The unexpected death of Academy Award winner and comedic genius Robin Williams in 2014, was a shock to his worldwide following. The actor dazzled his audience for decades and he has left a remarkable legacy for movie lovers of all ages.
The actor kicked off his career as a stand up comedian in San Francisco, but soon made his way to the prestigious Julliard School. His professors there clearly recognised his brilliance early, urging him to move onto pastures new.
It was the TV show Mork & Mindy, where he played an alien in human form, that unleashed his comedic talent to the world. Since then he starred in many rib tickling features, but also ventured into other genres, proving his magical malleability as an actor.
On his death anniversary, we recount some of our favourite roles played by Williams.
John Keating from Dead Poets Society
A Still from Dead Poets Society
William's John Keating definitely invoked a love (albeit a temporary one) for literature and a curiosity for poetry. There may not be another character onscreen as multi-layered as John in Dead Poets Society. The actor's performance as a teacher who gets his students in an uptight private school, enrapturing them with his unconventional teaching methods, made us all wish we could attend his class.
There are plenty of iconic quotes from the film, but this one is our favourite: "We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for."
Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam
A still from Good Morning, Vietnam
Williams took on the role of the real-life radio jockey Adrian Cronauer posted in a US base during the Vietnam War, who was tasked with the job to keep the troops morale high through a military run broadcast. The actor performance as the immediately likeable fast talking RJ with an with an irreverant attitude, in one of his first dramatic roles, led him to a Best Actor Oscar nomination.
While most movies centring around the Vietnam War have more or less been mediums to glorify the US and served as propaganda, Good Morning, Vietnam shifts the focus on the humaneness and the need for connection in everyone.
Dr Sean Macguire in Good Will Hunting
Williams played a therapist to Matt Damon's character Will Hunting, a troubled genius working making ends meet as a janitor in MIT, find his way in life. Good Will Hunting won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, while Damon and Ben Affleck won for Best Writing and Screenplay.
The film has Williams perform one of the most profound monologues onscreen, where he and Damon sit on a park bench. Sean tells Will that while he might read books and know about everything, there is a whole world of experiences still unknown to him.
True to his style, the actor accepted his Academy Award with a humorous speech, "Most of all, I want to thank my father, up there, the man who when I said I wanted to be an actor, he said, 'Wonderful. Just have a back-up profession like welding.'"
Watch the scene here
Image from Twitter
Williams will perhaps be fondly remembered by everyone who grew up watching him play Daniel Hillard, an unemployed actor but a devoted father, who disguises himself as a housekeeper Mrs Doubtfire to spend more time with his children. Williams completely embodied the prim yet sweet Mrs Doubtfire, not just with prosthetics, but altering his voice for the character. The film did so well that it was remade in multiple languages, including Chachi 420 in India, starring Kamal Haasan.
The Genie in >Aladdin
Image from Twitter
The actor's comic timing and impression of the Genie in Disney's left a lasting impact on adults and children alike (which also explains the resistance to Will Smith's portrayal of the character). William's voice role as the motor-mouthed Genie, has made him one of the most beloved animated characters in history.
Armand Goldman in Birdcage
Williams plays a gay cabaret bar owner, Armand Goldman, who with his long time partner has to put on a show of being a 'normal' family for the sake of their son's future marriage to the daughter of an uptight American Senator. The film, an adaptation of a French play, is not just progressive in an age of Hollywood where positive portrayals of same sex relationships were rare, but also humorous and touching.
Walter Finch in Insomnia
Nobody does psychological thrillers better than Christopher Nolan and he directs Williams alongside Al Pacino, Hillary Swank and Martin Donovan. Williams plays a shady crime writer, stuck in the middle of a murder investigation in an Alaskan town. Its a grey character, almost a risk, but Williams makes it work. You keep guessing whether he is the killer or not.
Seymour "Sy" Parrish in One Hour Photo
Williams did a role overhaul with his portrayal of a photo booth attendant with no family or friends, who grows obsessed with one of his customers. While the film received mixed reviews from critics, it did showcase a different side to the actor's usual repertoire.
Critic Roger Ebert in his review of the film wrote, "Robin Williams plays Sy, another of his open-faced, smiling madmen, like the killer in "Insomnia." He does this so well you don't have the slightest difficulty accepting him in the role."
Watch a scene from the film here