Actor, comedian Robin Williams dead at 63 of apparent suicide

(CNN) — An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday in the death of comic legend Robin Williams, who authorities believe took his own life.

He was found dead Monday at his northern California home. He was 63.

“He has been battling severe depression of late,” his media representative Mara Buxbaum told CNN. “This is a tragic and sudden loss.”

Williams was last seen alive at his home, where he lives with his wife, at about 10 p.m. Sunday, the sheriff’s statement said.

Coroner investigators suspect “the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia,” the Marin County, California, Sheriff’s Office said.

Williams made at least two trips to rehab for drug treatment, including a visit this summer, and he underwent heart surgery in 2009.

Williams married graphic designer Susan Schneider in a Napa Valley, California, ceremony in October 2011.

“I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken,” Schneider said.

“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.”

“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “But he was 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. 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.”

Williams on laughter in Heaven

Once on the TV program “Inside the Actors Studio,” Robin Williams was asked, “If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?”

After a joke about a concert including Mozart and Elvis, he added, “to know that there’s laughter.”

On Tuesday, the morning after Williams’ death shocked the entertainment industry and his fans around the world, someone who knew him well described the man behind the legend.

“There had to be two people in the room” with him, his friend Bob Zmuda told CNN’s “New Day.” “Then you were an audience, and then he came alive.”

But one-on-one, Zmuda said, Williams “had no social skills. He couldn’t handle it… I knew this man for 35 years and yet it was like I was in an elevator with a stranger.”

Zmuda, a comedy writer, created Comic Relief, a program that raised funds for those in need through comedy. Williams hosted it, along with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg.

“He was an amazingly kind and generous person, and it’s got to be a terrible time for his family,” comedian Andy Richter said Monday night on “Conan.”

“He’s truly one of the all-time greats,” said actor Will Arnett, who was a guest on the program. “He was even better as a person. He was even more fantastic — just the loveliest, sweetest, one-of-a kindest guys that I have ever worked with.” Arnett described Williams as “a soft, warm, emotionally sweet guy.”

Host Conan O’Brien explained that the news broke while his show was being taped. “We are thinking of Robin’s family. We are thinking about everyone he touched around the world through his life and we are thinking about Robin,” he said.

In character, Williams warned against suicide

“Riffing with Robin Williams was extremely invigorating — and extremely exhausting,” comic Gilbert Gottfried wrote in a column for CNN.com. “I knew I had to be on my toes every second. And when we would actually connect onstage, it was electric for me.” Williams was “generous to his fellow stand-up comedians,” he said.

“I’ve known people who have committed suicide, and my shock always reveals how little I knew about them,” Gottfried wrote.

In the 2009 film “World’s Greatest Dad,” Williams played a man named Lance Clayton — and delivered a line now making the rounds online: “If you’re that depressed, reach out to someone. And remember: Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.”

Marin County deputies responded to an emergency call from Williams’ home in unincorporated Tiburon, California, at 11:55 a.m. Monday, reporting “a male adult had been located unconscious and not breathing,” a news release from the sheriff said. Williams was pronounced dead at 12:02 p.m.

From Julliard to ‘Happy Days’

Born in Chicago on July 21, 1951, Williams studied theater at Juilliard School before taking his stand-up act to nightclubs. He was cast as Mork, an alien visitor to Earth, for a 1978 episode of television’s “Happy Days.”

“Happy Days” star Henry Winkler said he “realized I was in the presence of greatness” at Williams’ first rehearsal as Mork.

“I just realized my only job is to keep a straight face,” said Winkler, who played “The Fonz.” “And it was impossible. Because no matter what you said to him, no matter what line you gave to him, he took it in, processed it, and then it flew out of his mouth, never the same way twice. And it was incredibly funny every time.”

It is “unimaginable that this is the reality today, that this incredible human being, incredible, delicate, funny, dramatic human being is gone,” Winkler said.

The role led to the spin-off show “Mork & Mindy,” which showcased Williams’ unusual comic improvisation talents.

He proved his dramatic acting skills in “Good Will Hunting,” a 1997 film that earned him a best supporting actor Oscar.

His memorable movies over the past three decades include “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “The Birdcage.”

Williams credited the influence of Jonathan Winters’ comic irreverence and quirky characters as a great influence on his comedy. The connection between the two was completed when Winters was cast as Williams’ son on “Mork & Mindy.”

When Winters died in 2013, Williams said he was “my idol, then he was my mentor and amazing friend.” He tweeted that Winters was his “Comedy Buddha.”

Williams and his “Mork & Mindy” co-star Pam Dawber reunited on TV earlier this year on an episode of the CBS comedy “The Crazy Ones,” which was later canceled.

Williams’ fans can look forward to four more movie appearances coming to theaters, including another installment in the “Night at the Museum” franchise.

Dawber summed up the feelings of many in a simple statement: “I am completely and totally devastated. What more can be said?”

10 comments

  • Terry

    ( Heart Break) Death of Robbin Williams was a knowing seerer- Time to go, he understood! I sincerely wish PEACE. Love due to my dear ones, all that had a brief contact and love. Perception was a great man, who could not fathom or understand, but was sent thru love, laughter in a world, that he made a big difference in a sick world that he could no longer belong as his intensity and heart could no longer take part of. Yours Always

  • Michael

    The memories of such movies like Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, and Hook growing up as a kid. RIP good sir and thank you!

  • Nuclear Mike

    Fame, fortune & popularity does not make a person happy on the inside…add addictions, loss of health from the lifestyle and no one who really cared enough to help him out when he needed it the most…I doubt this was an impulse of the moment but that he had mental health symptoms for some time…if it was hanging, then that expression was his desperation.

  • Sue

    I really loved his movies! Such a talented actor! He was so funny on the Tonight Show- never saw Johnny Carson laugh so much. Mrs. Doubtfire is one of my favorites! Robin- you will be missed by so many. Wonder if you realized how great you were? Rest in peace! So sorry someone could not have helped you enough to overcome your sadness.

  • Ron

    I’m very sad to hear this. We loved the characters you portrayed. You brought us such joy. Thank you for Mrs Doubtfire, Aladdin, Hook, Jumanji, Good Will Hunting, Father’s Day, Robots, Patch Adams, Flubber, Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, What dreams may come… Now the real film starts for Robin Williams. We will miss you. RIP Robin.

  • santaclausmama

    The talents of Mr. Williams will be missed, whatever sadness that caused him so much agony… let it rest now. I loved his joy; seemed to me he was always filling up the room with laughter but then the tears of a clown are often silent. I will miss you ,Robin, rest now…find your well deserved peace, and know always that you were loved.

  • Country Boy

    Good actor, very entertaining comedian but what a callous and selfish self-serving act to commit. His selfish act has forever altered the lives of innocent people whose lives were connected to his.

    • Susan

      I used to feel the same way about suicide and overall, yes, it is a selfish act, but we also are not in their head. My mother killed herself when i was 8 months old- what does that say about me? Well, nothing actually. Just that she was hurting, she was depressed, probably hormonally imbalanced, and what people don’t understand is that we are first and foremost spiritual beings, then humans living for but a brief time on this earth and there are many other spiritual beings that spend day and night (since they don’t sleep) doing their best to make sure humans destroy themselves in one way or another, in a vain effort to hurt and anger their Creator. It is so sad for Robin and for his family-but what is most sad of all is that if he did not know Jesus as His Saviour (which it does not appear that he did) he will not be free, or at peace, or anything of the sort but will instead endure unimaginable pain and suffering for all eternity. That hurts so much more than anything you can go through on this earth. Don’t make his mistake. Turn to God-Jesus is real, HE died for you so you don’t have to~ He loves you and wants a real relationship with you!

  • joyce milligan

    rest peacefully sweet,sad man…you will dwell in a multitude of peoples hearts. i never met you but it has been a great honor to “know” you.

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