including RV (2006), Man of the Year (2006), and Old Dogs (2009). Despite the issues surrounding Williams movie career, his stand-up shows continued to flourish, and in 2013, Williams made a return to the small screen in the comedy series, The Crazy Ones, alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar.

The series followed a slightly crazy advertising agency owner and his daughter (Gellar) and the trials and tribulations that come with owning one of the biggest advertising companies in the world. Despite being cancelled after only one season, The Crazy Ones received critical acclaim and kick-started Williams career again, with sequels to his hit films, Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) and Jumanji (1995) in the pipeline.

Robin Williams alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar in The Crazy Ones (TV, 2013).

Saying Goodbye To An Icon

Looking back over Robin Williams long and illustrious career, you can’t help but feel grateful for the legacy that he left the world, both as a movie star and stand-up comic, but also as a kind-hearted, selfless person who’s dream was to make the world laugh – well it’s a dream that came true over and over again.

Robin Williams, we thank you for the laughter, tears, and unforgettable performances that will continue to inspire generations to come! RIP.