UPDATED: Academy Award winner Robin Williams whose inventive, improvisational and original comedic talent made him a star of movies and television and stand-up has died inside his Tiburon home in Northern California this morning. He was 63. Studio sources told me at 3 PM he may have taken his own life after his recent stint in rehab, and his death was confirmed this afternoon by his publicist and his wife. Williams “has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss,” his rep said. “The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.” The Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division said it suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia, but a comprehensive investigation must be completed before a final determination is made. Williams third wife, Susan Schneider, stated: “The world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. 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.”
According to the Marin County Sheriff, at approximately 11:55 AM Marin County Communications received a 911 telephone call reporting a male adult had been located unconscious and not breathing inside his residence in Tiburon. The Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Tiburon Fire Department and Southern Marin Fire Protection District, were dispatched to the incident with emergency personnel arriving on scene at 12:00 PM. "The male subject, pronounced deceased at 12:02 PM has been identified as Robin McLaurin Williams, a 63-year-old resident of unincorporated Tiburon, CA." An investigation into the cause, manner, and circumstances of the death is currently underway by the Investigations and Coroner Divisions of the Sheriff’s Office. Preliminary information developed during the investigation indicates Mr. Williams was last seen alive at his residence, where he resides with his wife, at approximately 10:00 PM on August 10. A forensic examination is currently scheduled for August 12 with subsequent toxicology testing to be conducted.
The actor suffered a lifelong struggle with depression, alcohol and drugs. After starting his battle with addiction in the 1970s he once explained it this way: "Cocaine for me was a place to hide. Most people get hyper on coke. It slowed me down." He went on and off treatment for the next two decades, then he quit cold turkey after the drug death of John Belushi, his friend. But then he fell off the wagon and very publicly went to rehab in 2006. In late June of this year, he checked himself into the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center near Lindstrom, Minnesota, to avoid falling off the wagon again. "After working back-to-back projects, Robin is simply taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment, of which he remains extremely proud,” the actor’s rep said at the time. Williams died with four movies coming out: Boulevard, The Angriest Man In Brooklyn, Night At The Museum 3, and Merry Friggin’ Christmas , for which his co-star Joel McHale told the press in July that Williams was fighting to get his life back on track: “He wore his struggles and sobriety and was very up front and candid about what he has gone through. I know he is a man who likes to win and be healthy. So him going back to rehab, I pray it all works out.”
Naturally Hollywood and the rest of the world is in shock over the sudden loss of this three-time Academy Award nominee who received the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in 1997′s Good Will Hunting. “Robin was a lightning storm of comic genius and our laughter was the thunder that sustained him," Steven Spielberg, who directed him as a grown-up Peter Pan in Hook, said of Williams on Twitter. Even President Obama called him "one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry." Henry Winkler recalled Williams’ TV debut as Mork in Season 5 of the hit ABC show Happy Days in 1978 as "watching brilliance explode like fireworks every 10 or 15 seconds."
For the 2013-2014 TV season, Williams surprised Hollywood by returning to series TV where he’d received his start first as the character on Happy Days and then as the lead in Mork & Mindy (1978-1982). Most recently he co-starred with Sarah Michelle Gellar on the CBS sitcom The Crazy Ones, which debuted last fall. Set in an advertising firm, the show featured Williams and Gellar as father and daughter, and CBS scored a coup to snag Williams. Though the series initially did well in the ratings, it was canceled after only one season.
The Chicago native and prestigious Julliard graduate was a well-known stand-up comedian in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the late 1960s and 1970s because of his quick and agile mind that often left audiences dizzy from laughter with his never-ending stream of pop culture and political references. After becoming a household name as Mork, he made his film debut in Robert Altman’s 1980 Popeye, a role he was born to play, followed by 1982 The World According To Garp. From that he acted in a long string of 1980s movies, able to play leads in both comedies and dramas. He earned Oscar nods for both Good Morning Vietnam (1987) and Dead Poets Society (1989) and critical acclaim for Awakenings (1990). But while his career was at its height, he developed a well-known drug and alcohol problem dating back to his TV days.
In the early 1990s he indulged his flair for family fare, providing the voice of the genie in Disney’s Aladdin (1991), and Hook (1991) as well as his famous cross-dressing role Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) which also became his biggest hit at the box office. He interspersed Jumanji (1995) and Flubber (1997) and The Birdcage (1996) with Good Will Hunting , Patch Adams (1998) and then Jakob the Liar (1999). In the 2000s, his dramatic films included One Hour Photo (2002), Insomnia (2002), and The Night Listener (2006) but he returned to comedy in 2006 with both Man Of The Year and Night At The Museum. That’s when he suffered a relapse and admitted himself into rehab. He rebounded with License to Wed (2007).
Starting in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Williams perfected his stand-up comedy, including three HBO comedy specials: Off The Wall (1978), An Evening With Robin Williams (1982), and Robin Williams: Live At The Met (1986). He had a hugely successful one-man show (and subsequent DVD) Robin Williams: Live on Broadway (2002) and in 2004 was voted 13th on Comedy Central’s "100 Greatest Stand-ups Of All Time". In 2008, Williams took a hiatus from moviemaking to tour with his one-man show, "Weapons Of Self-Destruction" focusing what he called "social and political absurdities". Health problems derailed the tour in March 2009 and he underwent heart surgery. When he recovered, he appeared in Night At The Museum 2 and Disney’s Old Dogs and lent his voice to the toons Happy Feet and Happy Feet Two. He also appeared in 2013′s The Big Wedding.
An avowed liberal and Democrat, Williams was a frequent supporter of and contributor to progressive causes and campaigns as well as to the USO and charities including founding Comic Relief.