There are few people in the world who can transform themselves into so many guises, yet remain so distinctive you’d still recognise them instantly.
Robin Williams was one such person – whether dressed in drag as the side-splittingly funny Mrs Doubtfire or assuming the persona of a deeply disturbed, obsessive stalker in One Hour Photo, he brought to each of his wildly differing roles a uniqueness unrivalled by any other Hollywood great.
Even with an animated facade as Genie in Disney’s Aladdin, there’s no mistaking Williams’ vibrancy and inimitable talent for voicework. Indeed, his frenetic, often ad-libbed performance as Adrian Cronauer in ‘GOOOD MORNIIIIING VIETNAAAM’ shows it was not just the award-winning scripts passed to him which made him a legend of the screen, it was the way he completely owned his parts.
A comedic genius and incredible actor, of course, but the tragic news of his death last week revealed Williams was more a master of disguise than perhaps even those closest to him ever realised.
He’d shared his demons of alcoholism and drug dependency with the wider world in the past, and had often talked of ‘feeling sad’, but Williams’ woes were probably too easily dismissed as First World problems instead of the deep, dark internal battles they really were.
The actor was famously quoted as saying: “Cocaine is God’s way of telling you you’re making too much money.” Though with his fame the best of what the world has to offer was it his disposal, of course the worst of vices were, too.
It is a terrible shame to think that – like too many famous faces before him – the twinkle-eyed entertainer may have succombed to a feeling of incredible loneliness, despite being loved by millions.
A bright spark was extinguished on August 11, but if one small light is to come out of his untimely death, it’s that people are talking more openly about mental health.
As commentators on bigger platforms have stated before me, mental illnesses such as depression do not discriminate, and neither wealth, fame, nor adulation can give you immunity from them. Nor can they protect from the degenerative condition Parkinsons, which it has since been revealed he was in the early stages of.
Robin Williams was a man like no other, yet so like us all in his vulnerability and sheer normality. One of Hollywood’s best, his untimely death perhaps reflects its worst.