- The Washington Times - Monday, August 11, 2014

Actor and comedian Robin Williams died Monday at age 63 of an apparent suicide after a three-decade career of comedy and dramatic hits and long battles with depression.

A statement by Marin County police said the Oscar-winning actor was found unconscious and not breathing inside his residence in unincorporated Tiburon, California.

“At this time, the Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia, but a comprehensive investigation must be completed before a final determination is made,” the statement said.

Although Mr. Williams’ publicist wouldn’t confirm that his death was a suicide, a statement was issued that read: “Robin Williams passed away this morning. He has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss.”

Mr. Williams is set to appear in the third installment of “Night at the Museum” in December. He recently signed on to a sequel of “Mrs. Doubtfire,” to be directed by Chris Columbus.

“This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings,” Mr. Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider, said in a statement. “I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

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Mr. Williams burst onto the scene in 1978 with a one-episode appearance as “Mork from Ork” on the hit series “Happy Days.”

The character’s (and Mr. Williams’) manic energy, range of voices, stream of consciousness speech and illogical logic were an instant hit and within a year the “Mork” character had his own show “Mork and Mindy.”

The show finished No. 3 in the Nielsen ratings for its first season and became a pop culture phenomenon spawning such phrases as “shazbot” (an expletive) and “nanu-nanu” (a greeting).

Success continued for years — a string of HBO stand-up comedy specials, multiple appearances on talk shows such as “The Tonight Show” (Mr. Williams was among Johnny Carson’s favorites — he and Bette Midler were the featured guests on his last show), and one of the public faces of charity “Comic Relief,” which has raised about $50 million for homeless aid.

Mr. Williams went on to become one of the world’s biggest and most-bankable movie stars, anchoring comedy hits such as “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “The Birdcage,” fantasies such as “Jumanji,” “Hook” and “What Dreams May Come,” and even such dark dramas as “One Hour Photo” and “Insomnia.”

But like many comics, he struggled with demons, acknowledging drug and alcohol problems as far back as the 1970s. He began drinking again in recent years and, also like comics ranging back to W.C. Fields, made a joke of it. “I went to rehab in wine country,” he said, “to keep my options open.”

He was nominated for three Academy Awards and won for the role of a troubled mentor in “Good Will Hunting.” He was among the nominees for a comic disc jockey in “Good Morning, Vietnam” and a manic homeless man in “The Fisher King.”

Mr. Williams also was one of the first major stars to play voice-only roles in animated films, and his role as the genie in Disney’s “Aladdin” was among his most popular and critically praised roles. Indeed, the animation was tailor-made for him — the filmmakers recorded his comic improvisations and then drew the genie’s actions and tailored the imagery to what Mr. Williams had said off the cuff.

He also did voice roles for the animated features “Ferngully,” “Happy Feet” and “Robots” and the live-action “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence” (as the voice of a robot).

Hollywood friends reacted swiftly to news of the iconic actor’s death. “His heart was as big as his genius,” tweeted Bob Saget. “So sad. Rest in Peace Robin Williams.”

“So sad Robin Williams died :( We did 2 films 2gether. He was a very lovely man & kind caring person. My heart goes out 2 his loved ones,” tweeted Fran Drescher.

“I can’t believe the news about Robin Williams. He gave so much to so many people. I’m heartbroken,” wrote Ellen DeGeneres.

President Obama put out a statement Monday evening calling Mr. Williams “one of a kind.”

“He arrived in our lives as an alien — but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit,” Mr. Obama said. “He made us laugh. He made us cry. 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.”

• Victor Morton and Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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