There will be a lot written about Robin Williams over the next few days. Comments about his amazing comedy talent and acting skills will pour from all who have enjoyed his Unique and it is so unique, brand of comedy.
For me I have identified with him on different levels. Yes I enjoyed his stand up shows and improve moments but it was the more subtle moments of his life and career that made me relate.
Let’s start with hair. As a teenager I was pretty hairy and let’s face it my dad is also hairy. I knew at around 12/13 I was to inherit the full on hairy monster gene. I was mortified. Seriously, everyone around me was all shiny and here was me, a bear. It didn’t help that I matured at an early age. Then I saw Robin on a chat show talking about how hairy he was and enjoying it. Was this possible? Could us hairy bears be comfortable with being hirsute?
A few years later after Dead Poets* he made two films which opened in 2002 which would change my opinion of him and of myself again. Before he was this brash high octane comedian famous for being wild crazy with his talent and, I hate to use this word, zany interviews. He was OTT to the extreme. Something I could only dream of being. If Robin was a 10 on the madcap scale I was a 3 on the outside 7 on the inside aka boring.
I looked up to not only his skills as a performer and entertainer but his sheer energy. Later he would reveal he was an alcoholic and suffered from the often crippling Bi Polar. Those glorious highs were counter balanced by magnificent lows. Something which made me think about myself again. Did I want to be like that? Sadly I too have suffered from depression and will always continue to suffer for it.
I can only presume that the darker side of his personality helped him with the two roles which made me think differently. One Hour Photo and Insomnia were dark and brooding efforts from Williams. Insomnia based on the 1997 film set in Norway1 where he played the Murderer of a school girl. I can’t say the bad guy as the lines between good and bad were very blurred.
Then his dark menacing portrait of “An employee of a one-hour photo lab becomes obsessed with a young suburban family” was terrifying and emotional all in one. He played the character with heart and menace, again blurring lines making it hard for the audience to know whether he was just confused or a danger.
Both films showed me that here was someone who clearly could turn on and off the passionate wackiness and create detailed portraits of people in different situations. Known for being loud and brash with his roles, there are comments all over the internet of Dead Poets, Good Morning Vietnam and Aladdin. Yet it was his lower, more defined pieces which showed me his talents.
A great actor dogged by personal issues like many a comedian before him. From Tony Hancock to Richard Beckinsale all have fought demons and lost. A great talent and one who lit up the faces many people around the world. Death is not the end if you’ve affected those around you.
*I have never seen Dead Poets Society but don’t tell anyone
1 Stellan Skarsgård who was the lead Cop in the original movie was also a lecturer in Dead Poets Society.