Robin Williams was found dead today at his home in the Northern California own of Marin County, according to the New York Times. The county sheriff’s office released a press statement that it "suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia" and that an investigation was under way.
Robin McLaurin Williams was born on July 21, 1951, in Chicago, Illinois. Williams was raised in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. and also attended the Juilliard School in New York before breaking through as a star of the 1978 ABC sitcom "Mork & Mindy," playing a hyperventilating and terribly funny alien, unaccustomed to life on this planet.
Williams was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor three times and received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Good Will Hunting. He also received two Emmy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and five Grammy Awards.
Williams was influenced by such iconic comedians as Peter Sellers, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Chuck Jones, Spike Milligan and Jonathan Winters. It was appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show with Winters and Williams that were considered comedy classics and the best in improvisation.
Williams touched everyone's funny bone, even President Barack Obama, who released a statement this evening. "Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry."
Obama continued, "He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams."
Mr. Williams rapidly ascended the entertainment industry’s ladder with various roles early in his career. He got the part on "Mork and Mindy" when he was hired to play an eccentric alien in an episode of "Happy Days, and 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."
Williams soon graduated into movie roles that include the title characters in "Popeye," Robert Altman’s 1980 live-action musical about that spinach-gulping 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, Williams appeared in an annual series of telethons for Comic Relief, a charity organization that helps homeless people and others in need.
He went on to earn Academy Award nominations for his roles in films like "Good Morning, Vietnam," in which he played a radio D.J.; "Dead Poets Society," playing a mentor to students; and "The Fisher King," as a homeless man whose life has been struck down by tragedy. He won an Oscar in 1998 for "Good Will Hunting," playing a therapist who works with a troubled prodigy played by a new star, Matt Damon. The film was the first for Damon and his friend, Ben Affleck.