By Niall McArdle
I just heard the sad news about Robin Williams: found dead in his California home of an apparent suicide. He was 63. Reports state that the actor, who had a history of drug and alcohol problems, was struggling with depression.
Williams isn’t the first comic actor whose smile masked a troubled soul: Tony Hancock, Freddie Prinze, Spike Milligan, and Peter Sellers all suffered from bouts of melancholia.
Williams shot to fame on TV playing lovable alien Mork in Mork and Mindy. With his lightning-quick wit and improvisational style, Hollywood soon came calling. He starred in a string of comedy hits before essaying darker roles in more serious fare. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Good Will Hunting.
His notable films include Good Morning, Vietnam (he improvised most of his his scenes), The World According to Garp, Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, Insomnia, and One Hour Photo. He was also the voice of the genie in Disney’s Aladdin. His career, once white-hot, had cooled in recent years. Last year he returned to his TV roots in the CBS sitcom The Crazy Ones, which was cancelled after one season.
To be honest, I can’t recall the last time I was genuinely excited about a new Robin Williams film. As the years passed I found him increasingly annoying and simply not as funny as he once was. His shtick got old for me very fast, and when he chose serious roles, he too often mugged for sympathy, most notably in the appallingly lachrymose Patch Adams.