Earlier today, we learned the mind-numbing news that actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead in his home at age 63. I say "mind-numbing" because this celebrity death hit us hard at Moviepilot. He was one of the good ones, one of the ones you thought would be around forever because, well...he always had been. I sat at my computer for a few moments, just staring at my screen, not quite able to get my brain wrapped around the words "Robin Williams is dead."
He was an icon. He was a legend. And there are those who callously dismiss it when a celebrity dies, but the reality is that he affected many lives throughout the years, including ours. So we decided to share some of our favorite memories and roles of his in tribute.
Alisha Grauso - Editor-in-Chief
This one hit me hard. Robin Williams was such an integral part of my life, for all of my life, that it didn't even occur to me until I heard that he had passed away just how much his work had been there in the background of my formative years.
I could talk about how my sisters and I grew up to old reruns of Mork & Mindy, or that Aladdin is my favorite Disney movie because of him, or how Dead Poets Society shaped my life and the future English lit student I would become.
Instead, I'd like to talk about the man I met when I was an 18-year-old college sophomore, working at Walt Disney World's MGM Studios for a semester-long internship. This was before Williams' decade-long falling out with the House of Mouse, and he was a regular fixture at the Disney parks. Urban legends sprang up of him being such a down-to-earth guy that he eschewed the 5-star Disney resorts in favor of camping in its RV park, of carrying his own dishes back to the kitchens to surprise the waitstaff at its various restaurants.
I met him one day as I was working as a bellhop at Disney-MGM's Tower of Terror ride. One moment I was waiting for my relief to come so I could rotate into a different position, and the next, Robin Williams was in front of me, larger than life and enthusiastic and wanting to know if I could take him to the control room. I obliged, even though we weren't supposed to let guests behind the velvet rope, so to speak, because, well...how was I going to say no to the Genie? So I led him back to the control room and when my manager gave me one of THOSE looks, with eyes bugging out of his head, I just shrugged helplessly: It's Robin Williams, man. What was I supposed to do?
But you know what? Outside of the child-like enthusiasm and the motor mouth, I remember his kindness. He knew that, as Disney cast members, we weren't allowed to ask for autographs, but he stayed and autographed a bunch of things and handed them out to us anyway, knowing we couldn't ask ourselves. And he made a point to look each one of us in the eye, remember our names, shake our hands, thank us for letting him disrupt our orderly Disney schedule to accommodate him. He had us in stitches with his larger-than-life personality, and he endeared himself to us because he was one of the few celebrities who actually viewed us as human beings rather than interchangeable park employees. And that mattered to me, and has mattered all these years. Since then, I have interviewed many celebrities and met many more, but he was the first and he burned the brightest, not because of the size of his star, but because of the size of his heart. To quote a friend: "It's very hard to take that a man whose obvious largeness of spirit buoyed so many others through the unpleasant bullshit of the world didn't have the right joke to tell himself..."
Very hard, indeed.
Catrina Dennis - Superheroes Channel Manager
The massive impact an actor can make on one's life ranges from person to person, but for me, Robin Williams came into my life directly after my grandfather died. I was seven years old and completely lost - this was the first death that I ever had to deal with. My grandfather was charismatic, chock full of humor, and always around to turn the worst situations into a fun, invigorating life experience. In came Robin Williams in Aladdin, as Genie, at what was the most opportune time in my life. He was, for all intents and purposes, exactly like my grandfather. Knowing that Genie encompassed my grandfather to me, my father then introduced me to Mork & Mindy, Mrs. Doubtfire and more of Williams' repertoire. Watching Robin Williams provided a sense of comfort and helped me move on from one of the most earth-shaking experiences of my life.
Moving forward with flicks such as What Dreams May Come and Good Morning Vietnam, Robin Williams showed the world that he was a diverse, impactful actor and could carry a story single-handedly without losing an audience. Along with that, he was also a massive nerd when it came to comics and video games, and for me, that was huge. Robin Williams was openly nerdy when many entertainers were not, and I could relate to that.
Cut to my adulthood in New York City, where Williams is filming for his guest role on Law & Order. The pillow fight scene was shooting, and I squeezed into the crowd in-between takes to try and catch a glimpse of Williams and the cast. When I managed to get my hand high enough to wave -- I'm five-foot-nothing -- he caught sight of it immediately and started wildly waving his arms in return. It's not the most personal interaction, but the fact that he turned around in the middle of his work day to say hello to me was massively important to me.
Everyone can connect with their favorite entertainers on one level or another, and as someone who was part of the generation that grew up watching Robin Williams in some of his greatest roles, I feel like I've lost a member of my family. He was a tremendous actor, a wonderful person, and one of my favorite nerds ever. We'll miss you so much, Mr. Williams.
Reid Jones - Superheroes Page Writer
Dead Poets Society changed my life. Our Honors British Literature class was never the same after seeing that movie, and not simply because we replaced our use of the term "YOLO" with the phrase "Carpe Diem" (which is pretty impressive, considering we're a bunch of high school students). After seeing the film, we all walked away as members of the society and students of John Keating, hating the idea of realism and embracing Romanticism entirely. On the final day of school last year, we silently whispered about our plans, and then the bell rang. One by one, we stood atop our desks, saluting our metaphorical Mr. Keating, our actual teacher Mrs. Jaquish, with an "O Captain! My Captain!" before exiting the building to begin our summer vacation.
Dannie Miles - Assistant Editor
My favorite Robin Williams role has to be not a fictional role, but his stand-up special Weapons of Self Destruction, where he showed that he was just so alive in his own life and portrayed the hilarity around him in ways so much more funny than reality could ever have been. His comedic timing could rile a laugh out of every cynic, with any joke, because you couldn't help to laugh a belly-splittin' roar because of his effortless dialogue. Sad day when the man who kept everyone laughing just couldn't smile anymore.
Discovering his comedy as a child was like discovering a new primary color. This one is a bummer, man.
Josh Weinstock - Head of Public Relations
I'm crushed by this. I absolutely adored the man.
I think his brilliance in The Fisher King is what I'll remember most - an all-time top 10 movie for me. Those of you who haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out.
There was something about his voice that set him apart. You could hear the genius in every word; his brain just worked faster and better. He was warm when he needed to be, crude when you needed a laugh. I was so excited for the Mrs. Doubtfire sequel, and always felt like he had another Oscar-winning role in him. We lost a legend today. So very sad.
Andrew Marco - Community Manager
One thing that I will forever be in gratitude for is his influence on me in my childhood. I grew up in the era of Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, and Aladdin. Movies that not only brought a whole bunch of smiles and laughs my way but fully ignited true wonder and imagination into my life. His presence will be missed, but his influence and legacy will forever be ingrained in my heart and the many generations to come after me.
Josh Canter - Campaign Manager
Aladdin was a childhood favorite of mine... I would even argue Robin's role as the Genie is what inspired me to become versatile in my own voice and character impersonations, so his impact was stamped all over my life. I'll never forget him as Mrs. Doubtfire or Alan Parrish from Jumanji. Definitely played a big role in my movie fandom as I grew up, and, I suppose, a big reason I ended up working for Moviepilot years later.
Kristin Lai - Staff Writer & Content Creator
Picking my favorite role is a tough one when it comes to Robin Williams. Many of his roles have held a soft spot in my heart over the years, but two immediately come to mind. One role is dramatic, the other comedic. While it is true that he was an absolute master at both, his ability to make a viewer really feel was not limited to his dramatic scope. His comedic roles, while hilarious, did not make you feel any less or belittle serious situations.
The first is a surprise to no one. Good Will Hunting is just one of those movies that slaps you in the face with how good it is. The writing, the directing, the acting. The film is brilliant, top to bottom. Williams' acting was absolutely stellar. To say that he earned his oscar for Good Will Hunting is vast understatement.
My other favorite, hands down, is Mrs. Doubtfire. Growing up I had no idea how important this movie would become to me. It was an instant favorite in my household. As a kid, the story of a family going through divorce was secondary to the childish amusement of Robin Williams dressing up as an old Scottish woman (still funny by the way). But when my parents got divorced years later, this movie became a point of comfort for me, and I imagine for my sisters as well. Yes, his role was that of a grown man somewhat lacking in emotional maturity, but it was more so about a family struggling to adjust to necessary changes. This was one of the first times that addressed divorce in a realistic way (I'm looking at you, Parent Trap). Robin Williams became film version of my dad. Someone who would do anything for his kids, even if it meant cross-dressing.
Robin Williams' body of work taught me that difficulties in life are inevitable and can't be avoided. While you have to work through the bad, there is always room to find a bit of levity.
Mike Holowaty - Head of Advertising
This is by far my favorite Robin Williams Good Will Hunting trivia bit, which just speaks to how naturally funny he was:
The scene where Sean and Will are in his office, and Sean starts talking about his dead wife and her farting antics. These lines were ad-libbed by Robin Williams, which is probably why Matt Damon is laughing so hard. If you watch the scene carefully you can notice the camera shaking, probably due to the cameraman laughing as well.
At the 1:44 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WAylnO5gtA
Kat Morris - Horror Channel Manager
My relationship with Robin Williams started like my relationship with Vincent Price, with his appearance on The Muppet Show. As one of the first men (who wasn't my father) to make me laugh, he will forever hold a special place in my heart. I didn't notice until recently how often I quote his lines from movies and stand-up without even realizing it.
The film of his that speaks the most to me is a tie between Good Morning Vietnam and What Dreams May Come. I spent an entire semester of university writing a paper on Good Morning Vietnam; the role of the media in time of war, and the nature of propaganda - humor and truth and what it said about the human condition. What Dreams May Come got me through a divorce, and a horrible time in my life by reminding me that there was something out there that was beautiful and worth fighting for, even if I'd lost what beauty there was in my life at the time.
As Horror Channel manager, I also can see Robin Williams' darker side - his cool, calculated, and utterly creepy serial killer portrayal in Insomnia; shy, reserved and lonely in One Hour Photo, his gallows humor in Death to Smoochy, and just being downright charmingly odd in Toys.
2014 has been a hard year for Hollywood, and I can truly say that this sudden departure has hit me the hardest.
Linnie Helpern - Horror Page Writer
Scenes from my life:
Parents: Linnie... go outside and play.
Linnie: NO! I'm watching Jumanji for the tenth time today...why would I go outside?
Parents: Linnie... the kid from down the street wants to swim.
Linnie: But... I just put Hook on. Why would I go outside?
Friends: Linnie... you should probably go outside. Haven't you already watched The Birdcage twice today?
Linnie: Is it my fault AMC keeps airing it over and over again? Besides... why would I go outside?
When you're a TV baby, the actors you grow up with become a de facto part of your family, and for me, Robin Williams was one of those people. He shaped a sense of wonder and of magic that I stubbornly cling to to this day. Today, I feel like a space in my heart is empty, and it will never be filled, because a man who taught me what it means to appreciate light and laughter is gone. To some he may just be an actor, but to me? Robin Williams is a true love.
Frederick Funke - Graphic Designer
Hook was one of the first (real) movies that showed me as a kid what magical worlds they can pull into. So did Jumanji.
Mrs. Doubtfire had that humour that you never get too old for - thanks to him.
Good Will Hunting was so brilliant and heartwarming - as One Hour Photo was so sad and disturbing that his brilliant acting destroyed my vision of this one-sided comedian Robin.
Insomnia the first Christopher Nolan movie I have seen - while The Angriest Man in Brooklyn will be the last Robin Williams one for me then…
Thanks for the childhood full of dreams and happiness :)
Rose Moore - Superheroes Page Writer
When I heard the news yesterday, I just couldn't hold back the tears, and it was the first time that I have ever cried over the death of a celebrity.
As a kid, I grew up in Africa, and as part of a very small expat community, the only access that we had to games or comic books or movies was when someone took a trip to the US and brought some back. My Dad was away on the rigs for months at a time, but he was a huge Robin Williams fan, and it was the early 90s, so whenever he came home, we would all sit on the couch and watch the latest movie together.
We must have watched Hook a hundred times, and for me, Robin Williams was always associated with so much joy. Not just because of his incredible acting, his humor, his light, but because he meant that my family was together. Over the years, we continued the tradition, watching Aladdin when I was home from university, graduating to the more adult fare as we grew up.
Now we live on separate continents, and rarely get to be in the same room, but I can still feel like we are together when I see Robin Williams on the screen. To me, he wasn't just an actor, he was a member of my family.