“You're only given one little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it,” said Robin Williams, who died today, less than a month after his 63rd birthday. The Chicago-born actor leaves behind a varied body of work that illustrates the fine line between comedy and drama.
After making a splash on TV in Mork & Mindy (1978-1982), Williams toured the country with his standup acts An Evening With Robin Williams (1982), Robin Williams: At The Met (1986), Robin Williams LIVE on Broadway (2002), and Weapons of Self-Destruction (2009).
He achieved even more success on film, participating in both live action and animated movies across several genres. Williams brought the cartoon character Popeye to life with his performance in Robert Altman’s Popeye (1980). He also supplied the voice for Genie in Disney’s animated Aladdin (1992) and Dr. Know in Steven Spielberg’s live action sci-fi feature A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001).
Perhaps his best role was as Garp in John Irving’s The World According to Garp (1982) directed by George Roy Hill. Other fine performances, though not widely seen, include his portrayal of Vladimir Ivanoff in Paul Mazursky’s Moscow on the Hudson (1984) and as a man out of focus in Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry (1997).
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poets Society (1989), and The Fisher King (1991) earned Williams Oscar nominations in the leading actor category, before he took home the Academy Award for supporting actor in Good Will Hunting (1997). Williams also starred in the Best Picture nominated Awakenings (1990) and his voice can be heard in the Oscar-winning Best Animated Feature Happy Feet (2006).
Williams portrayed two American presidents: Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum series (2006-2014) and Dwight D. Eisenhower in Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013). Ironically, he’s more recognizable as the title character in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) which he played in drag.
In addition to his input on screen, Williams was active off screen with charities including Comic Relief and The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.