By DAVE ITZKOFF, The New York Times, AUG. 11, 2014
Robin Williams, an Academy Award-winning actor and comedian who imbued his performances with wild inventiveness and a kind of manic energy, died on Monday at his home in Marin County, Calif. He was 63.
The county sheriff’s office said in a statement that it “suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia.” A further investigation was under way.
The statement said that the office received a 9-1-1 call at 11:55 a.m. saying that a man had been found “unconscious and not breathing inside his residence.” Emergency personnel sent to the scene identified him as Mr. Williams and pronounced him dead at 12:02 p.m.
Mr. William’s publicist, Mara Buxbaum, said in a statement that Mr. Williams “has been battling severe depression.”
His wife, Susan Schneider, said in a statement, “This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings.” She added: “As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”
Mr. Williams, who was raised in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and in Marin County, attended the Juilliard School in New York before breaking through as a hyperverbal comedian and a star of the 1978 ABC sitcom “Mork & Mindy,” playing a giddy alien unaccustomed to life on this planet.
|Robin Williams, before a performance in Virginia in 2009.
Credit Jay Paul for The New York Times
He went on to earn Academy Award nominations for his roles in films like “Good Morning, Vietnam,” in which he played a loquacious radio D.J.; “Dead Poets Society,” playing a mentor to students in need of inspiration; and “The Fisher King,” as a homeless man whose life has been struck by tragedy. He won an Oscar in 1998 for “Good Will Hunting,” playing a therapist who works with a troubled prodigy played by Matt Damon.
Beginning with roles in the 1977 sex farce “Can I Do It ‘Till I Need Glasses” and “The Richard Pryor Show,” a variety series hosted by one of his comedy mentors, Mr. Williams rapidly ascended the entertainment industry’s ladder.
Hired to play an eccentric alien in an episode of “Happy Days,” Mr. Williams caught the attention of the show’s creator, Garry Marshall, who cast him to reprise his career-making role of Mork from Ork in “Mork & Mindy.” Mr. Williams soon graduated into movie roles that include the title characters in “Popeye,” Robert Altman’s 1980 live-action musical about that spinach-chomping cartoon sailor; and “The World According to Garp,” the director George Roy Hill’s 1982 adaptation of the John Irving novel.
He also continued to appear in raucous standup comedy specials like “Robin Williams: An Evening at the Met,” which showcased his garrulous performance style and his indefatigable ability to free-associate without the apparent benefit of prepared material. Alongside his friends and fellow actors Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, Mr. Williams appeared in an annual series of telethons for Comic Relief, a charity organization that helps homeless people and others in need.
Mr. Williams’s acting career reached a new height in 1987 with his performance in Barry Levinson’s film “Good Morning, Vietnam,” in which he played a nonconformist Armed Forces Radio host working in Saigon in the 1960s. It earned Mr. Williams his first Oscar nomination. He earned another two years later for “Dead Poets Society,” directed by Peter Weir and released in 1989, in which he played an unconventional English teacher at a 1950s boarding school who inspires his students to tear up their textbooks and seize the day. (Or, as Mr. Williams’s character famously put it in the original Latin, “Carpe diem.”)
Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed reporting.