What the Hell Happened to Robin Williams?

Robin Williams 2014

Robin Williams

Note: This article was written prior to Robin Williams’ death on August 11, 2014.  At present, Williams’ death is believed to be suicide.  The purpose of this article is to review Williams’ career as an entertainer.  My sympathy goes out to Williams’ friends and family.  I am personally saddened by his passing.  I will update this article as information becomes available.  In the meanwhile, please view this as a celebration of William’s work.

At the peak of his career, Robin Williams was one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood. He made the extremely rare transition from comedian to dramatic actor. What’s more, he was able to alternate between popular comedies and dramatic roles while winning awards for both. But eventually, Williams’ popularity waned. While Williams remains busy, his last starring role in a mainstream movie was in 2009.

What the hell happened?

williams and reeve

Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve

Williams was a quiet kid who came out of his shell when he became involved in his high school drama department.  In 1973, at the age of 22, Williams was one of only twenty students accepted into the Julliard School.  He and Christopher Reeve were the only two students accepted by John Houseman into the Advanced Program at the school that year.  According to Williams, Reeve showed him kindness that he would one day repay.  When asked for his favorite memory of Reeve, Williams replied:

“Him being such a great friend to me at Juillard, literally feeding me because I don’t think I literally had money for food or my student loan hadn’t come in yet, and he would share his food with me.  And then later after the accident, just seeing him beaming and just, seeing what he meant to so many people.”

williams - laugh in

Robin Williams – Laugh-In – 1977

Williams left Julliard in 1976.  In 1977, he started appearing on TV shows like Laugh-In (pictured) and Eight is Enough.  He was a regular on the Richard Pryor Show which last only four episodes.  Here’s a clip:

And here is a clip of Williams’ stand-up from 1977:

williams - happy days

Robin Williams – Happy Days – 1978-1979

Williams had a guest spot on the popular 50’s sit-com, Happy Days.  Williams played an alien named Mork who came to Earth looking for a human specimen.  He chose Richie Cunningham to take back to his home planet of Ork.  It fell to the Fonz to save his friend from a bizarre alien abduction.  In the end, the entire episode turned out to be a dream.

The story goes that Williams was cast as Mork after meeting with producer Gary Marshall.  Marshall asked Williams to take a seat and Williams immediately sat on his head.  Marshall later commented that Williams was the only alien to audition for the role.

williams - mork and mindy

Robin Williams – Mork & Mindy – 1978-1982

Williams’ guest spot on Happy Days was popular enough for Marshall to launch a spin-off show, Mork and Mindy in 1978.

(This was an exceptionally common practice at the time.  Happy Days was a spin-off from Love American Style.    In addition to Mork and Mindy, Happy Days launched six other shows: Laverne & Shirley, Blansky’s Beauties, Out of the Blue, Joanie Loves Chachi, and two cartoons.)

The new show had Mork landing on Earth in the present day of the 70s.  Instead of abducting a human specimen, Mork’s mission was to study humans and report back to his boss on Ork.  Mork was taken in by the beautiful and kind-hearted Mindy played by Pam Dawber.  Hi-jinks ensued.

There was an episode in which the character of Mork met Robin Williams the comedian.  Williams portrayed himself as a desperately needy person who could never say “no” to anyone.  He was extremely sad and vulnerable.

The Mork character was extremely popular with kids.  It launched a slew of Mork-themed merchandise.  Williams’ grinning face was everywhere.  Speaking as a kid who was part of the show’s target demographic, I loved the broad humor.  I even went as Mork for Halloween one year.


Mork Halloween Costume

The pictures isn’t of me.  But I had this exact costume right down to the creepy Williams mask.  Although I didn’t wear the mask.  Those things were extremely uncomfortable.  And what do you need the mask for?  Batman, sure.  But Mork?  Especially when they put his face on your chest as well.  What was the point of that?  It’s not like Mork had a picture of his face (along with his name and catch phrase) on his chest.


Robin Williams – Mork & Mindy – 1978-1982

Mork and Mindy ran through 1982.  In the final season, a number of gimmicks were used to try to save the show.  Mork and Mindy got married and had a son.  Because of his alien physiology, their son aged backwards which allowed them to cast comedy legend Jonathan Winters as a child in the body of an old man.

The gimmicks did not result in increased ratings.  The show ended on a cliff-hanger.  In the first two parts of a three-part story, Mindy’s apartment was destroyed and the family was on the run from a hostile alien.  The conclusion to the story was never filmed.

The final episode of the show to air was filmed before the cliff-hanger and did not resolve the dangling plot thread – much to the chagrin this particular Mork and Mindy fan.  (I spent years trying to figure out whether or not I had missed the conclusion.  Turns out, I hadn’t.)

32 years later, here’s a clip of Williams and Dawber reflecting on Mork and Mindy.

Next: Popeye and The World According to Garp


Posted on April 25, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actor and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 288 Comments.

  1. What has happened to Robin Williams?:

    In a follow up to my article on the sad decline of Robert DeNiro’s film career and legacy, I have decided to report on the equally sad decline of Mr. Robin Williams. In a career that has included 4 Oscar nominations (and 1 Oscar win), 2 Emmys, 4 Golden Globes, and 2 SAG awards, Robin Williams has had success in both dramatic and comedic roles. Having studied at Juilliard from 1973-1976, Williams studied with revered acting teacher John Houseman and easily mastered dialects. It was soon after that he was cast by Garry Marshall in the hit sitcom Mork & Mindy, which ran from 1978-1982.

    Williams’ gifts as a stand-up comedian reached a broader audience through three HBO specials: Off the Wall (1978), An Evening with Robin Williams (1982), and Robin Williams: Live at the Met (1986). He also hosted the Academy Awards in 1986. Later comedy specials opposite Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal only added to his ever-widening appeal.

    Williams’ film career peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the films Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Dead Poet’s Society (1989), and The Fisher King (1991). He received Academy Award nominations for all three performances, and all three films were successful at the U.S. box office. Other successful film roles during this phase of his career included Awakenings (1990), the voice of the Genie in Aladdin (1992), and the smash hit comedy Mrs. Doubtfire (1993).

    In the mid-to-late 1990s, Williams’ career choices varied in their level of complexity and depth. In What Dreams May Come (1998), a visually stimulating, but depressing film, he played a man who dies and goes to heaven, but longs to be with his wife again. The Birdcage (1996) was well-suited to his comedic gifts. He opted to play the straight man (not literally) opposite Nathan Lane in a non-musical version of Broadway’s La Cage aux Folles. The cast received a SAG award for Best Ensemble Cast that year. In 1997, he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Good Will Hunting. With a rare exception, it has been majorly downhill since then. Could it be the Oscar curse?

    Here is the evidence: Patch Adams (1998), Bicentennial Man (1999), Jakob the Liar (1999), Death to Smoochy (2002), The Night Listener (2006), Man of the Year (2006), License to Wed (2007), August Rush (2007), and Old Dogs (2009). The rare exception included his bizarre, but interesting turn in One Hour Photo (2002) and his understated performance as a murderous psycho in Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia (2002).

    Why so few interesting film roles? He has resorted to one-note, badly written roles that leave him unchallenged, unfunny (in most cases), and commercially unreliable. It would be great to see him immerse himself in a gritty indie film with someone like Darren Aronofsky or Paul Thomas Anderson. The comedic timing and dramatic chops are there. However, they have been hiding while someone continues to choose paycheck movies. Apparently, the paychecks are drying up, too. His last hit at the box office (where he actually carried the film) was Patch Adams, a completely lame and ridiculous film. There have been modest hits where he wasn’t completely responsible for carrying the film (Happy Feet, Insomnia), but the days of box office domination are long behind him. He’s just trying too hard to be funny, and he comes across as desperate, lame, grossly unfunny, and in some cases…repulsive (License to Wed).

    Avoid mainstream fare for a while, Mr. Williams. Head to the indie world and rediscover your inner actor. I would love to see Sofia Coppola do for Robin Williams what she did for Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. He was humorous, but also sad and vulnerable. It was a tour de force performance and Williams would have also been greatly suited to that role. Murray even got an Oscar nomination. Good luck with your future film choices, sir. You’re going to need it. You are fast becoming Robert DeNiro…a once great actor whose legacy is waning by the day.


  2. 10 Actors Who Are Nowhere Near As Great As They Used To Be:

    4. Robin Williams

    Robin Williams is a god. He is comedy royalty. He changed the face of comedy into something more than just pie-in the-face, although he was still good for a pie-in-the face laugh. Robin Williams, the comedian, is an icon.

    He also seems to have created the “comedy actors career trajectory path.” This path leads from struggling stand-up comedian to TV success to movie success to curious movie choices (usually heavy dramatic fare) to attempts to reclaim the funny but never rising again to the top, leaving said actor stuck in a purgatory of sorts between past comedy fame and drama. He suffered from audience and bipolar. He wanted to make movies that touched upon the human soul and condition and succeeded in tugging at the heartstrings in Mrs. Doubtfire, Awakenings and Patch Adams. Williams won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Good Will Hunting. However, we also wanted the explosive verbal diarrhea Robin Williams, as in Aladdin or Good Morning Vietnam. So he decided to provide us neither ever again.

    So what happened?

    The 2002 ‘Stalker Trilogy’. Although he received critic points for again stepping out of his acting zone, audiences were lukewarm to the lone killer in Insomnia, the weird Photo booth guy in One Hour Photo and murderous kid’s show host in Death to Smoochy. After 9/11, America needed a good laugh and their once go-to guy for laughter was coming off as a bit of a creepy perv.

    After that, nobody has ever looked at Robin Williams as the guy who once played a grown-up Peter Pan or shook the foundations of prep school establishment in Dead Poet’s Society. Now, he’s just the guy who plays an animated yet subdued Teddy Roosevelt in Night at The Museum and according to your parents was quite funny at one time.


  3. Robin Williams really is a versatile actor. But you are right, his funny stuff did get old. I saw World’s Greatest Dad and loved it. I thought Williams was great in it. Also, he needs to stay as far away as possible from movies that are going to cast him as priests! Great article.


    • Glad you liked it. I will admit, I have been making fun of Williams for the last decade or so. But researching this article, I was amazed by how versatile he is. World’s Greasted Dad is a really ballsy movie. Hats off to Williams for gambling on material like that!


  4. I’m surprised that LeBeau didn’t mention Robin’s appearance in the video for Bobby McFerrin’s #1 Billboard hit from 1988 “Don’t Worry Be Happy”.


    • I remember when “Don’t Worry Be Happy” was featured on “Beavis & Butt-Head”. When Beavis & Butt-Head recognized “Mrs. DoubtFIRE”, Beavis said that he didn’t think that Robin (although they never actually referred to him by his actual name) was really funny. Butt-Head replied that Robin Williams always has to talk really fast so you wouldn’t notice that he’s not really that funny.


  5. I do wonder if “Patch Adams” was the tipping point in which most people started to turn on Robin Williams.

    Nostalgia Critic: Patch Adams:

    The Nostalgia Critic’s review even makes fun of how Robin Williams during his ’90s era movies had to make some emotional speech in front of a crowded room (to the point in which it became cliched) at the end (such as this as well as “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Jack”).

    Audiences were getting sick of seeing Robin in these sort of maudlin type of movies so he tried to overcompensate by going to the other extreme in these dark, disturbing type of movies. Unfortunately, doing those type of movies more than often doesn’t connect w/ mainstream audiences.

    So naturally, Robin went back to doing more family-friendly movies like “RV”, “Night at the Museum”, and “Old Dogs”.


    • I doubt it (Patch Adams was a big winner with Moviegoers). I think like any actor, his popularity declined simply because of his age.

      He’s basically doing the same shtick over and over again, and he refused to grow up with his audience. Happens to most actors.


      • Audiences turned up to see Patch Adams, but I do think a lot of them felt betrayed by the movie. Up until then, audiences put a lot of faith in Williams to deliver comedy with heart. I think the manipulation pf PA left a lot of his fans cold. So even though the movie did well at the box office, I think it was a tipping point in how Williams was perceived. That was when his schtick officially got tired.


        • With Jack, Coppola gave Robin Williams his sentimental nadir:

          Robin Williams is, by all accounts, a lovely human being. He’s an accomplished, Academy Award-winning dramatic actor and an international comedy superstar who for decades now has been beloved by millions. Yet for some, Williams inspires a level of contempt and vitriol better suited to genocidal dictators and child-rapists than hirsute funnymen. Detractors don’t just dislike Williams, they despise him. I suspect that’s because there are few qualities more off-putting than publicly broadcasting your need for validation. Williams has always been among our most shamelessly needy entertainers.

          Loud, profuse laughter has never been enough for Williams. He wants to go beyond amusing people, to touch their souls, uplift their spirits, and teach them a few lessons about this crazy whirlwind called life. It’s this brazen, seemingly unexamined sentimentality—an intense need to represent all that is pure and wondrous about the world—that makes Williams so insufferable at his cloying worst.

          Though his characters have had different names and identities, Williams has played the manifestation of childhood magic and wonder repeatedly: as a professional toy-maker in Barry Levinson’s wildly overreaching comic fantasy Toys. As a slightly more adult version of a similar character in Patch Adams, putting on a clown nose to distract small children from thinking about their impending deaths. Most disastrously, the 1996 drama Jack puts metaphorical clown noses on all the other characters, desperately attempting to distract audiences from obsessing about the impending death of the giant child Williams plays.

          For people who despise Williams’ penchant for sentimentality, Jack is the heart of darkness, a movie that embodies everything sappy and pandering about his persona, but in unusually pure, obnoxious form. Even in a career that includes both Patch Adams and a suspiciously The Day The Clown Cried-style inspirational Holocaust drama drama called Jakob The Liar, Jack looms ominously as the ultimate Robin Williams sap-fest.

          Williams has long specialized in playing twinkly-eyed man-children, but Jack casts him as a literal man-child, a boy named Jack born with a rare disease that causes him to grow four times faster than normal. The doctor who diagnoses Jack’s condition assures the baby’s parents, Karen (Diane Lane) and Brian (Brian Kerwin) that despite this abnormality, Jack is not in pain, and is otherwise normal and healthy, though it does mean he’ll die young. Despite the doctor’s soothing words, there’s no quite getting around the tragic core of Jack: A Giant Child Who Is Going To Die Young. So the film goes out of its way to distract viewers with juvenile nonsense in order to keep them from focusing on the protagonist’s looming death.

          Hopscotch forward 10 years: Jack has now adopted the hairy, motor-mouthed form of Robin Williams, and wants nothing more than to run, play, and have fun with other children his age at public school, instead of being tutored by Lawrence Woodruff (a blissfully restrained, avuncular Bill Cosby) and spending all his free time frolicking with his loving but overprotective mother. Jack condescendingly treats its protagonist like E.T. or Pinocchio, a magical outsider whose poignant desire to be human is supposed to speak eloquently about our own humanity.

          At this point, I should probably mention that Francis Ford Coppola, the director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, also directed Jack. Coppola seems to have directed the child actors in Jack to go so unbelievably broad and over-the-top that Williams can’t help but seem like the most convincing, believable child in any given scene by default. The only way the pint-sized hams here could be more ostentatious would be if they rapped all their lines while break-dancing. Jack doesn’t surround its out-sized protagonist with other children so much as it surrounds him with the hammiest, most embarrassing kind of child actor, the kind other child actors shun for being gratingly precocious. These abysmal performers make the film feel not like a Coppola movie, so much as a direct-to-video sequel to The Sandlot—call it The Sandlot 5: The Legend Of The Really Big, Weird Kid—that inexplicably attracted Coppola and Williams’ attention.

          Despite all this, the prospect of Robin Williams in full-on man-child-sprite-pixie mode was enough to make Jack a commercial success: It was the 25th highest-grossing film of 1996—just meeting the criteria for a Forgotbuster—pulling in close to $60 million domestically, despite overwhelmingly negative reviews. And, oh yes, a premise involving a giant child who is going to die young.

          But before the giant child dies young, he first gets to go to regular school, where he falls out of his tiny desk. (Because it is small and he is big!) At first, he’s ridiculed for being different and big and weird, but Jack’s classmates eventually discover that there are upsides to being friends with a 10-year-old with the body of a 40-year-old. They dispatch him to procure what my generation knew as “girly mags,” a “gag” that typifies Jack’s almost perverse wholesomeness. The film inhabits an Eisenhower-era, Leave It To Beaver America of white picket fences, stick-ball games, and giant tree-houses, where the most mischief a kid can get into is farting into a can, or checking out copies of Penthouse with his bestest pals.

          Coppola was once the most ambitious, charismatic filmmaker alive, but with Jack, he didn’t make a family film so much as a film destined to insult the intelligence of anyone old enough to read. Jack is shameless enough to have its protagonist gaze with wide-eyed wonder at a caterpillar, then at a cocoon, and then at a butterfly emerging magically out of its chrysalis, in order to represent his understanding of life’s cycles and the beauty and wonder of personal development and transformation. Then it returns to the image of a butterfly, with a brazenness that would make Anne Geddes vomit glitter rainbows in disgust.

          The film’s full-bodied, wholehearted embrace of the maudlin, kitschy, and innocent makes it even more glaringly incongruous when sex, and all the confusion it engenders, arrives in the wiggling, giggling, cleavage-baring, nasal form of Dolores “D.D.” Durante (Fran Drescher), the sexually voracious mother of Jack’s greaser buddy Louie (Adam Zolotin). Louie has Jack impersonate their principal for his mother’s benefit, and D.D., being a trusting, oblivious soul, doesn’t seem too concerned that the principal of her son’s school is either a 10-year-old with an aging disease, an idiot-savant who keeps his savant side carefully hidden, or deeply mentally challenged.

          All D.D. knows is that she wants this bizarre, seemingly mentally challenged man-child, so she slips him her number. This jarring development replaces the insistent internal throb of that giant child is going to die young with Oh my God, is that giant child going to have sex with Fran Drescher before dying young?

          D.D. then disappears from the movie, and the threat seems to pass, until later, when Jack gets sad and ends up in a bar, where he befriends a downcast, toupee-wearing man named Paul, played by Michael McKean. Paul talks about a failed recent sexual attempt where he went “limp” while in his “birthday suit,” and Jack, having the innocent ears and eyes and solid-gold heart of a child, or perhaps the literal-minded robot on Small Wonder, thinks his new friend hurt his leg on his birthday. At this boozy haven for lost, drunken souls, Jack sees D.D. and works up the moxie to grope her ass, but before he can seal the deal, he bumps into a barroom bully, who taunts him with, “What do you think, you’re pretty smart?” When Jack answers affirmatively, except for social studies, the thug responds with, “Studies? How’d you like to study my fist?” (Again, this is an exchange that occurred in a film by the director of The Conversation.)

          Jack alternates deliriously and incoherently between G-rated family-friendly shenanigans and hilariously mawkish melodrama. One moment, Jack is bonding with his bros in a giant tree-house by farting into a can and eating totally gross stuff; the next, he’s contemplating his mortality when he answers the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” with a trembling, “I want to be alive.”

          On a thematic level, Jack is about profound issues: childhood, aging, perspective, and the value and meaning of life. But from a plot standpoint, it’s almost perversely mundane. The film is primarily concerned with Jack’s efforts to go to a public school, and then his efforts to get sent back to the public school after his parents decide it’d be safer and more secure to have him home-tutored. The film’s climax consists of Jack’s obnoxious friends begging his mom to let him come out and join them in their youthful frolics, both through words and by having a veritable carnival of fun just outside his front door. Jack is threadbare and deficient in terms of plot and characterization, yet as it creaks into the home stretch, it lurches for a sense of purpose, and struggles to supply uplift it hasn’t come close to earning.

          After establishing its protagonist as an exemplar of all that is good and pure about the human spirit, the film flashes forward seven years to Jack’s high-school graduation. In a vomit-inducing fit of sentimentality, a now-wizened Jack—back-lit by the requisite halo of golden light and scored to soaring strings—serves up the film’s cloying message on a platter, announcing, “In the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night, and when a shooting star shoots through the blackness turning night into day, make a wish. Think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did. I made it, Mom. I’m a grown-up.”

          In this moment, the film shamelessly ejaculates thick streams of undiluted sap in a 25-person gang-bang of grotesque melodrama. Jack drills into audiences the magic of life, the wonder of childhood, and the beauty of friendship, while making a terrible case for all three. It embodies the treacle at the core of Williams’ persona, but for Coppola, it was undeniably a low. The director quit film-making for a good decade following the next year’s The Rainmaker, but his perplexingly generic work here strongly suggests that he quit trying shortly before the script for Jack first reached his desk.


  6. Another intriguing installment in the series, and great retrospective. I think it makes sense what you are saying about how a comic’s shtick can get cold, and it seems to be the Achilles heel of many a comedian. But at least he has gotten to be more versatile and ride out the inevitable fall from height, a little more gracefully. “Mrs Doubtfire” seems to be on TV endlessly and we actually saw it a week or so ago. It really illustrates well, both his talent for physical comedy (A+) and being serious (B+). I can’t think of anyone in the world who could have delivered a line like “It was a drive-by fruiting” like Williams did. (Improv?) “Night at the Museum”, of course he nailed, as did everyone in the incredibly talented cast. Kids do like it, but whether or not you will enjoy it as an adult will depend entirely on your perspective. I was going through a bad phase at work where I saw all kind of workplace parallels in the events of “Night at the Museum” and watched it several times during that time period. It’s worth checking out, especially since you can actually watch it with your kids. You will not be bored.
    “RV”, which I fully expected to be lame, is actually not bad, provided again, you are in the mood for slapstick/physical comedy that is family friendly.


    • Mrs. Doubtfire is what it is. I remember being entertained the one time I ever watched it. But I don’t care for formulaic movies. So I just can’t bring myself to sit down and watch it again.

      I have heard pretty good things about the Night at the Museum movies. I’m sure they are good, mindless entertainment. I haven’t avoided them. I just haven’t gone out of my way either. I’m sure I will get around to seeing them. There are some very talented actors in them.

      I assumed RV was a piece of trash. I was shocked to discover it was directed by Barry Levinson. Now I am curious to check it out.

      Usually when I write these articles, I come away with either more or less respect for the subject. In this case, I gained a tremendous respect for Williams even if I haven’t cared about many of his movies lately.


      • I must confess Lebeau, you will find RV to be somewhat formulaic. OK there are shameless Vacation ripoffs in it. But let me put it this way. If you are in need of family entertainment for an evening, the Lebeau offspring will be screaming with laughter, and the Lebeau parental units will not be bored, but will probably not watch it more than once.


  7. Robin Williams is one of the actor I litterally grew up with. I grew up as a child with many of the movies you mentioned here. So thanks for this article. Tough unfortunately many of his late works are pretty embarassing, however I’m also surprised that his late movies have not be the box-office bomb I thought.


    • Long time no see. How’s things in Italy?

      I knew RV did pretty well. But I was really shocked by how many of his movies I had considered bombs actually did okay. Nothing to brag about, but reasonably well. It explains how he kept making them I guess.


      • Sorry for absence, but I’ve been very busy. I’m finishingi university so, it’s pretty tough now 😀

        Things in Italy? Well, it appears like we will have a functioning government in the next days, so the party is over unfortunately 😦 😉


  8. Which Actor/Actress Has Had The Biggest Fall From Grace Since Burt Reynolds?:

    Harrison Ford: In my opinion, Harrison Ford has had a fall from grace that is even bigger than the one suffered by Burt Reynolds. Ranked in 1997 by Empire Magazine as the biggest film star of all time, Ford has since starred in 12 films. Of those 12 films, only 3 have made over $100 million domestically (and Cowboys and Aliens shouldn’t even count since it barely made it over this threshold and couldn’t recoup its $163 million budget through domestic receipts alone). Once thought immune to empty-box office syndrome, Ford can now be seen in 42, a trite, tiresome, and by-the-book biopic of Jackie Robinson whose screenplay he would have scoffed at only ten years ago.


  9. How has Harrison Ford ended up here?:

    As his latest film limps to just $6m in its opening weekend, we look at what’s happened to the career of Harrison Ford over the past decade or so…

    This time ten years ago, Harrison Ford was hard at work on Robert Zemeckis’ What Lies Beneath. It was a thriller where he effectively took second billing to Michelle Pfeiffer, and by the standards of the Hollywood movie star, he took quite a bold role in the film. A risk, you’d have to call it. When it was released towards the end of the year, What Lies Beneath emerged as a derivative but quite effective thriller (albeit one with a trailer that seemed keen to spoil the main feature), and could generally be chalked up as a success for all concerned.

    It was also, with the exception of one major franchise that we’ll come to shortly, the last time that a Harrison Ford movie crossed the $100m mark at the US box office

    Harrison Ford’s qualities as a box office draw in the decades before are without question. He chose his roles well, and managed to mix in smaller projects such as Witness alongside some of the better blockbusters of the 90s: Air Force One, Clear And Present Danger and The Fugitive instantly spring to mind. Sure, he had his duffers too, but there was always a big hit never far away. Throw in the two big franchises in his career – Star Wars and Indiana Jones – and it’s not an unreasonable suggestion to infer that we’ll not see a movie star enjoy such consistent box office success for a long time to come.

    And yet, the past decade has been really quite barren for Ford. It’s not just that the films he’s made since What Lies Beneath have underperformed at the box office. More importantly, it’s also that they’ve really not been very good. Seriously, here’s the list: K-19 The Widowmaker (dodgy Russian accent a very bad idea), Hollywood Homicide (fairly poor action comedy co-starring Josh Hartnett, directed by the usually brilliant Ron Shelton), Firewall (genuinely shit and unconvincing techno-thriller), Crossing Over and Extraordinary Measures.

    The last two have, arguably, been the biggest disappointments. It’s always been a bit of a frustration that, at the peak of his powers, Ford didn’t choose edgier projects to lend his star power to. Among the roles that he reportedly turned down in that time were Michael Douglas’ part in Traffic, George Clooney’s Oscar-winning role in Syriana (a decision he admits he regrets), Kevin Costner’s in JFK, Liam Neeson’s In Schindler’s List, Val Kilmer’s in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Nick Nolte’s in Cape Fear. That’s quite a list of challenging, interesting projects that he chose not to commit to for whatever reason. It almost felt like he was playing safety first.

    But perhaps we’re seeing why. For Ford is at the stage of his career where he has been looking at more interesting dramas, such as Wayne Kramer’s Crossing Over, and the newly-released in the US Extraordinary Measures for director Tom Vaughan. Yet, when Michael Douglas picks a serious ensemble drama to commit to, for example, he manages to pick something of real substance and quality. Ford? He’s not having the same kind of luck. It’s hard to knock him for finally gamling on more interesting projects, but he’s striking out both commercially and critically.

    Is it, then, a bad eye for material that Ford seems to have now? Maybe, maybe not. But glancing at the Rotten Tomatoes aggregated scores for Crossing Over and Extraordinary Measures doesn’t paint a very flattering picture. Crossing Over scores 16%, while Extraordinary Measures rates at 29%. Reviews were not kind, and Crossing Over now sits unloved in the bargain bin at my local DVD store already. Neither film’s box office was even a shadow of what Ford’s films used to muster at the height of his career, either. Appreciating that these are smaller projects with less ambitious projected box office returns. Extraordinary Measures picked up just $6m in its opening weekend, and is set to sink without trace from US cinemas in the next couple of weeks. Crossing Over (a troubled production, to be fair) brought in – are you ready for this? – just over $3m worldwide. There are smaller projects, but with a big movie star name attached, you’d still expect a good $10-20m in the bank just as a starting point. Ford’s pulling power outside of one film role now seems virtually non-existent. And it’s a real shame it’s come to this.

    So, inevitably, it seems that the only franchise that Ford has left in his back pocket to bank on – given that Paramount is keen to go younger with Jack Ryan, having now cast Chris Pine in the role – is Indiana Jones. Much has been written of Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, much of it not complimentary. And with good reason: it was, in retrospect, a fairly crappy film. But I’ll give it this: I still got a real kick out of watching Ford do his stuff in the title role. He owns that part, and it was the first reminder we’d had in a decade of what this man can do when front and centre of a big movie. Granted, we’re hardly talking Oscars all round, but it was a big movie star role played by an actor showing why he became a big movie star in the first place. A fifth Indiana Jones film may be the only way he can break $100m at the US box office again (and Crystal Skull, lest we forget, did over $700m worldwide), but there aren’t many actors of his vintage, to be fair, who could even think about powering a hit of that size (or at any point in their careers).

    But is there hope on the horizon? Because what’s perhaps more promising is Ford’s next film. Currently in post-production, Morning Glory is a rare venture into comedy for him. I say this, as I’ve always felt that Ford has demonstrated a deadpan skill for comedy (and not just for the way he told Bruno where to go in last year’s Sacha Baron Cohen comedy). His delivery was often comedically brilliant in Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and I always think back to his perfectly-pitched performance in Working Girl too. I maintain the Ford is a skilled comedy actor in the right role, and maybe Morning Glory will be the first role in a long time to allow those skills to flourish.

    Because here’s the thing: personally, I love lots of Harrison Ford movies, and unlike some actors who rely on the same-old to bring home their bacon, at least the man now seems to be trying. He’s not always chosen wisely in the past (although who has?), and that list of roles he’s rejected – appreciating retrospect is an easy art – would alone make for a staggering CV. Some actors clearly deserve a box office wallop, and Ford shouldn’t be immune to that. But he seems to be taking his punishment harder than most.

    Granted, he’s at a point in his career where that probably doesn’t matter, but wouldn’t it be great now to see him really taking a few big gambles, and committing to some genuinely interesting indie projects? If he still wants the limelight, then Indy is always in his back pocket. But Ford is still a big talent, and a genuine movie star. Imagine him teaming up with an ambitious first time director for a project that genuinely took a few more risks? That’s still got to be something worth waiting for, and I’m indebted to Empire magazine for revealing that he’s next going to working with Bronson director Nick Winding Refn. I’d far rather he took on these small films and failed, than choosing something of the ilk of Firewall again. It’s why, in spite of the numbers and reviews, I’ll give Extraordinary Measures a try when it comes to the UK at the end of the month.

    In the meantime, we hold out hope that Morning Glory delivers. The presence of Notting Hill director Roger Michell behind the camera is promising, and at the very least, we’re expecting it to make a more sizeable landing than Extraordinary Measures.

    So here’s hoping that, for the first time in a decade (with arguably the exception of Indy, at least for novelty value), we get a really good reason to go and see a Harrison Ford movie on the big screen. It really has been some time…


  10. What happened to Harrison Ford?:

    He traversed distant galaxies with Chewbacca, shot sword-wielding assassins with Marion Ravenwood and outfoxed federal marshal Samuel Gerard all by himself.

    But these days all those things may as well have happened to a different actor than Harrison Ford, who in the last decade has robbed banks, sought rare cures, captained Russian subs and investigated murders of hip-hop stars, all in the land of obscurity. (“Firewall,” “Extraordinary Measures,” “K-19: The Widowmaker” and “Hollywood Homicide,” if you were trying to guess what movies those were.)

    This weekend’s release of “Morning Glory” painfully underscored Ford’s marginality. The actor plays a grizzled, serious journalist who’s forced, through the unique power of Hollywood cause-and-effect, to take a job as a bantering morning host. The comedy-drama about the state of the news business was marketed heavily using Ford’s name and visage, and the actor gamely went on the likes of “The Late Show With David Letterman” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to promote it.

    For all the critical jibes, Ford is actually not bad in the role, stalking around with a dour face while doling out digs to his co-anchor like, “Do they have rehab programs for bitter beauty queens with self-esteem issues?” But few, apparently, wanted to see him do that. The movie failed to reach even $10 million in domestic box office this weekend. If you show some chops but no one is there to see it, did you really show them?

    What’s most disappointing about “Morning Glory” is that, after a decade without a comedy, Ford’s turn in something more spry was supposed to mark a new chapter by getting him back to his crowd-pleasing ways. But the movie’s disappointing performance adds one more nail in a coffin that’s been enveloping Ford’s career, “Buried”-style, for years. The actor has been striking out repeatedly as the heroic action figure and didn’t fare better when he went somber as a medical miracle worker in “Extraordinary Measures” earlier this year. Now it turns out we don’t want to see him in a comedy either, not even when he’s playfully riffing on his own taciturn persona.

    In his heyday, Ford was much more than an action hero, of course; he was winning over audiences with dramas such as “Regarding Henry” and even gaining decent notices in romantic comedies like the “Sabrina” remake — exactly the kinds of roles he should be excelling at as he nears 70 and can’t leap into waterfalls anymore.

    What happened? Did we outgrow Ford? Or was his range never as great as we thought it was?

    Some would say that this is all a function of bad choices and that, to salvage his career, the actor should go back to action roles, maybe self-deprecating ones. (The Jack Ryan reboot is a natural candidate). The one time he did that in the last few years, after all, was with “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” and the fans turned out. But with the bad taste that movie left in some mouths, it’s hardly clear that would work either.

    In a sense, Ford has had the opposite career of his “Star Wars” costar Mark Hamill. Unlike Ford and his prolific output, Hamill hasn’t been in a major motion picture in more than two decades. That’s not exactly Hamill’s own choice, but it’s had an oddly positive effect on his reputation. While Ford’s series of poorly received movies has lately relegated the actor to self-parody, Hamill has paradoxically remained in a good pop-culture place, his image unravaged by time or bad roles.

    Ford next stars in the science-fiction-western hybrid “Cowboys & Aliens,” a movie that stays close to his trademark action heroism but branches out in enough new directions that we might be willing to embrace him again. He should hope we do — he’s running out of genres to come back with.


  11. The Fall of Harrison Ford:

    Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, Harrison Ford reigned as the unchallenged star of middle-of-the-road cinema. Almost unique in modern history, he not only created two iconic characters—Han Solo and Indiana Jones—but also managed to step away from them, into a hugely successful leading-man career in movies such as Working Girl, Patriot Games, and The Fugitive, to name a few. He excelled in grownup action roles, respectably above the pyrotechnic-driven thrills of Stallone and Schwarzenegger—but he was also able to charm as a romantic lead.

    As one-note as Ford’s performances were, audiences seemed never to tire of that note. Until one day, they did.

    And then it ended. Almost overnight, Harrison Ford, 67, went from summer-blockbuster stalwart to Mr. January, a star of films unceremoniously unloaded into Hollywood’s dumping-ground month. His new film Extraordinary Measures, which opened Friday, is about to disappear from a theater near you: It is on track to make a mere $7 million this weekend, putting it in seventh place.

    What is terrifying about this change is that it happened almost without explanation—like a dust bowl suddenly descending upon a once lush and verdant land. One day there was a giant body of water here, and the next day there wasn’t.

    There was no scandal or public meltdown that brought Ford’s career to a halt as happened to Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise. The relatively—by Hollywood standards—private star, had not suffered from overexposure like a Bennifer or Jude Law. His movies didn’t become markedly worse overnight: He continued making the same nuts-and-bolts thrillers and tepid romantic comedies he had always made.

    And yet, his career fell off a cliff. What Lies Beneath was the 10th-highest-grossing film of 2000; two years later, the very decent, Kathryn Bigelow-directed K-19 finished at No. 76. And that was followed by Hollywood Homicide: No. 92 for the year in 2003.

    Even Ford’s long-awaited return last year to his iconic Raiders role, while performing well at the box office, was more of a fizzle than a homecoming in terms of cultural impact.

    The tale of Ford’s decline is perplexing. Can we find lessons here for our own lives? We must try.

    Lesson One: If You Hold a Single Note Long Enough, It Will Eventually Go Off Key

    What particularly bedevils about the collapse of the Harrison Ford market is that the basic product remained more or less unchanged. Even in Extraordinary Measures, he projects the same intense energy he displayed at his career height, barking “Get out of my lab!”—and then learning to care despite himself.

    It’s not as though dramatic range was ever Ford’s thing. Showbiz legend has it that he got the part in Star Wars after volunteering to help out buddy George Lucas at a casting session. Ford listlessly fed lines to the auditioners in his blank, affectless manner, and, at some point during the day, Lucas heard his monotone delivery of “I’ve never heard anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful Force”, and yelled, ‘That’s my Han Solo!’

    Once that deadpan style was forged, Ford stuck with it. Such consistency may not have been the road to Oscar trophies, but finding one character to play served Ford well for years, as it had John Wayne, Cary Grant, and Jimmy Stewart before him.

    As one-note as Ford’s performances were, audiences seemed never to tire of that note. Until one day, they did. Baby-faced boy/men like Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Robert Downey Jr. suddenly became America’s action leads, and guys in suits suddenly looked like grandpa trying to crash the kids’ party.

    Lesson Two: Make Sure the Story Is Always Yours; AKA, Never Let Your Costar’s Narrative Overwhelm Your Own

    The beginning of the end for Ford was a little comedy adventure entitled Six Days, Seven Nights, in which he starred opposite Anne Heche as a pilot marooned on an island with a high-strung magazine editor. When it came out in 1998, Six Days wasn’t Ford’s worst film by a long shot (let us award that distinction to the criminally mawkish Regarding Henry). However, it was the victim, through no fault of Ford’s, of terrible timing.

    When the film was released, co-star Heche was in the midst of her dramatic, well-publicized, tabloid-fodder relationship with Ellen DeGeneres. As one of the first (then) openly gay actresses to star in a Hollywood feature film, Heche-as-heterosexual-lead opposite Ford produced a heavy wave of predictably juvenile guffaws in public commentary on the film. While these snickers didn’t sink the film at the box office—it actually performed respectably—their lack of onscreen chemistry was mocked as ridiculous.

    Ford had been sleepwalking through tepid Hollywood concoctions like Regarding Henry and Sabrina for years before Six Days. But after that moment, audiences have refused to consider him as a romantic lead again. His next film, Random Hearts, was dead on arrival, earning a mere $31 million. He has had two hits since Six Days—the haunted-house thriller What Lies Beneath, which didn’t even feature Ford’s face on the poster, and his return to Indiana Jones.

    Lesson Three: You Can’t Go Home Again

    Is there anything sadder than throwing up your hands on the idea of moving forward and instead capitulating to other people’s desires? Yes, there is: when giving people what they want still doesn’t work.

    The world had been buzzing for two decades about when Ford would once again don the whip and felt hat to play Indiana Jones. But when he finally did in 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the reaction was OK at best. At worst, he was torn apart in a well-circulated Internet parody and on a fantastically outrageous South Park episode.

    The film performed well at the box office, but the excitement of the buildup fizzled almost immediately. In the end, the film’s major legacy may be that no one is crying for another Indiana Jones movie anymore.


    Business seminars could use the Ford implosion as a case study to show the need to remain agile and change with the times. And it is possible that when the actor passes out of this period, he could have an On Golden Pond moment, and, like Henry Fonda was then, be rewarded for his longevity. His fans yearn for that next phase to come. Because in the end, when Hollywood Homicide has long been forgotten, Han Solo and Indiana Jones will live on, along with Blade Runner and The Fugitive. He leaves us with the Harrison Ford we once loved moderately intact. Which these days in a celebrity, is far more than we’ve come to expect.


  12. Williams’ career turned out to be better than I gave him credit for before researching the article. That happens sometimes. But I think the general perception is that Williams went from one of Hollywood’s top stars to a joke. I still kind of think that is true. He is no longer anywhere near as respected as he once was. He’s just moderately more successful than people give him credit for.

    A long career doesn’t necessarily disqualify an actor from WTHH. In a way, it can make the question all that much more interesting. How does someone like Ford go from being such a dominant force at the box office to falling off the face of the earth.

    Sure, he’s had a resurgence. And that’s pretty amazing given his age. But I’m still interested in the period from What Lies Beneath to Indiana Jones 4. WTHH there?


    • Craig Hansen

      I’m a huge fan of Harrison Ford, I grew up as a tremendous fan of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, and yet he avoided the career deathtrap of being pigeonholed in those roles with plenty of other enjoyable box office hits during the 80’s and 90’s. He reigned at the box office pretty consistently for many years until after What Lies Beneath in 2000, and as a lifelong fan I too have wondered to myself, WTHH to his career since then? Indy 4 was a blockbuster, but it was a shadow of the greatness of the earlier entries in the series. Cowboys and Aliens broke $100M at the box office, though just barely and was regarded as a flop due to its high budget. 42 was a surprise hit earlier this year, finishing with about $100m domestically, much higher than the experts expected it to do. As a lifelong fan I’m glad to see him have a hit, but it was a supporting role, though I’m sure the film benefited at least slightly box-office wise by his involevment.

      As far as his immediate career, Ender’s Game is releasing at the end of the year with him in a supporting role, and since it’s a big-budget adaptation of a popular novel, I’m sure it’ll do fine box office wise, and of course he’ll finally be returning as everyone’s favorite intergalactic spice-smuggler/scoundrel in Star Wars 7 in 2015, which of course will be another blockbuster, so his career isn’t exactly hurting. I still ponder what happened during the 00’s, but to be honest at this point he is 70 years old, and outside of maybe Clint Eastwood perhaps, I can’t think of any other movie stars that can draw in big audiences on name alone as a leading man at that age, so it’s understandable that Ford is now in his supporting-role stage of his career. I’m not sure if you plan to ever do a Harrison Ford write up, but definately it would be a great career to reflect on overall, and definately that 2000 to 2008 gap is a period worth digging into to figure out WTTH.


      • With Ford, my interest is in WTHH during his down time. He has had an impressive comeback even if it is as you pointed out a shadow of his former glory. I was a huge fan of Ford’s back in the 80-90s. I have to admit though that my opinion has changed over the years. He doesn’t have nearly the range I used to give him credit for.


      • I won’t bag on Ford. His career is amazingly impressive. That’s why I want to write about it. Hopefully when you see the article, you won’t find it “pointless”. 😉


  13. Agree D, by all definitions Harrison Ford has got to be permanent A+ list. I do think that people of a certain age, such as Ford, Williams and Chase, deserve some credit for continuing to work when they don’t have to.
    What is noticeable from these bios is that men, too, eventually come up against the Hollywood aging problem where there are fewer and fewer roles. It’s just that women seem to hit this wall around 40 and men not until 65.


    • Permanent A-list? No such thing. Everyone falls eventually. Some rise and fall repeatedly. The point is not to mock actors for falling off the A-list. It’s to chart the ebbs and flows.


  14. What I forgot was just how forgettable most of Williams’ output was between Mork & Mindy and Good Morning Vietnam.
    He had been famous for more than a decade by then, so it was easy to think that he was a big star that whole time, which really isn’t fully accurate.
    I was a big fan of Mork initially, but by the time Winters joined the show even I was aware that it was sputtering. I don’t think I ever cared whether the story got concluded. What’s Pam Dawber doing? With the backwards aging of the Winters character, they could cast a charming young comedian to play him and tie up the plot as a TV movie.


    • My taste as a kid was highly questionable. I was as invested in Mork and Mindy at the end as I was at the beginning. I didn’t become a discriminating viewer until high school. I am going to attribute it to having been extremely sheltered. Most of true crap wasn’t allowed in our house.

      I’d tune in for a M&M reunion. I’m sure it would be awful, but I’d watch. Pam Dawber = early crush.

      I like Garp pretty well. For whatever reason, Moscow on the Hudson was really well received. But I remember thinking before GMV that Williams’ movie career was fizzling out.


  15. My opinion: Robin Williams was always at his best doing the frenetic, edge of insanity, schizophrenic routine of his. That’s why his stand up was so funny and why he was/is great on talk shows. He doesn’t even really get interviewed on Letterman, Leno, Carson etc.; he just takes over. Funny stuff. Problem is that doesn’t translate into a 90 or 120 minute movie very well. You can’t play that game for two hours and hold an audience. There are only really a couple movies I have enjoyed which include The Fisher King and Good Will Hunting. Both shamelessly tug at the heart strings, but I like them none the less. Mrs. Doubtfire and Night at the Museum? Yeah, decent movies but nothing to write home about. His darker turn in Insomnia was ok, but that movie focused more on Pacino than Williams if memory serves.

    In sum I respect that he’s managed a lengthy career, and I’m glad he’s been successful. Frankly I’ve skipped most of these movies you mentioned and it sounds like I made the right call based on their reviews. Williams has never been one that could draw me to a movie on his name alone. I do enjoy his schtick in small doses though. Na-noo Na-noo!


    • Small doses is key for me. By this point, he’s been doing the same voices and impressions for decades. I tend to find his schtick tiring more often than not.

      However, when I was a kid Williams was a genius. Na-noo Na-noo indeed.


  16. Sitcoms Online Message Boards – Forums > 1970s Sitcoms > Mork & Mindy:

    Several factors.

    Robin Williams is getting older. Too lazy to look, but he is over 60 and from the article had an incredible run of films after the end of Mork and Mindy and I enjoyed a lot of his films over the years. He has had a fantastic career.

    Robin has been married something like three times and has been on and off the recovery road since he was a young man. Robin Williams was really incredible in Mork and Mindy. His ad-libs were so good that the writers basically allowed him to do it. Watching Robin Williams do improvational comedy around 1980 was like watching Michael Jordan play basketball. Supposedly, Robin Williams was on the cocaine at the time, which made his manic performances that much better.

    Mork and Mindy got stale because they ran out of things to do, and I hate to say this, Pam Dawber. I would have fired Dawber and that story and had Mork live by himself, working jobs, and meeting people and maybe travelling. The show really screwed up with Jonathan Winters (as a baby?)!

    This is my opinion, but first run Hollywood films are 99% garbage, and I get tired of seeing the same, old, tired A Listers. The last thing I saw Robin Williams in was some movie called “Old Dogs” with John Travolta.

    Supposedly, Robin Williams is just beloved by everyone in Hollywood except the stand up comics who have accused Robon of stealing jokes.


    • Looking back on “Mork & Mindy”, does anybody else agree that “Mork & Mindy” is one of the best cases of how a second season retool can really hurt a TV show:!1368042218203_08FG1bd1Rs4qT_Mork-and-Mindy-%281978_82%29

      A classic example of messing with success. Mork and Mindy was a smash in Season One, turning Robin Williams into a star. Though it ranked #3 in the ratings, the network couldn’t help meddling. They ditched the supporting cast, which included Conrad Janis as Mindy’s dad, and added deli owner Remo (Jay Thomas). Not sure that was an improvement. Also added was a new focus on a romance between Mork and Mindy. Bleh. As a result of all this retooling (and a new time slot), ratings plummeted. Efforts were made to undo the damage, but it was too late. The show never recovered.


  17. Well, that writer is way off about Pam Dawber. She didn’t hurt Mork and Mindy, quite the opposite. i remember many a young swain back then was totally smitten and tuned in to the show BECAUSE of her! Both she and Robin were white hot at the time but it’s kind of like the Dukes of Hazard, top rated show that people today won’t admit they used to watch religiously.


  18. dead again, Mrs. doubt fire hook, bicentennial man, good will hunting, insomnia, flubber, father’s day, old dogs etc. are the only good films I enjoyed from robin williams


  19. Craig Hansen

    Great write up of his career. Recent choices like RV, Man of the Year and Old Dogs give an impression that he’s not really trying anymore, but looking over his career I gotta admire what he accomplished overall. I too grew up as a kid loving him in Mork and Mindy, but once he left that show he really showed how much talent and range he really has. His biggest comedies, Good Morning Vietnam, Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire, which turned out to be blockbusters, allowed him to ad-lib a fair amount, which he excels at as a comedian. What really impresses me though is his serious dramatic roles, where he reigns in his manic energy. Awakenings and Good Will Hunting are real standouts in his career, and especially One Hour Photo, which I thought was just brilliant. Not sure if you saw it, but its a bit of a shame he wasn’t at least nominated for an Oscar, because it was one if his finest performances.

    I’ve been reading your articles for awhile and finally decided to chime in, you’re doing great, keep it up!


    • Thanks so much. Glad you decided to join in the comments section. This is usually where I have the most fun.

      OHP was pretty great. Plus, Gary Cole. Gary Cole is always awesome.

      For the last 10 years or so, I have been making jokes at Williams’ expense. But after spending some time reviewing his career from start to present, it’s damn impressive. Very few actors have been as successful as Williams at as many different kinds of roles.


      • Craig Hansen

        I’m totally on board with the Gary Cole comment. He’s one of those character actors that I regret didn’t make it to lead actor, because he obviously has talent, and he appeared in a few films that should’ve given him visibility enough to make that leap. Office Space, One Hour Photo, A Simple Plan, heck he was even funny in the Brady Bunch Movie! Sorry, you got me started, ha ha.

        You bring up an interesting point about Williams’ more recent career, though, I thought he was in more of a slump than he actually is. His films have mostly been modest hits on reasonable budgets, I probably got a different opinion before reading your article because movies like RV, License to Wed and Old Dogs look like weak efforts without watching them, and they’re not the types of movies you wind up paying much attention to box-office wise and I just assumed they flopped. I will agree though with a couple of commentators here that Night At The Museum is actually a pretty enjoyable movie, which was a huge success. Williams only has a supporting role in it, but it provided him with a big hit or two on his resume in between the middling efforts. But it is a good, fun popcorn family movie that’ll give a few laughs.


        • Gary Cole is always great. Whenever I see him in a movie regardless of the size of his role, I am excited. He always elevates the material. I think he has the talent to be a leading man. But I think he works best as a character actor. Leading man parts are too restrictive for a guy with Cole’s versatility. I do wish he worked more though.

          I was in the same place as you with regards to Williams’ career. I wasn’t paying attention because the movies he was making no longer appealed to me. I assumed Old Dogs was a flop with audiences as well as critics. But it actually did okay. I think a lot of people considered it a flop because at their peak a pairing of Williams and Travolta would have been expected to crack 100 million. If that is your expectation, Old Dogs was a disappointment. But in relation to budget, Williams’ movies have been more base hits than strike outs.

          As it turns out, The Big Wedding was a flop. But Williams is part of an ensemble there. So no one will take too much blame for that one.

          I am going to have to check out Night at the Museum based on all the positive comments. Like I said, I haven’t been avoiding it. I just haven’t sought it out either. As an Amy Adams fan, I am especially interested in the sequel.


  20. For the record, I’m still a Williams fan. I’ve often wondered how he would’ve played Clouseau in the recent Pink Panther films. Nothing against Steve Martin, but he just didn’t compare with Sellers in that role, but I can’t help but wonder if Williams would’ve fared better.


    • daffystardust

      I really doubt anyone will ever stack up to Sellers in that role. He is Clouseau. Other actors just play at being Clouseau.


    • I have never watched the remakes. Sellers was the Pink Panther movies. I really can’t imagine another actor owning that role. It would be like casting someone else as Austin Powers. What’s the point? Having said that, Martin seems especially unsuited to the role.

      I would like to see Williams aim a little higher. He should seek out projects for more respected directors. He should have a career like Bill Murray has, IMO.


  21. Well, Williams has worked with notable directors such as Weir, Spielberg, Altman, Van Sant and even Coppola. So I’d say that, at least for a time, his career was comparable to Murray’s. Although, as you noted, his recent work hasn’t been exactly the kind of stuff that takes up marquee space.


    • Exactly. I attribute a lot of Williams’ success to the fact he worked with top directors. Although, he tended to work with them on some of their least successful movies. (Hook, Jack, Father’s Day) His most successful movies tended to be for “hack” directors like Chris Columbus.

      He has gone the Murray route to some degree with movies like One Hour Photo and The Final Cut. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been as successful as Murray with identifying hip directors to work with.


  22. On board with all these comments regarding the Panther movies. Sellers was the only Clouseau. I too like Steve Martin but couldn’t watch the remake because it didn’t seem right. Robin Williams would still not have been Clouseau. Sellers was so unique, it is difficult to envision another actor who could have taken that on, and none of the A list comedians except maybe Dan Ackroyd. On second thought.. I’d have gone with a different, maybe lesser known actor such as Peter Coyote or Tom Conti.


    • There are some roles you can recast. James Bond, Batman, I would argue even Indiana Jones. Action characters are bigger than the actors who portray them. But what made the Panther movies work was Sellers. While other actors can do a good job, it won’t be the same. So why bother? Do something new instead.


  23. Craig Hansen

    Having read your earlier articles, I know that you normally just give a brief mention to animated films in an actor’s career, because 9 times out of 10 it really has little to no effect on an actor’s career or momentum, even if it turns out to be a hit/blockbuster. But one of the rare exceptions would be Aladdin. Robin Williams was a big selling point as The Genie, and as Aladdin was actually the highest grossing film of 1992 with $217M domestically, it seemed like the good will from that film gave Williams’ career a good boost in return. Win/Win.

    In retrospect, animated films from the 80’s and early 90’s typically had no-name voice actors, even in the lead roles. Even The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, for example, two huge hits for Disney in ’89 and ’91, featured no A-listers among the cast. After Aladdin, it seems every animated film since then has a cast full of name actors to further help promote the movie (Shrek, Lion King, Toy Story, Kung Fu Panda, Madagacar, Megamind, etc., etc.). I really think that Aladdin’s huge success in ’92, and Robin Williams’ prominent role in it, provided a model for movie studios moving forward with animated films. In that respect, Aladdin was highly influential for future animated films. At least that’s my hunch, at any rate I do love Aladdin, if push came to shove I think it’s probably my favorite comedy film of his, Williams’ performance of The Genie is just gold. He was allowed to ad-lib a lot, but was reigned in just enough by the script to not go off the rails.


    • Agreed. Usually, I will give a passing mention to voice work because it doesn’t have much impact on a career one way or another. It’s usually just a quick paycheck. Like Nicolos Cage in The Croods. That movie was a big hit, but Cage’s career isn’t getting a bump out of it. Williams’ work as the Genie is an exception. It was very high profile and definitely helped his career.

      (Some other exceptions would be Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy for the Shrek films since those movies have basically become their career these days and Tom Hanks and Tim Allen for the Toy Story movies.)

      Sometimes the articles have subplots running through them. I decided to follow Williams’ friendship with Christopher Reeve in this article. And also his on-again off-again relationship with Disney. In many ways, Williams relationship with Disney shaped his career. When their relationship was good, both parties benefitted.

      It’s no wonder Williams has done so much voice work. It’s the perfect medium for his style of comedy. You can just let him go crazy in a recording room for hours on end and then sort through and pick out the best 20 minutes. Then you can create an animated character that matches the wackiness of the recording.


  24. Oh man I’m so glad Williams’ brand of comedy/drama shoving inspiration down your throat is no longer on the market. It’s was some of Hollywood’s worse…


    • It was the “shoving inspiration down your throat” that especially rankled me. I enjoy an uplifting movie as much as the next guy. But if you don’t do it exactly right, you get emotionally manipulative clap trap like Jack, Patch Adams and Jakob the Liar. I would rather see him doing RV and Old Dogs.


  25. Career Watch: Harrison Ford:

    Harrison Ford is an iconic actor who can still draw crowds in an Indiana Jones sequel — but at age 68, he is looking to reclaim his box office mojo after a run of flops.

    Latest Misfire: Although Ford grabbed strong reviews in a supporting role as a crusty one-time news star reduced to co-anchoring a morning show in the careerist comedy ‘Morning Glory,’ which stars perky actress-on-the-rise Rachel McAdams, the press is attacking him for yet another box-office dud. The rom-com opened to a fourth-place $9.6 million this past weekend. Ford fared worse with audiences and critics alike in two recent sober dramas, ‘Extraordinary Measures’ ($12.1 million) and ‘Crossing Over’ ($456,000).

    Signature Line: “Traveling through hyper-space ain’t like dusting crops, boy!”– Han Solo

    Career Peaks: Ford enjoyed a rare 25-year run as an A-list movie star, from his break-out in George Lucas’ ‘American Grafitti’ in 1973 through iconic roles in the ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ franchises and the Jack Ryan series that ended with ‘Clear and Present Danger’ in 1994. He was a dishy romantic lead in ‘Witness,’ ‘Working Girl’ and ‘Regarding Henry,’ but made his fortune as an action hero in tentpoles such as ‘The Fugitive’ and ‘Air Force One.’

    Awards Attention: He was nominated for the best actor Oscar only once, for Peter Weir’s ‘Witness,’ in 1985.

    Biggest Problem: He’s no longer a marquee draw. While he’s delightful in ‘Morning Glory,’ which drew an older crowd, his promo tour on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ and ‘David Letterman’ didn’t cut it. For decades he wouldn’t leave the comfort of his home if he didn’t get his $20 million asking price, turning down the lead in Steven Soderbergh’s Oscar-winning ‘Traffic’ — which went to Michael Douglas — in favor of the Russian-accented captain in ‘K-19: The Widowmaker.’ His low points include such studio fare as ‘Sabrina,’ ‘Six Days, Seven Nights,’ ‘Firewall,’ ‘Hollywood Homicide,’ ‘The Devil’s Own’ and ‘Random Hearts.’

    Biggest Assets: Now that those studio paydays are no longer on the table, nor is he a romantic fantasy figure, Ford is free to play the field and experiment a tad. He brings masculine strength and gravitas to roles as commanders, presidents and a man with a gun. And he does comedy. Owen Gleiberman’s ‘Morning Glory’ review describes Ford as “still a magnetic hunk of grey-granite movie star.”

    Current Gossip: With four grown children from prior marriages, Ford finally married 10-year girlfriend Calista Flockhart in June. They are raising a son, Liam, whom Flockhart adopted in 2001. Liam is now nine.

    Next Step: ‘Indiana Jones 5’ is in development, and Ford is gung-ho to do it, he told MTV News: “It’s on George’s plate, and I’m hoping he’s working hard at it, because I’d look forward to doing it again if the three of us could get together — George, [director] Steven Spielberg, myself — I’d love to do another,” he said. Ford hits the range on horseback opposite Daniel Craig in Jon Favreau’s upcoming ‘Cowboys & Aliens.’

    Career Advice: “It’s good to see him working more, he’s a wonderful actor,” says Disney casting chief Marcia Ross, who thinks that the role in ‘Morning Glory’ was perfect casting for him. “You recognize him, he means something.” Finally, Ford should follow his own job description: “My occupation is assistant storyteller. It is not icon.”


  26. 10 Movies That Would’ve Been Better In Different Genres:

    4. Man of The Year

    What We Got: A sub-standard Robin Williams Electoral Politics Satire, with a romantic interest and an election conspiracy plot added in.

    What It Should’ve Been: A Robin Williams Electoral Politics Satire.

    Robin Williams, Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Jeff Goldblum, and even professional shouter Lewis Black star in a Barry Levinson satire about the American Election process, sounds like a winner on paper… alright I think you know the drill by now. This is another one of those movies that could never decide which genre to be, a goofy comedy, a political satire, a conspiracy thriller, the movie seemingly had multiple-personality syndrome. Robin Williams playing a Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert type of comedic pundit, decides that he doesn’t want to just put a comical spin on the news, he wants to make the news. He decides to run as an independent in the coming general election. As with most of the failed Williams vehicles, the filmmakers just don’t give him enough breathing room to work his unique comedic stylings. They add in a dull sub-plot about accidentally rigging the election with Laura Linney’s character, which eventually leads to her becoming a forced romantic interest for Williams’ character. Which takes precious time away from the promising premise of a political satirist getting elected to the highest office in the land, especially when he is played by the manic Williams. A stand-up special featuring Williams taking jabs at the state of current affairs in politics would be more welcomed and entertaining then what ‘Man of the Year’ turned out to be.


    • Interesting. I never did see Man of the Year, and had since forgotten about it, but I would like to check it out. Sounds like it had potential and a good cast. The political satire thing was probably done a bit more effectively in 2012’s The Campaign, with Will Ferrell, but that film also had some weakness with uneven tone in places, and a strange descent into darkness before coming up for air in the end. Critics evidently liked it better than Man of the Year though. I agree with the writer in the excerpt above; let Robin Williams do what he does best throughout the movie.



    The Defendant

    Robin Williams

    The Case

    The Prosecution: The Big Wedding, Old Dogs, RV, License to Wed, Everyone’s Hero, Man of the Year, The Final Cut, The Big White, The Night’s Listener*

    Ladies and gentleman of the jury, while witnessing the pukeyness that is the trailer for The Big Wedding, we were struck at how hit and miss Robin Williams has been for the past few years. It doesn’t help that the film also stars two other Movie Jail defendants, Robert De Niro (found innocent) and Katherine Heigl (found guilty), so Mr. Williams has chosen an odd project with mixed company. He hasn’t done anything really worthwhile or noteworth since 2009’s World’s Greatest Dad and before that you have to go to 2006 where Mr. Williams lent his vocal talents to Happy Feet and played Teddy Roosevelt in Night at the Museum, a movie much better than the critics gave it credit for. The 00’s (oughts?) haven’t been kind to Mr. Williams, or shall we say, Mr. Williams has had some real shit bombs in the last 15 years. And we’re talking about monumental bombs like RV, Old Dogs, License to Wed and Man of the Year. It’s time we slap some cuffs on Mork from Ork, send him to the slammer for a few years of rehabilitation and movie counseling.

    The Defense: World’s Greatest Dad, Happy Feet, Robots, Insomnia, One Hour Photo, A.I., The Birdcage, Hamlet, The Fisher King, August Rush, and on and on and on*

    Ladies and Gentleman of the jury, it is our opinion that Mr. Williams has done far too good to be incarcerated in the confines of Movie Jail. Look at the classic film roles he’s created, not to mention that Mr. Williams went from silly sitcom star to a top of the class dramatic actor. Many have tried to make the crossover, few do, but Mr. Williams has taken on challenging role after challenging role to varying levels of success. Sure, he’s had some stinkers in there, but what other “comedic” actor has been nominated four times for the Academy Award and gone home with one? Mr. Williams is not done by a long shot. The prosecution is going to rue the day they brought this case to the illustrious courtroom of Movie Jail, bank on it. Your Honor, throw out this case, kick the prosecution in the balls and let Mr. Williams walk free.


    So, what’s to be done with Robin Williams? Are the last 15 years of inconsistency enough for a Movie Jail sentence? Has Mr. Williams simply done too many good movies to even be considered for Movie Jail? And the most important question to be asked, once all evidence is taken into consideration, we ask you The Jury, is Robin Williams GUILTY or NOT GUILTY?


  28. i agree that robin williams isn’t done for a long shot. he is one of the greatest comedians ever, and a hell of a good actor. i for one would give anything to have had a career like his, a truly blessed man. love to meet him and see what else is in store for him in the future, regards; a fan


  29. Mrs. Doubtfire STILL on cable every week it seems…


  30. 10 Most Punchable Faces In Hollywood:

    9. Robin Williams

    Robin Williams’ hyperactive blend of physical comedy and non-stop riffing has given him a near 40 year career at this point. From his early beginnings as the lovable alien Mork to his latest incarnation as a Catholic priest in the abortive comedy The Big Wedding (never mind that he played a reverend a few years earlier in an equally unfunny turn in Licence to Wed), Williams’ antics have been hated as much as they’ve entertained. Except he hasn’t been in a good movie in years.

    Look at his output of the last 15 years: Old Dogs, Night at the Museum 1 and 2, Happy Feet 1 and 2, Shrink, Man of the Year, RV: Runaway Vacation, Robots, Death to Smoochy, Patch Adams, the list goes on – they are all utter crap. Couple that with his tired old stand-up routine he did a while back, Weapons of Self Destruction, and it makes you wonder what anyone saw in Williams to start with. Have you gone back to re-watch some of his “classics”, like Mrs Doubtfire or Hook? He’s not good in either! His funniest performance is arguably in Good Will Hunting.

    If you see Robin Williams in the cast of a movie these days you know it’ll be an unfunny and kinda terrifying experience to watch. And if you do end up watching one of his movies, you inevitably want to hit him every time he shows up and riffs his way through a scene. At this point in his career, he’s become a living cartoon of himself.


  31. ” Due to horrible reviews, I haven’t watched Old Dogs”

    I would suggest you ignore reviews. Don’t let other people form your opinions and form your own. You’ll find a ton of movies the so called “critics” didn’t like are really good movies.


    • I do listen to reviews. Honestly, more often than not, the critics are right. I realize this runs contrary to popular opinion. But the masses flock to see bad movies.

      I bristle when people make the argument that reading reviews is allowing someone else to form opinions for you. Having not seen Old Dogs, I have no opinion of it other than this: The marketing materials made it look awful, the people involved haven’t made good movies in a looong time and the critics hated it. Those three factors have me pretty convinced it’s not worth my time.

      Perhaps some day, I will happen to catch Old Dogs. If I do, I will form an actual opinion of the movie at that time. But for now, my opinion is that there are other movies that are more deserving of my two hours.

      I’m in no position to debate the merits of Old Dogs or any other movie I haven’t seen. But there is absolutely nothing about the movie that appeals to me at all. I’m perfectly content with skipping a movie where the primary selling point is a terrified Seth Green singing to an amorous gorilla.


  32. I feel that the “Movie Critic Barometer” can be a useful tool in a variety of ways, not the least of which is, as Lebeau points out, helping decide whether a particular movie is worth watching at the theatre, or on DVD, or cable, or not at all. Sometimes, as a viewer, you know if you are going to be in sync with the critic numbers or you see it anyway and sort of overlap with prevailing critical opinion but have your own take. There is nothing wrong with that. We are all movie critics when we watch movies, it’s just that we don’t all get paid for our opinions. Reading the critics definitely helps me research. Sometimes there are just a few words or phrases in reviews that tip the scales for me. If I like the concept and cast, I don’t give two hoots what the critics say. I own quite a few DVDs of movies that critics didn’t care for. Example there is “Tower Heist” which got negative reviews and which absolutely held me enthralled. Everyone has a movie, or 10 or 20, where you can watch it over and over again while wondering why the critics just didn’t get it!


    • Tower Heist actually got decent reviews. It’s got a 68% approval rating on RT.

      There are plenty of movies where I disagree with the critical consensus. Off the top of my head, most critics didn’t care for Joe Vs. the Volcano, but I really enjoyed it. On the other hand, reviews were glowing for The English Patient, which I thought was a beautifully filmed misfire.

      I watch a lot of movies. I have sat down to watch movies I knew I probably wouldn’t like. I won’t let bad reviews keep me from watching a movie I want to see. But if if a movie I don’t especially want to see gets really good reviews, I will likely give it a look. And if a movie I don’t especially want to see gets really bad reviews, I’m comfortable giving it a pass – as was the case with just about every movie Robin Williams has made in the last 10 years.

      If I had unlimited time, I’d watch every movie. But as I don’t, I need some kind of barometer to decide which movies are worth my time and which ones aren’t. I probably miss some movies that I might have enjoyed. But I avoid a whole lot of bad movies too. It’s a trade off I feel pretty good about.

      Point is, that is not the same thing as letting someone else form an opinion on a movie I haven’t seen. I form my own opinions and only on movies I have seen.



    When’s the last time Robin Williams was the lead in a movie anybody actually watched and enjoyed? Think really hard. You can’t tell me, can you? That’s because Robin Williams hasn’t made anything that anyone has watched in a decade. He’s always been a dude whose movies have run the gamut from Oscar bait to hideously awful, but lately he seems to have forgotten about the Oscar part. The low point for Robin Williams was probably 1999’s Bicentennial Man. It wasn’t the biggest bomb on his less than impressive filmography, but here’s what sets it apart – Robin Williams was paid twenty million dollars for that turd. Twenty million dollars for Bicentennial Man! In the end, the movie never even made back its budget and while Williams has largely been exiled from the land of leading men ever since – and rightly so – he still enjoys a reputation as an A-List star. But here are his last five movies: Happy Feet 2, Old Dogs, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, World’s Greatest Dad and Shrink. I haven’t even heard of a couple of those and I’ve watched exactly zero of the rest. At this point he’s basically Danny DeVito with better press. Actually, that’s not fair to Danny DeVito.


    • The 10 Most Overrated Stand-Up Comedians Of All-Time:

      Robin Williams

      Robin Williams is a great actor and is very funny, but most people don’t know the history of his rise to stardom. As a stand-up Comedian, Williams was one of the worst joke thieves known to man. He would steal material from anyone and everyone. Not just random concepts or ideas then make them his own; we’re talking entire bits word for word. Every comedian in the 70’s and 80’s hated him. It got to the point where when Williams would walk into a club and the comic on stage would be given a signal that Robin is there and would end his set immediately so his material wouldn’t be taken. There have been instances where Ray Romano would perform on Letterman and the very next night Williams would do the exact same bit Romano did, leaving Letterman (whose Worldwide Pants production company produced Everybody Loves Raymond) absolutely shocked. Give Williams credit for being a decent actor, but take all that credit away when it comes to being a comedian. Plus he talks to fast and spouts incoherent babble on stage. Slow down so we can understand you, man.


  34. Are there any sitcoms on TV today that don’t rely on some raunchy humor? This article is trying to create controversy where there is none.

    I had my doubts when I heard Williams was coming back to TV. But I have to admit the commercials for The Crazy Ones make it look like a show I’d like to watch. I’ll be checking out the first episode at least.


  35. Speaking of Robin’s new TV show “The Crazy Ones”, what the hell happened to his co-star Sarah Michelle Gellar:

    The Crazy Ones, CBS’s new comedy about the staff of a once-great advertising agency trying to avoid losing clients and credibility which begins airing tonight at 9PM, will get more attention for being the occasion of Robin Williams’ return to television as former ad genius Simon Roberts, than for anything else. That’s too bad, because it features an endearingly insane turn by James Wolk as Zach Cropper, a loonily promiscuous up-and-coming ad man who’s more than willing to hop into a broadcast booth to record an obscene ode to hamburgers with Kelly Clarkson to get some business. And The Crazy Ones raises a less cheerful question: why can’t television find something great for Sarah Michelle Gellar, who plays Simon’s daughter Sydney, to do?

    It’s not easy to find the next thing to do after you finish an iconic performance, and Buffy Summers, the academically-disoriented blonde who discovered she’d been chosen to become the Slayer, a legendary killer of vampires and other demons, was a doozy. One of the challenges for Gellar of finding work after Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off show Angel ended their runs has to have been that Buffy was deliberately a critique of both genre fiction and the assumptions people make about young, blonde women. The problem with shattering the mold is that it can take time for the culture to build a new one around the work that you’ve done, and in the mean time, you might end up stuck.

    That appears to be exactly what happened to Gellar who, after Buffy, seemed unable to find a career trajectory within the conventional offerings that still largely ruled the culture around her. She tried horror movies, a traditional patch of employment for attractive young blonde women in a way that almost seems like a surrender to pop-culture cliche, playing Karen in The Grudge movies and Joanna Mills in The Return. She did the Scooby-Doo movies with her husband, Freddie Prinze Jr., and was in The Air I Breathe, one of the many People In Disparate Circumstances Tied Together By Fate And Social Forces movies that came out after the success of Crash in 2004. Gellar returned to her roots in soap operas for a stint in All My Children, and like many a nerd icon before her, did voice work for Robot Chicken. But none of this quite added up to a skill set that Gellar was known for, a sort of movie where casting her automatically elevated the material, or a particular sort of chemistry she could bring to a story.

    The two best non-Buffy projects Gellar did came before and after her run on that show, and no one’s quite captured her qualities in them, since. First, she played the villainess in the 1999 adaptation Cruel Intentions, a performance that brought out the cruelty Gellar was capable of, and that was a necessary part of her performance as Buffy as well. And while Buffy, as a character, had a somewhat ambiguous relationship to her sexuality, a relatively natural consequence of experiences that include losing your virginity to a boyfriend who immediately turns incredibly evil, having sexual passion give life to a plant that almost eats a fraternity house, and having a lot of hate-sex with a former nemesis who goes insane and tries to rape you, Kathryn Merteuil was alienated from her sexual self, but in a different way, using sex to harm and control other people, rather than for her own pleasure.

    Seven years later, Gellar’s delightfully weird performance in the uderratedly fascinating mess Southland Tales, a slightly futuristic fable from Richard Kelly, was brilliant in a different way. As Krysta Now, Gellar played a porn star with a highly-honed sense of the new media age, dropping viral singles like “Teen Horniness Is Not A Crime,” hosting a webcast talk show like The View, but with a panel made up entirely of film stars, and cannily planning to sell a reality show based on her life. At the time Kelly made the movie, Krysta’s approach to stardom was nascent in the real world. Today, it’s a well-trod road. But as aggressively as Krysta managed her public life, she was also enmeshed in a strange, tender relationship with Boxer Santaros (Dwayne Johnson), an amnesiac actor whose paranoia is exacerbated by an increasingly invasive media culture, and whose mental health has been eroded partially by his role as the husband to the daughter of a powerful United States Senator. Gellar’s performance is simultaneously crass, tender, and exhausted. In a weird way, it’s as close to being Buffy as she’s ever gotten again.

    If Gellar were a decade and a half younger, she might be starring in The Hunger Games, or the Mortal Instruments franchise, or any of the post-apocalyptic series with surprisingly tough female heroines that owe a debt to Buffy. I’ve written repeatedly before that one of the most exciting things about going to the movies these days is that it’s become entirely possible for girls as young as Chloe Grace Mortez to credential themselves significantly as action stars, just as Gellar did, but unlike Gellar, to expect that work that makes use of their talents will be available to them. When Hailee Steinfeld’s stealing the remake of True Grit, Jennifer Lawrence is going back and forth, repeatedly, between action roles and Oscar bait, and Saoirse Ronan can go from playing a little girl with a typewriter to a trained assassin, it’s encouraging precisely because it suggests that a new generation of actresses aren’t going to face the plight that Gellar did, of proving that they’re tremendously good, credible action actresses, and then having to choose from bad horror or supporting roles that don’t make good use of their talents. Gellar helped pry the door open so younger actresses could have more expansive careers, but it doesn’t seem to have done much to help her.

    I’ve talked a lot about movies here, but Gellar’s two most recent forays into television illustrate exactly how badly her talents have been wasted by the gap between career paths she seems to have fallen into. Ringer, in which she played both halves of a set of twins, each with their own dark secrets, might have made use of some of Gellar’s Buffy skills, but it was strained by a ludicrous premise, incredibly dreadful sets, and weak supporting players for her to riff off. And most of all, it felt grim and lifeless. The gift Buffy gave Gellar wasn’t just the ability to wield a stake with aplomb: it was to let her build a character who felt tremendously alive, who was a goof, and a sweetheart, and careless, and who was completely destroyed when her mother died, and who made bad decisions, and grew from them. Treating Gellar as if she’s merely strained and desperate flattens her.

    And the pilot of The Crazy Ones suggests that the show risks doing the same thing to her again. Making anyone the straight man to Robin Williams is a punishing assignment. But as Sydney, Gellar looks desperate and sad all episode, whether she’s trying to get kids trying out for a cookie commercial to react according to the script, explaining to her father that their business is in dire trouble, or belting out a song in a crowded restaurant for Kelly Clarkson’s amusement, debasing herself for the sake of her business. Gellar looks strained and tired, and she’s the person in the pilot with the fewest jokes. There’s no question that Gellar can be an excellent dramatic actress–she’s one of the few people really elevated by working with Joss Whedon, who has a decidedly odd track record–but she’s more than that, too. It’s incredibly sad to me to see a show treat Gellar the way the industry as a whole seems to have treated her, treating her as if she’s used up because she didn’t fit any easy trajectory, rather than being inspired by her particular combination of talents.


    • What happened to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s career?


      I think a lot of people have a hard time seeing Sarah Michelle Gellar as anyone but Buffy Summers. James Van Der Beek has suffered the same problem since Dawson’s Creek ended a decade ago. I’m a fan of Buffy but even I’ll admit that Sarah was far from being the best actor on the show, she has a limited range that can often feel forced. She left Buffy with her sights set on the big screen and I think she probably thought that playing such an iconic television character was going to be enough to secure a successful movie career once the show had ended. Her two big hit films – Scooby Doo and The Grudge – weren’t really hits because of her, she got lucky with those. Scooby Doo was a hit because it’s a live action spin off film of the hugely popular cartoon. The Grudge was a hit because it was following the then popular trend of remaking Japanese films. She was probably part of the appeal of Cruel Intentions and I Know What You Did Last Summer but both of those were released at a time when teen films were making a big comeback at the box office. All the other films she’s been a part of as the main lead role have either bombed or gone straight to DVD. She also turned down quite a few roles in well-received and popular films due to either not being interested or scheduling difficulties.

      She does have the upcoming TV series The Crazy Ones, though the appeal for a lot of people is going to be Robin Williams more than anyone.


      1) She wasn’t THAT good. I really really like her, but Naomi Watts quality? Please. And I don’t even rate Naomi massively but she’s clearly got more range.

      2) Well when was she ever BIG big? We aren’t talking Demi Moore levels of movie roles, then falling off the face of the planet.

      3) As said she had hits in younger or teen orientated films – literally nothing else. Not a problem at all but doesn’t cut it at 36. That said, sticking with horror would have been fine and she certainly tried, but every choice was a bad one. Not her fault.

      Has anyone seen The Return? Quite possibly the most boring film of all time, and when you’ve paid to see it at the cinema, it’s just shocking how dreary it is. Of course it bombed. Should’ve been straight to DVD and clearly many of her stuff evidently is. Some sound interesting and she’s had a good response in (Veronika Decides To Die, though I’ve not seen it) but the more flop films you’re in, the less likely you are to get the roles, and coupled with the age thing in that she never managed to transcend the teen films successfully, it’s no wonder she went back to TV – which is no bad thing.

      However, she is AMAZING in Cruel Intentions, though it hardly requires top notch acting, but she fit the role perfectly, and likewise in “I Know What You Did Last Summer” where she also for me still has the best death scene (because it’s so drawn out and you’re willing her to survive) in any slasher film.

      So yeah, I’m very fond, but it’s easy to see how she’s barely seen now.


    • ‘Ringer’: What went wrong with Sarah Michelle Gellar’s TV comeback:

      The storylines were too convoluted

      What originally seemed like a fun hook — Sarah Michelle Gellar…as twins! — soon became emblematic of the show’s problems. Who’s good? Who’s bad? Who’s playing? Who’s being played? The twist-heavy drama kept those questions constantly in flux within a flashback/flashforward structure nearly as convoluted as “Damages” — without the top level writing, directing and acting.

      The FBI, the mob, European bankers, reappearances of characters presumed dead, Ponzi schemes, a psycho ex-wife, inappropriate teacher/student relationships, fake pregnancies, real pregnancies and more…

      That’s all well and good in a typical soap opera, but what about one in which two of the main characters look exactly alike and frequently pretend to be each other? Is that “good twin” Bridget pretending to be “bad twin” Siobhan, or vice versa? Is Bridget just Bridget now? Is Siobhan, Siobhan? With so much going on, and so little of it making any sense, does it even matter?

      It aired on the CW

      Originally developed for CBS, “Ringer” was ceremoniously relocated to the baby sister network when it became clear CBS wouldn’t have a place for it on the schedule. While a heavily serialized show like “Ringer” would probably die a quick death on procedural-obsessed CBS, the relatively “mature” drama of “Ringer” never felt completely at home on CW either.

      Though it provided CW with a promotable star in Gellar, the adult-oriented show didn’t exactly click with the network’s brand of youthful sex appeal as defined by “Vampire Diaries” and “Gossip Girl.” While “Ringer” is actually outperforming the flailing “Gossip,” it’s still failing to keep pace with mid-level CW performers like “90210” (its lead-in) and the dearly departed “One Tree Hill.” Surely the CW expected better than that from a name star.

      Gellar didn’t have the support she deserved

      Yes, she was supposed to be the draw, but “Ringer” largely failed to surround Gellar with characters — and actors — worth bouncing off of. Her two most talented castmates were crippled by poor story choices. “Fantastic Four” star Ioan Gruffudd was cuckolded as Siobhan’s clueless husband Andrew Martin, who never seemed to grow suspicious of any of the numerous people plotting against him in his professional and personal life. (I’m still hoping the show pulls a final twist revealing that Andrew has been controlling everything all along. It wouldn’t make sense, but it would be hilarious.)

      Nestor Carbonell, who signed on to the show fresh off of playing Richard Alpert on “Lost,” was mostly sidelined or squandered as determined FBI Agent Victor Machado. He never really held love interest potential for either Bridget or Siobhan, so the soapy show didn’t really know what to do with him. (It’s easier to imagine the role expanded on the original CBS version of the show, where a detective would come in handy on a weekly basis.)

      The less said about co-stars Kristoffer Polaha as Siobhan’s smarmy lover Henry and Mike Colter as Bridget’s dull NA sponsor Malcolm, the better. And the show barely bothered to introduce significant female support aside from Siobahn’s irksome stepdaughter Juliet (Zoey Deutch), a post-pilot addition likely meant to placate the CW’s target audience.

      Tara Summers demonstrated some spunk as Siobahn’s best friend Gemma, but her tenure was short-lived. A promising mid-season guest spot from Mädchen Amick went nowhere.

      It wasn’t until the show introduced “Rescue Me’s” Andrea Roth as Andrew’s mentally unbalanced ex-wife Catherine in episode 12 that Gellar found a true equal/foil. The writers enjoyed the character so much they kept using Catherine as the default “surprise!” culprit for whatever scheme they’d cooked up that week. The twists grew predictable, and claustrophobic, but Roth was always game. Sadly, it appears Catherine was busted for good in the penultimate episode.

      The “Revenge” factor

      When “Ringer” premiered, launching a big splashy nighttime soap on network television still sounded like a Sisyphean task. The only show to truly crack the code in recent years was “Desperate Housewives,” which mixed elements of sit-com and satire into the traditional soap.

      Unfortunately for “Ringer,” ABC was about to give the primetime soap another more straightforward shot with the twisty Hamptons-set thriller “Revenge.” And somehow “Revenge” clicked. It wasn’t a mega-hit, but it was a solid performer from the start. Suddenly all the TV fan sites and entertainment magazines that might have been sympathetic to “Ringer” were full on obsessed with “Revenge.”

      It’s probably not a coincidence that “Revenge” avoided the other traps that plagued “Ringer” and found a way to maneuver its attractive, expansive cast through cleanly conceived and tightly executed plots while remaining unquestionably on brand for its network.

      It just wasn’t good enough

      And here’s the bottom line on “Ringer” and the inescapable disappointment of Gellar’s return to TV: It was never very good. Even at its guilty pleasure best — like the penultimate episode which balanced Catherine’s complete unraveling with a flat out ridonkulous subplot that found Siobahn going into labor in a closet while a Russian call girl overdosed on cocaine in bed with a client just a few feet away — there were still too many flaws to believe the writers really understood what they were doing. (Check out executive producer Pam Veasey’s interview with for more on exactly what the writers thought they were doing.)

      Gellar isn’t just any actress. She’s Buffy Summers. During those initial promotional rounds for “Ringer,” Gellar told multiple sources that she didn’t feel any special pressure to succeed on TV. She already had “Buffy” and an experience like that can never be duplicated.

      If that’s really true then I guess she made a solid choice in “Ringer.” It never even came close


      • They Didn’t Quite Make It Big, But Made Good Nevertheless: 15 Actors Who Barely Missed The A-List:

        Speaking of vampires, Sarah Michelle Gellar became a breakout TV star thanks to her lead performance on the cult TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. During its seven season run the actress took lead roles in horror films like I Know What You Did Last Summer and the hit live-action version of Scooby Doo. Buffy ended in 2003 and the actress seemed to be mostly typecast in the horror genre, taking lead roles in films like The Grudge and The Return. The last part of the 2000s saw Gellar doing mostly voice work in films like TMNT and Happily Never After, fading from the mainstream spotlight. She attempted a return to television in 2011 with the CW series The Ringer, but the show was canceled after one season.


        • 9 TV Stars Who Horribly Botched Their Big Leap Into Films:

          Sarah Michelle Gellar

          Sarah Michelle Gellar hit the jackpot when she was cast in the lead role of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a cult favourite television series created by Joss Whedon than ran for seven seasons. While she was on the series she also starred in a few popular teen movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2, and Cruel Intentions and had a pair of family hits with Scooby-Doo and its sequel. Since Gellar’s next post-Buffy role was the hit horror movie The Grudge, it seemed like she would be poised for future film stardom based on her massive Buffy fanbase.

          However, the sequel to The Grudge did a fraction of the box office of the first, and Gellar has yet to appear in a successful film since. In fact, her 2007 movie Southland Tales and 2008 movie The Air I Breathe grossed just over $300,000 combined and her following films, Possession and Veronika Decides to Die, were not even released to theatres in the U.S.

          Gellar’s only success since was voicing a supporting role in the animated movie TMNT. Gellar has since returned to television with The Crazy Ones, but it has yet to be seen whether the series will make it to a second season.


  36. “People complain frequently that Williams isn’t funny any more. His recent movies make you wonder if he was ever really funny to begin with.”

    I was one of those, but I have to admit that reading this article reminded me of how great Wiliams was during his first two decades.

    But “Death to Smoochy” was the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life.


    • I’m glad the article reminded you of the good old days when Williams was funny. Sometimes, I still question that one. Was he actually funny or were we as a nation collectively bamboozled by his fast talking. These are the things that keep me up at night.

      I really wanted to like Death to Smoochy. I liked DeVito’s previous black comedies. But that one was a misfire.


      • I’d say with Williams it’s a little from column A and a little from column B. When his material is strong, the fast talking creates a brilliant cascade of comedy. But how long can any comic keep coming up with that sheer volume of material. Sometime in the early 90s, Williams stopped trying and just fell back on his delivery. There just wasn’t that much actual material anymore, but because we expected to laugh when he talked most of us just kept laughing anyway.
        He has real talent when it is shaped appropriately.


        • That’s true and a good way to look at it. But even when I go back and watch Williams’ old stand-up before he started relying on his delivery. There aren’t a lot of punchlines. Just funny voices at breakneck speeds. A lot of it did age very well.


  37. One quick correction: Barry Levinson did not direct RV (my pick for worst film of 2006), Barry Sonnenfeld (Get Shorty, the Men In Black movies and the atrocious Wild Wild West) did.

    As far as Williams goes, his attempts at re-invention were successful. But he never really got into a groove like Bill Murray did.Indeed, once he re-invented himself three or four times, he seemed to have nowhere else to go.


  38. CBS has renewed most of its shows,but the Crazy Ones could be on thin ice………..


  39. Craig Hansen

    Well, CBS just cancelled The Crazy Ones after only one season. I’ve liked Robin Williams over the years so I gave the show a chance when it first aired by watching the first episode and found it to be just merely decent. That’s not enough to keep me watching. Apparently that’s what most people thought of the show which is why CBS gave the show the axe.


    • Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar’s single-camera “The Crazy Ones” never fit in on CBS, home to many multi-camera comedies:


    • I think that was the consensus. I think Williams did his job by delivering big ratings early on. If the show had been better, it would have been a big hit. I was surprised by the initial demand to see Williams back on TV frankly. I didn’t think he had that much star power left. I don’t really blame him for the show’s failure.


      • Craig Hansen

        You bring up a good point Lebeau. As I recall, Crazy Ones had great ratings out of the gate in the first couple weeks. The ratiings plummeted after that, if only the show had been a lot better then it would’ve remained a hit Top 10 show, regardless Robin Williams showed out of the gate that yes he can still be a strong draw. If he finds better material and tries tv again in a couple years, he could have a hit series again.


        • With the right material, I think so. But that is always the hard part. A good show is hard to find. If he lands on one, he should pull in an audience and it should be a hit.


  40. i think he needs a meaty dramatic role . Worlds greatest dad came close. I recomand he works with gus van saint again he brought out the best in him in good will hunting. Iam sure he can do it again


    • I’ll be interested to see what Williams does next now that his show has been cancelled. Hopefully, he doesn’t retreat back to family comedies. I know he’s in the next Night at the Museum.


  41. he should give gus van sant a call if u remember most of his roles post good will hunting with exception of worlds greatest dad and patch adams sucked gus van sant brings out the best in actors ask penn or he can give peter weir a call again he made ford,carrey and gibson give amazing performances


  42. I’m so sorry to hear about Robin Williams’ passing this evening. He went too early, after having brought so much joy to so many.


    • Agreed. It is especially tragic to hear that Williams may have taken his own life.


    • More than a little sick over this news. Always especially sad when a gifted comedian can’t live out his days as happy as the happiest moments he has given all of us.


      • About 10 years ago my youngest brother took his own life. He wa 23. Depression is a terrible disease. I hope Williams’ death will bring much needed attention to it.


        • I lost a good friend similarly at around the same age. I wish I could have said it was a surprise, but he had always been troubled and inconsistent. It is hard not to take it personally or wonder what you could have done when it is someone close to you. A hand of friendship is always out to those who feel themselves slipping away and to those they sometimes leave behind.


  43. I’m shocked and sadder with him death. He’s a part of my life as well as anyone of my favorite family member. He will be missed and felt though all aspects of my life. Because he’s been with my whole life. Will all way love him I can’t say more


    • It’s a terrible loss. I remember looking forward to Mork and Mindy as a kid. As I said in teh article, I dressed up as Mork for Halloween one year. It’s such a tragedy to loose a great talent this way.


    • It’s a terrible loss. I remember looking forward to Mork and Mindy as a kid. As I said in teh article, I dressed up as Mork for Halloween one year. It’s such a tragedy to loose a great talent this way.


  44. Robin I will always love you! You were one of the most interesting and adorable actors I enjoyed to watch. Whenever I was down in the dumps I would pop one of your movies in and if just brought me to another place were I relaxed and smiled. Thank you for always being there for me! Love Kay Fischer


  45. i lost a friend last year same way robin was his fav actor. robin williams was a great actor and he should be remembered for that and remembered for his charity work he use to entertain sick kids in hospital


    • Robin Williams also from my understanding, paid for Christopher Reeve’s (his classmate/roommate at Julliard) medical bills and was the first person to cheer him up after Reeve had his horse-riding accident. It’s devastating that for a guy who made it a habit to cheer people up during their own dark times (even in “Patch Addams”, which is otherwise, isn’t considered one of Robin’s proudest works as an actor), that he himself was always having trouble controlling his own pain.

      When I first heard about the passing of Robin Williams, I did kind of instantly think about how people who never read this “What the Hell Happened to…” article (since the end result is to argue why Robin Williams’ career as a movie star pretty much went into decline during his last years) on him would think. I was also wondering since Robin Williams is the first WTHHT subject to pass away, would that mean that the article it would be ultimately removed out of respect (and because it’s now sadly, kind of fruitless or irrelevant).


      • I have always been touched by Williams and Reeve’s friendship. It’s a shining example of Williams’ generosity. Yes, he is said to be the first person who made Reeve laugh after his accident.

        As for the article, I don’t see any reason to remove it. I have added a disclaimer to the beginning of the article setting the context. I know a lot of people found the article last night. They were searching for “What happened to Robin Williams”. What they really wanted was personal details of his death, not a snarky career retrospective. So this article probably wasn’t what most of them were looking for.

        I’ve talked with Daffy in the past about what to do when one of my subjects passes. Obviously, I want to remain respectful. So what I will do is to review the article and adjust the tone to take into consideration the fact that Williams is no longer with us. I haven’t read this article in quite a while, so I don’t know how much adjusting will be necessary. My intent is to remain honest about what in his career worked and what didn’t. I’m not going to whitewash the article because I don’t think that does anyone any good. But I do believe that Williams’ career is still relevant and therefore an examination of his career will remain relevant even after his passing.

        This is new territory for the series. I knew it would come to this some day. I thought it would be further in the future. So far, no one has expressed outrage over the article’s existence. Hopefully in the end, it will honor the man’s memory and allow fans to relive the highs and lows of a fascinating career in entertainment.


        • That is a tough one. I was in agreement with TMC’s suggestion about removing the column but then again, you make a good point Lebeau, about honoring his career, highs and lows. Removing the column takes away an overview that people might want to read again or for the first time. It’s hard to know what to think. You could, I suppose, change the closing paragraph of the column when this happens, just as you added the comment at the beginning. In this way you could keep the legacy going of the performer’s work, which for Robin Williams was considerable, and at the same time add a layer of respect.


        • Without remembering what is in the closing of the article, I am sure I will change it. The focus has to shift. I know that going in. But there’s no reason we shouldn’t continue to examine his career.


        • I think in today’s recent society, when a tragic events happen, people tend to go overboard, and removing Robin Williams’ article would be such a case. I mean, I enjoyed the heck out of Robin Williams and I think I understand his plight (depression can feel as if one is walking on quicksand; the more you struggle, the worse it gets), but not every one of his projects was pure gold (no one’s oeuvre is).
          But the super sensitive, “politically correct”, knee jerk reactions have really gotten old (one can’t say anything without offending a weight class, color, creed, woman’s rights, gay marriage, Teamsters union #453, PETA, The Federation of Italian Butchers, you name it).


        • I have tweaked the final paragraph. In light of his death, it seemed harsh. It also speculated about his future in light of his then-promising return to TV. I plan to review the entire article when time permits. I won’t white wash it. But there may be tweaks in tone that should be made. The purpose of the article is shifted when the subject is no longer living. But I still want it to remain an honest assessment of Williams’ work. Which is staggering even if his career cooled off at a certain point.


        • I want to clarify something that I just said! I never directly or right then and there said that I personally think that the “What the Hell Happened to…” article on Robin Williams should be totally removed out of “respect” for him. What I was trying to say is that I was wondering what was going to ultimately happen to the article.

          I do wonder if Robin’s recently apparent, career lulls (which was the original intent on him getting a WTHHT) was a contributing factor him why he had to end his life. I mean, he wasn’t exactly getting great leading roles in movies as of late. He had to go back to TV (in part, because of his financial issues as well as his health issues relating to his heart surgery several years prior), which turned out to be a failure (since “The Crazy Ones” was canceled by CBS after only one season). I also wonder if Robin himself was worried that he wasn’t exactly all that “relevant” anymore. Of course, I’m just speculating what was going through his mind at the time.


        • No worries, TMC. I knew what you meant. It was a valid question. It’s one I have been asking myself. Even before Williams’ death, I asked myself what I should do in the event that one of my subjects passes. Removing the article was a consideration. Daffy and I have discussed it more than once. When it happened, I still didn’t have a plan per se. But I’m reasonably pleased with the approach I took this time and will probably continue to take this approach in the future.


  46. It’s been said that as long as you remember a person, they are never really gone. I believe in that notion wholeheartedly, since it can apply to anyone in life.
    I think many people were aware that Robin Williams had his struggles, but I think this was still unexpected. He paid a price for his manic creativity, but I’m glad he shared his gift with a worldwide audience.


    • Williams’ personal struggles were well-known. But this sort of thing is always surprising no matter how many signs there were. You just never expect it. And then it happens and you realize that it was a long time coming.

      For us fans, Williams left behind decades of movies and TV shows to remember him by. The genie alone will probably outlive us all. He will not be forgotten.


  47. i havent felt this bummed about celebrity death since john ritter who was also a comic genuis


    • I am deeply saddened by his death. I grew up as a young kid watching Mork and Mindy, I even saw his first movie, Popeye, on the big screen as a kid, and as I grew up I remained a fan of his over the years. So many wonderful movies to his career. He impressed me with not only his comedic skills, but also his more serious dramatic performances. I will always feel that his performance in One Hour Photo was one of his strongest, most nuanced acting performances, he really should have received an Oscar nomination for that. I’m so sorry to hear of his death right now, a great loss.


      • My experiences with Williams were similar. I loved Mork and Mindy as a kid. I remember the episode in which Williams played himself. On the show, he played himself as a very lonely, frightened man. As a kid, I was shaken a bit by the idea that the guy who played Mork was kind of a mess. I was aware enough to know that Williams was not really Mork. I had seen a bit of his stand-up comedy when my dad wasn’t looking. But to see the image of Williams as an emotionally damaged person, I didn’t know what to make of it then.

        I will admit I haven’t cared much for Williams’ latter day output. It’s been years since he felt relevant to me. But from the 70’s through the mid-90s or so, he made so many memorable movies.


        • jeffthewildman

          The first movie of his I remember seeing was Good Morning Vietnam (saw it at 10, second r-rated movie I saw). I loved it then and still do. That might have something to do with why I still consider it my favorite Williams performance and why it was the one I chose to watch last night in honor of his memory. I’d rather have him win the Oscar for that performance or even for his voice work as the Genie in Aladdin than for his pro forma one in the good but overpraised Good Will Hunting.

          In addition to those, he was also great in The Birdcage, The Fisher King, One Hour Photo, Insomnia and Awakenings. Even in the films he was in that failed (Flubber, Jack, RV, License To Wed) the blame for that failure could often not be laid at his feet: more often than not it had to do with the script or direction or a combination of.

          In terms of stand-up he was one of the titans alongside Pryor, Carlin, Cosby, Hicks, Rock and Cross. I’ve seen most of his stand-up specials and busted a gut each time.

          Admittedly he seemed to have lost his way in recent years and what happened yesterday illustrates why this was likely so.

          He will be missed.


        • Good Morning Vietnam was a turning point in Williams’ career. It’s when he started being taken seriously as an actor and not just a manic stand-up comedian. It’s a bit odd it took that long considering he brought pathos to Popeye and starred in the tragic-comedy The World According to Garp.

          I’ll remember Williams as the genie. Rarely do a part and a performer pair so naturally. You take Williams out of Aladdin and the movie doesn’t work. I’ll remember him as Mork. That was a big part of my childhood. And I’ll remember The Birdcage, The Fisher King, Dead Poets’ Society and Good Morning Vietnam. Good Will Hunting is a very good movie, but yeah, probably over-praised. That doesn’t take away from Williams’ performance which once again hold the movie together.


  48. Appreciating Robin Williams: Mork from Ork taught kids that weirdness was OK:

    “Like any American child, I loved the Fonz,” says James Poniewozik, a child of the ‘70s. “But the Fonz was a grownup, with his motorcycles and dates with triplets. Mork, who soon got his spinoff in 1978, was something else: an adult, and a kid, and a magical being. He was a grown man who looked at our world with the delighted surprise of a baby. The Fonz was cool. Mork was weird — popping-out-of-an-egg, rainbow-suspenders, scat-riffing-about-the Shah of Iran weird. And he communicated an idea that I hadn’t seen in non-cartoon pop culture before then: that weirdness was OK. No, it was great. It was energy. It opened up worlds.”
    —Henry Winkler recalls Williams’ “Happy Days” debut
    —Williams changed TV forever: “I have always believed that television didn’t create Robin Williams as much as Williams recreated television comedy”
    —Here is Sarah Michelle Gellar’s tribute to her “Crazy Ones” co-star

    —Williams’ most memorable TV moments, from “The Richard Pryor Show” to “Mork and Mindy”
    —Listen to Marc Maron’s emotional tribute — and his revealing 2010 interview with Williams
    —Read the 1978 TV Guide profile that introduced America to Williams
    —Pam Dawber is “completely and totally devastated”

    —Mindy Kaling, named after “Mork and Mindy,” says: He meant so much, to so many, so far away”

    —“Chaos in Television”: See some of Robin Williams’ magazine covers

    —Relive Robin Williams on “Sesame Street” from 2012

    —Read Williams’ Reddit Ask Me Anything from Sept. 25, 2013
    —Read The NY Times’ full obituary on Williams
    —”Robin Williams’ scene on ‘Louie’ was an incredible joke of the darkest kind”

    —Jay Leno has known Williams from their early days in standup: “It’s a very sad day”
    —Read President Obama’s tribute: “He arrived in our lives as an alien…”

    —3 hilarious Robin Williams standup specials that showcase his genius
    —Watch his 1st appearance on Johnny Carson
    —I was lucky enough to spend a few moments with Robin Williams 2 days after he won his Oscar



  49. Scroll down to the second article about Robin Williams. The Truth must be told.


    • I removed the link. The guy ranted about how Williams had no reason to commit suicide when there are “real problems” in the world. He’s an idiot who doesn’t know the first thing about depression. I don’t want to send any more traffic to his site. His article was titled “Eff You Robin Williams.” Well, eff him.


  50. There been talk of late that the demise of The Crazy Ones had some effect on Robin’s mental state, which might’ve led to his recent rehab stint & ultimately his dark final days……..anyone felt the same thing as well????


    • It’s certainly a possibility. With depression, you just never know. The show may have been a trigger. The only thing I’m relatively certain of is that depress was the cause. Not the show.


  51. A friend on facebook posted this interview article on his timeline. I wonder what would he think of the media’s role in the manufacturing of grief and the grief industry that will be built on the wake of his passing.


    • He seemed to have a pretty good understanding of it:

      The film (World’s Greatest Dad) is a devastatingly funny indictment of the modern grief industry, but when I ask Williams if he thinks it’s getting worse, he says mildly, “Well, I think people want it. In a weird way, it’s trying to keep hope alive.” So does he not share the film’s judgment on mawkish sentimentality? “Well, you just try and keep it in perspective; you have to remember the best and the worst.” It seems as if he’s about to engage with the question – “In America they really do mythologise people when they die,” he agrees – but then he veers off at a tangent, putting on Ronald Reagan’s voice but talking about the ex-president in the third person: “Maybe he was kind of lovable, but you realised half way through his administration he really didn’t know where he was.”


  52. I have absolutely no words for how sad this is. I remember your story, lebeau, about how he was the first person to make Christopher Reeve laugh after his accident. Whenever I think of him now, i’ll think of that story. He was very special to so many people and will be sorely missed.


  53. bill murray jim carrey and eddie murphy all suffer from depression comediens get the most ironically i guess they hide depression through there jokes


  54. True. I know about Jim Carrey suffering from depression. I knew Robin had been to rehab in the past but i’m still in shock.


  55. he did have a coke addiction during mork and mindy I am guessing the years of coke did damage to his brain drug addictions do that. I hope carreys and muyphy depression isnt as severe because we dont want to lose anymore funny people. But to be honest between carrey murry and williams williams had the best career he was the funiest.2nd would be eddie murphy third is carrey then murray


    • The way I look at it, it’s likely Robin Williams drank and drugged in past BECAUSE he was depressed (plus, it was fun for him). If John Belushi didn’t take that fateful speedball, maybe Robin Williams wouldn’t have considered going sober at that time. Drinking and drugging, like smoking, affect people differently. I’m guessing with Robin Williams that it was a coping mechanism for him (factor in that he had an addictive personality to begin with).


      • I think you’re right. Williams has said that if it weren’t for John Belushi’s death, he would not have cleaned up. He went cold turkey after that. Attitudes about drugs were different then. No one thought there were any consequences. Belushi in particular was seen as invulnerable. So when he died, it was a shock to his Hollywood friends. If it could happen to Belushi, it could happen to anyone.

        Lots of people with depression self-medicate. I suspect that was part of it for Williams. I think he also felt pressure to be up for his performances.


  56. i was hoping jim and robin would be in a movie togather


  57. They would have been great in a movie together. This may sound shocking, but i’ve always thought jim carrey was underrated.


  58. jim carrey is a good actor he is still a huge draw so not underatted i think williams is stronger in drama then carey and williams dosent go over the top like carrey. But i will give carrey this his movies in 2000s are better. iam surpised they were never in a movie togather


  59. I know he’s not underrated in terms of box office success and popularity. But like with Williams, he won the oscar for good will hunting and had success as a dramatic actor. I wish critics wouldn’t automatically ignore a dramatic performance that jim carrey gives.


  60. critics haven’t carrey won golden globe awards critics said he was snubbed for eternal sunshine and Truman show, the academy seemed to snub him with truman show his performance was amazing. jim carreys dramatic movies have grossed a lot of money so his dramtic roles havent been a failure just academy for some reason dosent acknowledged it


  61. i’m glad he’s won some golden globes for dramatic roles. I think i’m just frustrated that the academy can never seem to take him seriously.


  62. pacino and paul newman won oscars late in their careers carrey might go that route to. THE academy seems to love clooney but hes overrated an oscar mean nothing


  63. I can only hope. The academy seems to love rewarding the same people over and over again which is what bugs me so much about the show.


  64. oscars mean nothing alot of oscars ended up having bad careers and alot of the best picture movies end up becoming forgotten


  65. true. I do believe in the oscar curse, that your career goes downhill after winning.


  66. what do u think of gene hackman


  67. I guess you could say I like him, i don’t dislike him. I haven’t seen so many of his movies but he’s a good actor. Did you like him with tom in the firm?


  68. You mentioned being a fan of john ritter?


  69. the firm was amazing cruise is always good yes i loved threes company as a kid i only sat through dreadful 8 simple rules for him and it was only good cause of him i see his films and say he was robbed of a movie career he is incredible i mention him cause i havent been affected by celebrities death since ritter who i think is amazing


  70. do u like ritter


  71. I do. I’ve always been a big three’s company fan and thought he was a good actor all the way around. He was so good at physical comedy. His death definitely shook me too because I felt I didn’t pay enough attention to him when he was alive.


  72. watch lethal vows and unbearable on youtube he plays bad guys in them. He does so well he is so versiitle i cant say hes as good Williams but he is funny can act in anything he should have had that big movie star career that michael j fox had. up untill robins death a celberites death never affected me more


  73. I’ve seen lethal vows! On youtube, just like you said. He made a great bad guy because he looked so trust worthy. His movie career should have been bigger. With Robin’s death, i’m starting to wonder if I paid enough attention to him because i always thought he was talented. What’s unbearable about? sounds familiar


  74. I agree Lebleau, depression is very misunderstood. I liken it to feeling paralyzed. I feel that some people think that certain individuals are being lazy or anti-social, when in reality they a really freaking sad (the fact that they are aware that they are “letting other people down” makes them feel EVEN MORE depressed).


  75. my friend big robin fan also killed himself his death made me think of my freind. robins coke addiction could played a factor coke does that to your brain he had heavy coke use. my freind like robin seemed happy had a sense of humour his death shocked me.i think should more advertisements for help hotline so no family has to deal with what robins family dealing with i am still battling with depression myself but iam not in robins state thank god


  76. i ment unforgivable not unberable he plays a wife beater who goes through anger mangemnet he did make a good villain in lethal vows. Watch chance in a lifetime he was charming in that my mom was big threes company fan so i became a big fan of it and liked it. Ritter is not in my top ten or top 100 fav actors but i tihnk he is very underatted and was oscar worthy given the right material its sad hes not talked enoguh my drama teacher told me i remind her of a young ritter it was the greatest compliment i ever had hes a geniuses i just wish they had an article honoring him


  77. ill be ok iam seeing counseling i never once thought of a suicide


  78. lebeau did ritters death affect u because with the exception of robins death no celebrities death affected me more then ritter. . Did u enjoy his work cause i think he was underrated he should had a movie career maybe one day have article here


    • I was saddened to read of Ritter’s death mostly because he had a young family. I have a great appreciation for his comic talents. But to be honest, I was not allowed to watch Three’s Company as a kid. So I never really formed a strong attachment to Ritter. But I agree he was under-rated. His death was also very tragic.


  79. I’ve seen unforgivable on youtube, i’ll have to check it out. He really could shine no matter what the role was. On a personal note, i’m sorry about your friend. It’s sad how a sense of humor is sometimes used as a mask of sorts.


  80. it is he also had mental illness such as bipolar and schizophrenia but he rarely showed it infront of us i dont know why my friend killed himself he seem happy in the morning then something happened to make him snap it might been a girl i dont know. but my freind was a kind person and always tried to help people in their time of need. i realized that the way of honoring his death was to be nice people. I know it sounds weird but by doing that it feels like his good deeds live in on me and my friend is still there. and lebeau watch threes company now its funny i dont see why it was controversial family guy is worse and go watch lethal vows , unforgivable ,and chance of a lifetime u will have apperiction for him


  81. peyton check out a chance of a lifetime on youtube too hes funny in that . It saddens me that not enough people talk about him. He may not have the same legacy as williams but because of threes company he became a 70s icon.Theres no same in just havivng 3s company as a hit its a good show. I dont want it to overshadow willims both were amazing and sad deaths his 11 year anniversay coming up this sept 11 hopefully he will get mentioned


  82. Yeah, people should be talking about him more. I’ll check out chance of a lifetime and unforgivable. What do you think about ralph macchio?


  83. iam not a fan of karate kid but hes was ok in my cousin vinny i didnt see that much of his work so i dont really have an opinion. i think reason ritters death is not as talked aobut is because he wasnt an icon like robin he peaked after threes company and his was natural cause robin williams didnt have to die he took his own life. Overdosing happens alot in Hollywood but suicides are rare. What do u think of phil hartman i think he was an ok actor i like some of his stuff but i was too young too remember his death so his didn’t really impact me. But Hartman was ok actor he was no ritter though. His death however was just as big as robin his wfie killed him then herself


  84. I’m kind of with phil hartman the way you are with ralph. I haven’t seen much of his work so I don’t have an opinion. I remember seeing a movie he did with Sinbad, but that was it. No offense, but i definitely think ritter was better at comedy. He had a special gift for it, plus he also nailed a dramatic role when one came across. The two movies where ralph impressed me were the outsiders and naked in new york, which is a comedy with eric stoltz. The movie’s not that good, but I was impressed by ralph’s work as his sexually confused friend.


    • To appreciate Hartman, you have to see his stellar work on Saturday Night Live. He was never very well utilized after he left that show. News Radio was the exception, but it doesn’t showcase his range the way SNL did. He was the Will Ferrell of his day.


  85. i cant say iam a huge fan of hartman but he made me laugh hes one of those actors that i never paid attention to when he died but i watched lots of reruns of newsradio and i got to say the show sucked without him watch newsradio on youtube u willl laugh i also loved small soldiers and his part in jingle all the way was amazing. He stole the show from no taletned arnold


  86. watch newsradio funny show on youtube.


  87. in fact chance of a lifetime and unforgivable also on youtube too saves u money renting them


  88. I can’t say I paid that much attention to him either. I’ve heard of newsradio, what were some other movies that he was in?


  89. jingle all the way small soliders thats about it but you must check out his snl work that is his best known work and go on youtube his impersonations are funny. He does impersonations like robin there funny.


  90. hes been to numerous rehab clinics he claimed he quit but he did seem high on his standups. Alot of comediennes claimed he did it just because it gave them energy to perform alot of actors claim they need it.In the behind scences of mork and mindy its obvious had pressure on him like alot of actors so he took it to relax. Coke was big in the 80s he was buddies with john Belushi who also got him into coke.If john never died robin might been dead sooner. Most actors then you does or did it once its common in hollywood quaid used to have a big coke addiction. HANKS was a huge pothead when he first started


  91. hes been to numerous rehab clinics he claimed he quit but he did seem high on his standups. Alot of comediennes claimed he did it just because it gave them energy to perform alot of actors claim they need it.In the behind scences of mork and mindy its obvious had pressure on him like alot of actors so he took it to relax. Coke was big in the 80s he was buddies with john Belushi who also got him into coke.If john never died robin might been dead sooner. Most actors then you does or did it once its common in hollywood quaid used to have a big coke addiction. HANKS was a huge pothead when he first started


  92. a video of ritter and robin togather the earth is robbed of two funny guys



    Robin Williams leaves behind an eclectic, joyful body of work. But in 2002, he made three underrated gems that haunt the imagination too.


  94. lot of actors claimed coke gives them energy to perform they act without it. Dennis quaid that coke was even in the movie budgets back then,Hollywood is a lot of stress he thought only way to deal with it was coke. He was diagnosed with bipolar and doing coke didnt help


  95. i Agree he was the ferall of his day without the big movie career. Sad thing about his career he never was given the chance to shine in comedic leading role given the chance he could have done well maybe better then carrey I actually feel judging by interview he choose to stay under the radar by doing small roles and shows like newsradio because from what i heard hartman cared more about spending time with family then his career and it didnt seem like her like the stressed of having to carry a movie. It dosent matter because he still got funny parts it dosent make his legacy any less worthy


  96. ritter was a different case he had movie roles like skin depp and stay tuned after threes company he was prepped for having a robin williams like movie career however it didnt pan out. But once again it also didnt make him or his career less worthy because roles like sling blade which he was amazing in oscar worthy too showed he had talent and should have had a big movie career but threes company was good and theres no shame in having that in your resume


  97. snl was an ensemble piece so its easy for hartman to get lost in the shuffle plus unlike some other snl actors who got lost in shuffle he never capitalized on sucess from snl to build a movie career instead went to newsradio not that show is bad.Threes company smaller cast and it was easier for him to get noticed which he did was considered best character on the show. Lastly unlike hartman he had lead roles so he got more noticied that might be why his death is talked about then hartman and he is bigger then hartman


  98. Report: Robin Williams “was struggling” on “The Crazy Ones” set:

    A source tells People magazine: “We knew he was struggling. We were doing a scene, and it was just off. I looked over at him, and in that moment, his face changed. He looked so exhausted and profoundly, deeply sad. And then one minute later he pulled himself back together, and he nailed the scene. He had a depth; that’s where the darkness came from, but there was just so much there.”


    • Those retrospective thoughts seem to occur a lot when one takes their own life. There is a finding now that Robin Williams had early stages Parkinson’s. Now I’m under the belief that there wasn’t one “life thing” that did it for Robin Williams; the way he was wired, the deck was always stacked against him. So I do agree with the “he looked so exhausted and profoundly, deeply sad” comment. Maybe he was fatigued from fighting himself for so long.


  99. who knows if the parkison thing was true bob hoskins was open about it so j fox too bad robin couldnt be open with it.I also heard he was bipolar is there any truth to that


    • I consider Robin Williams having “manic creativity”, but I don’t know if he was manic depressive/bipolar. It’s been said he was clinically depressed. Whatever the case may be, I think Robin Williams hung in as long as he could.


  100. its gonna be weird seeing wordls greatest dad bar non his last good film in that movie he claimed his kid hung himself and he did it in real life. Its creepy watching it now. i did research and by box office success the top grossing actors on the list are eddie murphy ,robin williams ,jim carrey ,mel gibson ,nicolas cage stallone . With the exceptiton of cage and stallone all the actors i mentioned in the top 20 of highest grossing actors of all time i guess even if you are still a box office draw you career is still considerd dead


  101. alot of comeideans are depressed ironic


  102. he had enough going on in his life coke addiction alcohol problems the parkisons just made it worse but he could have dealt with like michael does by staying strong and helping other that have it robin had alot of problems the pressure of hollywood must made him depressed speaking michael j fox any chance u have articlee about him cause he went from hit show to hit movie then flops then tv show and now his career ended


  103. i laugh off the rumor that cancellation of crazy ones destroyed his career because he had four movies lined up he was still considered a bankable name that draws people in heck mrs doubyfire 2 was in the works so he could have easily been back to a list.Michael j fox is a different story if i heard he been depressed after the cancellation of his show i would believe it cause his movie career died in the 90s which is why he did spin city and since he has Parkinson there are not a lot of roles written or him unless its a guest spot


  104. My Tribute to Robin Williams:

    We were all saddened at the new we received just about 24 hours ago (as I type this) regarding Robin Williams. Even more shocking than his death was how he died. At first, I wasn’t going to do a tribute article because, well, he was never my favorite comedian. Don’t get me wrong, he was a brilliant comedian and a genius at improve. But he was lower on my list when I grew up. But then I decided there were three things I had to talk about, and that is what we will do today.

    Before I begin I am only noting the works I have actually seen. Therefore some his great stuff (like Good Will Hunting or Dead Poet’s Society) will be absent. I am sure they were amazing but this is about the stuff I did see.

    1. Television

    I noticed in the tributes (and I would be lying if I said I saw all) they neglect the TV work Williams did. Robin Williams did a ton of television, and here is a list of my favorites:

    Mork & Mindy. Duh. No one is forgetting this one but I had to mention it. This was the show which made Williams a young star with his crazy improv.

    Happy Days. Of course, Mork was a spin-off of this show. If you’ve never seen the episode he first appeared, find it somewhere. It is one of the funniest half hours anywhere.

    The Tonight Show. Need I mention how many times he appeared and was always hilarious. And yes ge was also on Letterman, Conan, and pretty much everything else.

    Friends. Yeah this was a stunt to push for the new film “Father’s Day”, but Williams and Billy Crystal appeared in the teaser of one episode. It was probably the funniest thing in the episode.

    Carol, Carl, Whoopi and Robin. Oh my friends, you have to see this. This was a variety special hosted by Carol Burnett. The highlight being a funeral sketch with Robin Williams as an inappropriate mourner. The legend is they did the sketch twice, once as written and the second time letting Williams improve. It’s pure classic and won Williams an Emmy award. It seemed inappropriate to link to it considering what happened actually to Williams, but it is on YouTube if you want to check it out. It is Robin Williams at his best.

    Comic Relief. And how could I not mention these telethons? Williams along with Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal did several of these to raise money for homeless. Of course it featured dozens of comedians but Williams was always one of the stand outs.

    Saturday Night Live. The younger folks may not remember this but Williams hosted this show several times. In fact I had the VHS copy of The Best of Robin Williams. It was great and I watched it many times. I could do a whole article just on this, and he also appeared in the 15th Anniversary Special.

    The Earth Day Special. You may remember my article on this last year and Williams was front and center as “Everyman”. In fact it was something he did here which made me dislike Williams for a time, but that’s another story.

    Dame Edna’s Hollywood. Anyone remember this one? I have it on tape if you don’t

    Sesame Street. Yeah Williams did a few these. One involved showing Elmo how many things you can do with a stick simply by using your imagination. Classic.

    The Golden Globes. In 1998 Christine Lahti won for Best Actress in a TV Drama. Why am I bringing this up? When her name was called at the awards, she was in the bathroom. No joke, and Williams took it upon himself to jump on the stage and stall with some improv. A small but brilliant moment.

    Who’s Line is it Anyway. I hated this show, but checked out the clips. An improv show and Robin Williams? Nah could never work. Hilarious

    Law & Order. I never saw this one, but wish I had. He is on this show and is not funny. It really shows off his dramatic side. Chilling.

    I am leaving a lot off, including his brilliant live show at the Metropolitan Opera, but we’ll be here all day. I also did not mention his cameo in the 20th anniversary but it’s one of my funniest Robin Williams moments and he talks about how much he did with Disney. Check it out here

    1. Films

    The second thing I wanted to discuss was the movies he was in that I have seen. Some were good, some were not as good. But Williams was always worth it. Again, only listing the films I have watched working from most recent down.

    Night at the Museum. Yeah I never watched it per se. I did see Film Brain’s review of the sequel. I felt I had to mention Williams awesome jot as Theodore Roosevelt.

    Bicentennial Man. Sadly I have say that this is one of the worst movies I ever saw. It is so boring, but Williams wasn’t bad in it. It’s about a robot who wants to be human…next.

    Patch Adams. Yeah this is an example of Williams trying really hard. The problem with this movie isn’t the acting, it’s the awful script which just turns this great guy into a goof ball.

    Flubber. Williams was perfectly cast in this role to bad he was once again the victim of a bad script.

    Jack. OK I promise we will get to the good movies! This one was awful, and I could be here all day with this one. What’s that? It was the director’s fault? I have no problem with that.

    Jumanji. Now we’re talking! This movie was just goody fun. Sure it made no sense really, but I enjoyed watching it.

    Nine Months. The movie everyone forget he was in. Including me. This was a Hugh Grant comedy and Williams basically has a cameo as the gynecologist. Know what? He was the funniest thing in the film.

    Mrs. Doubtfire. I really liked this movie. Does it have its problems? Sure. It can be a little heavy handed at times not to mention contrived and ridiculous. But the fun parts are a lot of fun and this is a movie I could watch over and over again.

    TOYS.When this was coming out Williams really pushed it, I think he was proud of it. Too bad it’s a confusing mess of a movie. I still have no idea what the heck was going on in it.

    Alaadin. Oh hell yes! Williams was pitch perfect as the Genie. We didn’t even care that most of what he said made no sense given the time period. It was funny as hell and the Genie is one of the best loved Disney characters to this day.

    Hook. Steven Spielberg directed and some would say that it really shows. I liked this movie and the way Williams plays Peter. You totally buy him when he is a jerk and then later when he rediscovers the kid inside. Just a very strong performance here.

    The Fisher King. Williams plays a homeless man who lost his sense after his wife was brutally killed in front of him. This movie has its funny moments but for the most part is serious. It is a very well told story and I’m glad that I finally saw it.

    Awakenings.Williams totally lost himself in this role, and his work here is just amazing. How someone who could be so funny can also do heavy drama will always fascinate me. Robert DeNiro is the star but Williams’ performance should not be ignored.

    Good Morning, Vietnam. I’ve talked before about how I got hooked by the ads which made this sound like a comedy romp. Not quite. But Williams is awesome here and handles the funny moments just as good as he does the serious one’s.

    Popeye. Finally, we end on one of his earliest films. And it’s not the best. It is quite boring. But give Williams credit he really captures the spirit of Popeye and I can find no fault in that.

    Whew. And there are plenty I missed because I’ve never seen them! I just know after I publish this I will remember five other appearances I’ll wish I had mentioned. What were your favorite moments?

    1. Depression

    The final reason for doing this article is to talk about how Robin Williams died. He had been suffering from bipolar depression for some time, and according to reports the depression had been very bad lately. I do suffer from depression, but it is mild. That doesn’t mean when I hit a low it doesn’t hurt, it makes me moody and miserable and hating everything. But it is mild so I don’t take meds and it usually fades. I can only imagine what it is like for people who suffer from Major Depression. The fact that Williams he had to take his life is beyond my ability to comprehend. However, if anything good can come from this I just hope that people will become more aware of what depression is. It is not a bad day, it is not someone being “negative”. Telling them to get over it isn’t the answer. It’s an illness, and even to this day many refuse to see it as that. I wish that would change so that the people who suffer from this condition can stop feeling ashamed, and get the treatment they need. Depression is a disease and we need to stop pretending that it is not.

    That’s my tribute to one of the finest actors/comedian’s I ever saw. He was around and for my whole lifetime which I am fortunate for. But he was one of a kind and it saddens me that I will never see him again except for his excellent legacy he left us. In fact, Larry King said it best last night. I leave you with the quote he paraphrased from Hamlet.

    He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again. (1.2)


  105. shame he died cause i think he had what it takes to turn it around at least he will night at museum as his last hit


  106. if anyone doubts his acting ability they should watch awakingis he does well without going over the top oscar snub


  107. With The Fisher King, Robin Williams shrugged off the burden of genius:

    by Keith Phipps

    For a good stretch of his career, the word “genius” trailed Robin Williams, and not always to his benefit. In the introduction to a long 1988 interview with Williams in Rolling Stone, Bill Zehme wrote that the then-new Barry Levinson film Good Morning, Vietnam was “being hailed as the first big-screen project properly suited to the comedian’s genius.” In one sense, those doing the hailing were correct. Inspired by the war experiences of DJ Adrian Cronauer, the film’s on-air segments allowed Williams to drop the inspired, improvised routines that first made him famous as a stand-up into the middle of a dramatic story. It wasn’t the first time Williams had proven himself as a dramatic actor. The Juilliard-trained Williams’ dramatic abilities had been evident since The World According To Garp. Nor was it the first time he’d been able to draw on his improv skills, which had been the backbone of his star-making turn on Mork & Mindy. Yet there’s another side to that acclaim, a suggestion that Williams’ skills made him a freak, burdened with a talent that rendered him unsuitable for most roles. What made him a genius in nightclubs made him unconvincing as an ordinary person—or made it seem that when he did play an ordinary person, he was wasting his gifts.

    Williams’ best work as an actor suggested another option, synthesizing his faster-than-thought comedic gifts with soulful character work. It would be most evident in the years after Good Morning, Vietnam made him a bankable star, one whose successful films gave him the freedom to pick and choose his projects. He often chose well. Like Good Morning, Vietnam, his next big hit, Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society, found room for comedic asides alongside the drama. But Williams was just as good in the Penny Marshall-directed Awakenings, which forced him to bottle up his free-associative tendencies, and especially in Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King, in which he plays a man for whom flight into fantasy serves as both an escape and a trap.

    Williams’ filmography is littered with the forgettable (The Big Wedding) and the regrettable (Old Dogs). He had a habit of using his skills as a crutch, as in a painful improv sequence in the 2006 comedy RV that found him busting out a decades-out-of-date b-boy impression, or relying on a wistful man-child twinkle (e.g. Hook). But it’s impossible to imagine anyone else playing Williams’ best roles, and The Fisher King easily ranks among them. I’m not sure that’s why it was the first Williams movie I thought of after hearing about his death, however. It’s often unwise and irrelevant to connect actors to the roles they play, and yet something about Williams’ suicide has invited it. He often played men struggling with darkness, sometimes without success, frequently men who used verbal agility and unbridled energy as weapons in the fight. Few movies put that struggle to the fore as prominently as The Fisher King.

    Williams plays Parry, a homeless man who happens upon Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges), a disgraced morning shock-jock bottoming out in the streets of New York, as a pair of thugs prepare to burn him alive. Though already on the verge of suicide, having tied weights his ankles and preparing to jump in the water, Jack welcomes the rescue and soon finds himself drawn into Parry’s rich fantasy world. Fashioning himself a modern knight, and receiving instruction from invisible little people, Parry is on a quest to retrieve the Holy Grail, which, having spotted it in an architectural magazine while following the little people’s instructions, he knows to be located in the library of a Manhattan mansion.

    Written by Richard LaGravenese, The Fisher King gets its title from a medieval story about a wounded king and the search for the Grail, which will heal him and the land that’s gone to waste around him. The Fisher King story has taken on many forms over the years and gets recounted here in a version unique to the film, and one that parallels the action around it. Instead of Percival or other Arthurian knights, it’s a fool who unwittingly finds the Grail and heals the king. Like much of The Fisher King, the moment needs the performances and the direction to keep it from tipping over into mawkishness. Talking to The L.A. Times, LaGravenese recalled Gilliam asking him to put back “odd, weird stuff” taken out in the development process and noted “that is so important because the script to me could have been so sentimental that it makes your teeth hurt.”

    What did end up on screen is very much a movie- and metaphor-friendly depiction of mental illness that, had it veered off course, would have risked romanticizing both instability and homelessness. As it’s handled, however, it works: Growing calmer and more coherent as the story progresses, Parry almost slips back into sanity near the end. But sanity also means remembering losing his wife when a gunman, inspired by something Jack told him on the air, shot up a bar three years earlier.

    It’s at this point that the Red Knight, the film’s nightmarish manifestation of Parry’s worst fears about the past he’s trying to outrun, and the depression threatening to pull him under, makes an appearance, just as it does later, after a successful date with Lydia (Amanda Plummer), a woman he’d previously admired only from afar. Williams’ scenes with Plummer, particularly a long walk home after their dinner, are both heartbreaking and romantic. The thought of happiness grounds him, steadying his thoughts. And though Lydia’s portrayed as only slightly less eccentric than her suitor, Plummer and Williams make it seem plausible they’ll be able to balance each other out. Yet for Parry, experiencing happiness means fearing its loss, and soon the Knight chases him through the streets to the spot where Jack previously met the murderous thugs. Accompanied by his vision of the Knight, they return, and it’s almost as if Parry willed them there. As they attack him, his last words are, “Thank you.”

    It’s tough to watch this moment now, to see Williams play a man wishing for death, even though it’s consistent with the character Williams creates in the film. After a horrific experience, Parry has reassembled the world out of the shattered pieces of what’s been left to him—scraps left on the street, rags others discarded, medieval stories he taught as a professor, and memories of a time when a woman loved him. It’s kept him safe, but rejoining the world means confronting that loss, and finding happiness means understanding he could lose it all again.

    The figure of the Fisher King makes an appearance in T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” but The Fisher King brings to mind lines from another Eliot poem: “human kind / cannot bear very much reality.” Gilliam’s previous films had made that a central theme, sometimes at a bit of a remove. Williams’ performance gives it flesh-and-blood form. Parry has the madness Williams brought to his comedy and the gravity of his best dramatic work, but nothing separates them. Williams the improv artist surfaces in lines like “Now that you know where we are, don’t be a stranger. Come back—we’ll rummage!” before vanishing as the character sinks down into muttered nonsense and conversations with unseen forces. The performance jumbles insanity, melancholy, and fragility together until they become nearly indiscernible.

    Parry finds the happy ending Williams couldn’t; it’s best to leave any other parallels there. Whatever resemblance Williams’ off-screen life bore to the characters he played, the work remains knowable in a way the man never will be, no matter how candid he was about his struggles in interviews. In his best roles, Williams conveyed a sense of despair and a need for connection, sometimes joining it to his comedic talents, other times muting that ability, but in his strongest performances finding a way to join the two, even if it was just to let a glimmer of his dervish energy peek out from behind his eyes. Williams’ best work, the stuff that will be remembered much longer than, say, The Big Wedding, didn’t clear room to accommodate his comedic skills. It allowed him to reinvent himself, to pound his gift into new forms to suit the screen. There’s genius in that, too.


  108. The death of Robin Williams, and a call to be better:

    The tragedy surrounding Robin Williams’ passing was made worse by crass reporting in some sectors of the media, Simon writes…

    A week or so after the sad news broke, many remain in shock over the death of Robin Williams. The much-loved actor and comedian died at the age of 63, having taken his own life. I can’t begin to imagine the depths of despair that he must have fallen into in order to do such a thing, and for his close friends and family, the last few days must have been utterly unbearable. My heart truly goes out to them. I never knew the man, and I was shocked to the core. How they felt I can’t begin to comprehend.

    I can only dearly hope that the majority of them at least managed to avoid certain quarters of the internet on Tuesday 12th August 2014 though, and the tabloid headlines the following day. For amongst the genuine outpourings of affection, and expressions of loss, was what’s becoming a deeply uncomfortable race to the bottom, with a growing number taking part.

    Sadly, many of you will already be well aware where this is heading.

    I’m talking about a trend that’s repeating itself whenever someone famous passes away, and it’s one that’s almost unique to big news websites. Namely: how can they turn the death of someone famous into as many mouse clicks and screen taps as possible? Within hours of Williams’ death, the internet was awash with stories examining every possible angle, each vying for your attention. There’s something deeply unsettling about it, yet it now appears to be The Way Things Are Done.

    It’s not lost on many of us that the major names in reporting are leading the charge. And it’s a shame, because if you look deeper online, and you’ll find a host of websites with deeply affectionate tributes. That was certainly the case with Robin Williams’ death last week, where there were some genuinely moving articles posted.

    Still, even a decade ago, the loss of somebody well-known would, at worst, generally result in people putting together tribute lists and features. I’ve never been entirely comfortable with those, but I can see that the majority are done with genuine intentions, rather than being about garnering clicks for a website.

    What this piece is about, however, is a call for change, however futile it may be. Hadley Freeman, writing in The Guardian, put together a piece entitled ‘How To Cover Celebrity Deaths: the new rules’ earlier in the year, and I found myself reading it and nodding as I did so.

    She wrote it partly in response to Mail Online – the world’s most popular newspaper website, attracting over 100 million users a month – which had posted a video of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s partner in the days after his sudden death, as she tried to organise his funeral. But Freeman also makes valid points about the way columnists and fashion writers also make clickbait out of a high-profile death.

    The reporting of Robin Williams’ passing, however, seemed to excavate new depths. Within hours of the news breaking, once-respected names were falling over themselves to come up with appropriate clickbait. These are all legitimate screenshots taken just hours after news of Williams’ death was reported:

    It beggars belief that one of the first thoughts following news of Williams’ death would be over the status of Mrs Doubtfire 2, but Variety – once the premier name in film reporting, and a brand that’s supposedly meant to stand for something – took mere hours to get on the story. Variety is supposed to be the kind of film outlet we all look up to. Not last Tuesday, it wasn’t.

    It seems a whole bunch of reporters couldn’t get to Twitter quickly enough either, to amalgamate stories such as ‘Celebs shocked, devastated’. As for Mail Online urging us not to miss the story of Williams’ “utterly heartbroken wife”? I don’t know where to start.

    I’ll spare you the reposting of Wednesday’s tabloid headlines. Chances are you know what they are already.

    To put this into context: a man, who had been suffering (and that’s exactly the word) from depression, one of the least understood illnesses on the planet, took his own life. He was 63, was survived by a wife and three children, all of whom were left trying to put the pieces of their lives back together. They were greeted by stories looking at any possible angle from which to get traffic to a website.

    The widely-tweeted screenshot that seemed to encapsulate everything that was wrong, though, was this one. This was from ABC, a Disney-owned company and one of the major television networks in the US.

    To be clear: inside that house was a grieving family. Had one of them stepped outside, a live news feed would presumably have zoomed in, so the world could see them at one of the lowest moments of their life. ABC, I should note, has since apologised.

    But why do it in the first place? Where is the public interest in that? Where is the humanity in that? This may all sound a bit holier-than-thou and preachy, but seriously: doesn’t this have to stop now?

    It may also sound idealistic, even a forlorn hope, but surely, asking for reporters to remember we’re human beings at such low moments isn’t an unreasonable request?

    The death of Robin Williams brought out so much warmth and emotion in many people across the world, clearly touched by a man who had, for decades of his life, entertained millions of people in a manner few, if any, of us could. The reporting of his death from many major outlets, though, was absolutely shameful (and not shy of double standards. Nikki Finke penned a long warm obituary to Williams on her site, overlooking the fact that back in September last year, she wrote, “Someone get him back on drugs or alcohol or both”).

    They’d argue, of course, that if we didn’t click on them, then they wouldn’t be so popular. And unfortunately, that’s absolutely right. The onus, I’d suggest, is on both sides: on the people putting words on the internet, and the people choosing which ones to click on.

    It’s a plea that likely won’t work. I’m not naive. But I do know that Robin Williams’ family, and more before and many after, do not deserve a news helicopter hovering above their house in the midst of such a tragic day.
    ‘Competitive Grieving’

    While I’ve got my flame suit on, there’s another growing trend when the world loses someone famous, and the best phrase I’ve heard to describe it is ‘competitive grieving’.

    Again: I truly believe that the majority of people who posted on social media in response to Williams’ death were shocked, moved and upset. Their responses were genuine. But I’d also contend that there’s a smaller subset who, whether they see it or not, seem to be engaged in a game of grieving one-upmanship. The worst examples tend to be articles of the ilk of ‘the Robin Williams I knew’, as invoices are swiftly enclosed alongside articles that claim to have some insight others haven’t. Yet it’s the trend on social media to try and outdo other grievers, by recounting personal encounters, trying to show how some may be more upset than somebody else, or by in some way quantifying one person’s grief as more intense than another’s. I find it incredibly uncomfortable.

    I’m sparing some of the individual examples I’ve seen on Twitter over the last week, and in the week after Philip Seymour Hoffman died, so as not to point ire in the direction of a particular individual. But I found no shortage of examples.

    People react to bad news in very different ways, and I don’t for a minute think to dictate how each of us deals with shocks and tragedies. Conversely, I do think a modicum of respect, and a larger dose of ‘being a human being’ wouldn’t hurt.

    It’s been a terrible week, particularly for Williams’ friends and family. But if we’re looking for something even vaguely helpful to come out of the outpouring of warmth of grief, then hopefully, the shaming of some segments of the media, and their dealing with a sensitive issue, will have a positive ramification somewhere along the line. I’m an idealist, granted, but I can’t help thinking there really has to be a better way forward.


  109. we should remember robin for his amazing career but the mistakes he made with his personal life he made us laugh mr doubtfire cry good will hunting when robin died a part of our childhood died my first movie in theater was flubber


    • There’s a lot of material out there to remember him by; there has to be something for everyone of all ages and temperments.
      Sure, there are individuals who have struggles, some more than others (personally, I struggle a lot with much, but I write, so I’m alright:-):and you hope they can either break through, or make the most of the time they had. In Robin Williams’ case, he was of the latter.
      I found it interesting to hear that Robin Williams’ remains were cremated so quickly (if he was of the Jewish faith, then 24 hours would be routine), but then again that may have been his wish.


  110. i been depressed never once out about suicide though anyone who thinks of that should think of people they will hurt by doing it


    • That sounds great in theory, but someone who is so deeply depressed is only thinking about how painful it is to be alive. Yeah, some people leave notes and explain why, but others don’t. I mean, someone must be in a bad place if they lose the desire to survive, since self-peservation is a natural instinct of ours.


  111. i hope to god no one associates sheen of seymore hoffamn with there drug use. If charlie sheen dies (god forbid) they should remember for his amazing work in 2 and a half men and platoon which shows he could have been a big star and he is actually a good actor. Phillip semyore hoffman has passed i don’t want anyone to associate him with his drug use he yes he had a problem but he was a talented actor who was well respected treated his fans with respect and a good father despite the drug use.what i like about robin and phillip they didnt look stars not handsome in the traditional movie star way like brad pitt but still good actor they proved good acting trump hes over good looks


    • When it comes to Charlie Sheen, his highly publicized lifestyle will always be part of his narrative, and later (or lazier) in his career, I think he cashed in on the attention. I feel Charlie Sheen could’ve been so much more as a performer, but he chose a certain path, and he seems self-satisfied.
      I think Philip Seymour Hoffman will always be regarded as one of the best pure actors of his generation; in the film I’ve seen in which he is involved in, he ALWAYS crawled into the skin of the characters he played seemlessly. He could play anything from a stuck up society guy to a manager of a professional baseball team and it was all so natural to me. Besides, his addiction battles weren’t played out in the tabloid public.


  112. true suicide is irrational act u do out of impulse instead of thinking about how others would feel he should had more counseling .


    • Yeah, but sometimes there are no answers, and for some discussing how bad they feel could make them feel worse.


    • When you’re suicidal, you think you’re doing other people a favor by ending it. You feel like a burden on everyone. I find this comment extremely irritating. You speak with certainty yet you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about in this case. Quit talking so much and try listening for a while.


  113. i loved good will hunting i wish before robin died he had a chance to reteam with gus van sant or matt damon i always wondered if he ever met jim carrey i always wanted them to make movie if someone finds a pic of them together post it


  114. no they were not as talked about as sheen when a famous person dies sometimes there more remembered for their death if it makes a huge impact then there work.example phil hartman great actor but he was never a list or b list maybe c list the only thing people rember about him is his death. I know sheen didnt have the best resume but lets remember him for charismatic performance in 21/2 men he has great comic timing the show went down without him isnt that testament of his talent. he really did have good potential platoon got great reviews held his own against dafoe and bergenger he just choose bad material he should have went for drama roles like platoon instead of action crap


    • I agree that Charlie Sheen has good comedic timimg, but I’m looking towards the two “Hot Shots” films and even “The Chase”. The problem for me is that on “Two and a Half Men”, he is essentially playing himself. Was he good at playing himself? Yes. Was he funny? Well, yeah. But still, he wasn’t exactly stretching himself.


  115. iam sure his publicist thought his bad boy image would help his career but he should have stayed clean went for dramatic sad that since wallstreet no dramatic roles i dont know how someone who had a clean cut dad like martin ended up like that but i never think about actors personal life i think of his acting sheen is incredible 21/2 is my fav show or was anyways when he was on it. Iam sure he was dead people wont trash him out of respect and remember him for his good work hot shots made me laugh . from what i heard from william dafoe he was a nice guy very helpful. are we going to rember robin for suicide or his coke problem and let me tell his scandals were in the news just as much as sheen its just that sheen resume is no where on par with robin so its easy to lose track of it. No we will remember him for Aladdin


    • I really don’t feel that Robin Williams’ off-camera life was tabloid fodder as much as Charlie Sheen. I mean, Sheen had the Kelly Preston incident, His name in high priced madam Heidi Fleiss’ black book , His father publically having an impromtu press conference about how he turned his son in to the police to get him help, His “winning” phase, I mean, one can go on.


  116. in the 80s robin was in out of rehab his coke use during mork and mindy was all over the new in the 90s he made waves when he cheated on his wife with nanny plus there was tabloid about how he gave women herpes or sometinhg 06 he to rehab for his drinking problem ok maybe your right hes not in the news AS much as sheen but he was there quit alot its easy to forget this becase unlike sheen his movies made studios money. sheen is way different then his harper character then you think sheen dosent have harpers charm you can say robin plays himself alot too sometimes iam not saying sheen is better then robin because is a better actor then sheen iam saying dont diss sheens acting he is much better then the material given to him looks past sheens antics watch wall street.


    • I wasn’t aware of any Robin Williams related off camera news other than his addictions, sobriety, and divorces. I guess at the time of this news I was either too young or I wasn’t paying attention (A quick note: I liked that film he performed in which during filming he fell of the wagon, “The Big White”. It was like some of his darker material, except his character itself was more odd than dark).
      Oh, I think “Wall Street” is an excellent film (I like 1980’s ANYTHING, for the most part, but especially the films). Charlie Sheen as Bud Fox was strong. What I’m saying is that when Charlie Sheen just fall back into playing character that use his own personal life as a punchline is uninspiring, if occasionally amusing. He just could’ve been more than that, but again, I guess he didn’t want to be.


  117. i think sheen and michael j fox should have an article both actors had blossoming movie career then fucked it up with bad film choice sheens coke use didnt help either then went to tvs when there film careers failed both left there hit tv shows and there career dropped


  118. if seymore hoffman never died he would never be on the list cause his film career was he on fire 2 years before he died had an Oscar nom then before he died he appeared in hunger games he was doing good its sad he threw it away


  119. i had a friend who commited suicide i reaserached a bit on depression i never claimed to be the expert but i know a bit about it


  120. iam sure sheen turn to coke when his career died


    • Well, Charlie Sheen came into his own in 1980’s Hollywood, an era which was awash with cocaine. There were more concaine related controversies in entertainment and sports (I’m think the mid ’80 Pittsburg Pirates baseball team as the largest sports example) than can likely be properly addressed.


  121. true dennis qauid said coke was everywhere even in the movie budgets


  122. VMAs play strange 23-second tribute to Robin Williams, Twitter responds with outrage:

    The actor and comedian’s death jarred the entertainment industry, but this tribute was tone-deaf.

    Sarah Gray

    Last night the MTV VMAs paid tribute to departed actor and comedian Robin Williams. “Robin Williams’ death rocked the entertainment world,” MTV News noted, and the award show, dedicated to celebrity, took a moment to mark the passing of a bright star.

    It was well intentioned. The execution — photos fluttering briefly over a Coldplay track — however, was rather botched. And folks on Twitter noticed.

    The 23-second tribute to Robin Williams was decried on Twitter as too short, and oddly placed.


  123. he had been taking anti depression they r known to give chemical imbalance in brain


    • I think anti-depressent meds can be quite a rool of the dice, since the doctors are guessing on what will bebefit the patient as well. When my fathertold the VA he was depressed, whatever they gave him made him feel worse. I mean, for some people meds work, but others have an adverse reaction.


  124. true he has 4 movies coming out this year its gonna be weird seeing him on screen knowing hes gone he even has the night at musuem movie coming out out his last live action movie will also be his last box office hit


  125. leabeau would u say tommy lee jones ,billy bob thorton and robert duvall are all a list and i was thinking u can do an article about greatest comebacks ranging travolta in pulp fiction to brando in godfather


  126. I just finished watching Good Morning, Vietnam again for the first time in many, many years. The film was the perfect vehicle for Williams in a way. Finally, he could be both outrageously funny and serious in the same film. Watching the film again after all these years, I can still see why the Academy Awards gave Williams his first Oscar nomination. Actually, the film was just added to Netflix streaming, so if anybody hasn’t seen it yet, or if it’s been a long time since you’ve seen it, I’d recommend tossing it into your viewing queue. It’s one of Williams’ better films.

    Watching the film again also made me remember how much I loved JT Walsh’s work. He was teriffic as the Major that doesn’t much care for Cronauer’s “irrelevant tendencies”, a despicable character. I’m reminded of how much a fan of his I was from films like Sling Blade, Breakdown, Pleasantville, The Negotiator, Red Rock West, even when he had a small part he was always a compelling presence in a film. JT Walsh was, and still is, one of my all-time favorite character actors, I miss him the same way I miss Robin Williams in a way. Both great talents gone too soon.


  127. i wish robin and jim would have made movie togather


  128. its ironic he played 2 suicidal characters fathers day patch adams and a suicidal type movie worlds greatest dad i always wondered why he was so good at playing depressed unhappy characters i just wish he could have seek d counseling about his Parkinson i know Parkinson disease is a big deal but he could have pulled a michael j fox and used his star power to help people get more people more involved in fighting the disease michael j fox had it worse he was diagnosed in his late 20s the prime of his life he handled it well robin was in his 60s still relativity young but could have helped people with it like michael j fox


    • I feel that there are stark differences between someone like Robin Williams diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Michael J. Fox. Robin Williams relied on facial expressions and manic energy, something that would be seriously compromised by the onset of Parkinson’s. Also, Michael J. Fox received his diagonosis when he was much younger (not saying it was easy for Michael J. Fox, as he left “Spin City” back in the day due to the diseases effects) , which allowed him a transitional period. Furthermore, Robin Williams had so much on his plate to overcome to begin with; maybe he was just tired


  129. being diasoned with Parkinson at a young age is worse at a young age not being able to function is worse plus robin had perfomances that didnt relie on that like good will hunting worlds greatest dad michael j fox had a career despite his disease robin could have done it to


    • The truth is, Michael J. Fox has taken very few roles since his diagnosis other than his guest spots on “That Hot Woman” (I mean, “The Good Wife”) and his recent half-hour television series (I thought it was okay). Besides, they are different people; Robin Williams really liked to cycle, and maybe biking would have been out of the question later on for him. I’m still sticking with the thought that Robin Williams just had enough and wanted to check out.


  130. iam sure robin could have done guest role or bit parts in movies iam sure it wasnt just the Parkinson it could have been other things Parkinson was straw broke camels back he had alimony bipolar drug addiction he been depressed for years plus to be honest parkison wasnt the only thing that killed his career he made poor film choices his post back to future flopped which forced him to go back to tv so poor choices killed michael j fox career hes a underrated actor very funny however like charlie sheen he picked the wrong movies his movie career bombed tv was the work they can get


  131. Letting the posthumous halo fade:

    by Nathan Rabin

    When the news of Robin Williams’ suicide broke in August, my first thought wasn’t about the many blockbusters he made, or his signature roles. I thought about Bobcat Goldthwait’s wonderful 2009 sleeper World’s Greatest Dad, which commented smartly and subversively on a phenomenon Williams’ death quickly unleashed. In World’s Greatest Dad, a tender, restrained Williams plays Lance Clayton, a failed writer and single father whose ambitions to be both a great author and a terrific family man have gone unfulfilled. Lance’s 15-year-old son Kyle (Daryl Sabara) is human garbage, an abusive and bullying creep who kills himself in an act of autoerotic asphyxiation. If you’ve ever doubted Williams’ gifts as a dramatic actor, watch the scene of Lance discovering his son’s corpse, if you can. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

    Lance sees a silver lining to his son’s meaningless death, however, and he pours his grief into composing a fake suicide note for his son that gets published in the school paper, leading Lance to put out more of his own work under his son’s name. In the process, Kyle’s image is rehabilitated to a ridiculous, comical extreme. A jerk no one thought much of is lionized as a soulful exemplar of noble adolescent yearning. Kyle becomes a blank canvas that others can project their own aspirations and fears upon. He stops being a person and becomes a symbol, a saint.

    Something similar happens to celebrities when they die, especially under shocking or dramatic circumstances. A benevolent form of cultural amnesia develops over all their flaws. We forget about all the awful films and choices they made. Death washes away their creative sins and amplifies their triumphs.

    To a certain extent, this idealization and romanticization of the recently dead, a psychological halo effect, represents a purposeful act of radical simplification. Robin Williams was an extraordinarily complicated man with many different sides. There was the motor mouthed cokehead and the man who prized his sobriety, the manic improviser and the Academy Award-winning dramatic actor. There was the Williams who partied with John Belushi just before Belushi overdosed, and the Williams beloved by generations of children as one of them, a great big kid who was always around, in live-action or animated form.

    The halo effect reduced all these contrasting versions of Williams to an all-purpose, reassuring cliché: The angelic man-child who gave the gift of laughter freely, and with great joy. It’s mawkish and reductive, but sometimes those are necessary evils, because confronting the full force of artists’ darkness and complexity in the immediate aftermath of death would be too painful. It was bad enough that Williams died in such an agonizing, public way; who but the most ghoulish would want to follow that by rooting around in the downsides of his personal and professional past?

    Part of what made Williams’ death so shocking was how powerfully it conflicted with the Williams of the public imagination, who wrestled with dependency issues and mental illness long ago, but had seemingly become a sober, solid American institution. When Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an accidental overdose in February 2014, it came as a shock in part because the public knew relatively little about him. While Williams often seemed to be playing some version of himself in his films, Hoffman disappeared completely inside the roles he played. It was as if there was no Philip Seymour Hoffman in real life, just the art he created.

    The shock of Williams’ death was so extreme that people understandably wanted to bathe in the warm glow of nostalgia. And with Williams, there were a lot of great moments and good times to remember—but there was also a whole lot of dreck. The dead almost inherently engender respect, so it’s hard to concede now that while Williams was a smart, kind, talented dramatic actor with a lightning-quick mind, the vast majority of the films he acted in ran the gamut from mediocre to actively excruciating.

    Pretending otherwise is dishonest, and an insult to Williams’ memory. Pretending that everything, or even the vast majority, of what he did was great—an attitude that seemed to be epidemic in the weeks following his death—is dishonoring The World According To Garp and The Fisher King by lumping them in with the dregs of Fathers’ Day, Old Dogs, and the many films Williams made that are endured rather than enjoyed.

    Immediately after a death, the halo effect serves a useful, even essential purpose. I wasn’t a fan of Paul Walker’s acting, but I was relieved that when he died in a car crash in November 2013, he was warmly remembered as a generous, big-hearted man with a bright future ahead of him, not as a mediocre pretty-boy who lucked into some lucrative roles. In a pop-culture world so dominated by snark, there’s something refreshing about wanting to memorialize the recently dead in the most positive, flattering way—initially.

    The problem is that is if the effect lingers too long, it can dramatically and unfairly distort the actual worth of an artist’s career. There was a danger of that happening when Williams died, and the tidal wave of mourning that followed seemed to bestow classic status on everything he did that was halfway successful. It was as if the shock and awfulness of his death instantly elevated Mrs. Doubtfire to a universally adored masterpiece. Briefly, it seemed like agreeably schlocky Williams films like Jumanji had become sacrosanct not because they were great, or even particularly good, but because they were such a big part of so many people’s childhoods, and starred a beloved man who had just died.

    Thankfully, the effect is temporary. Sometimes you can trace the exact moment when it ends, and reality kicks back in. For me, it dissipated completely when I watched Patch Adams for the third or fourth or fifth time, as part of a forthcoming Career View on Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was dreading this particular film, in part because it represented the only collaboration between two men whose deaths profoundly shocked and traumatized culture this year, but also because I knew firsthand just how dreadful it is, how pandering, maudlin, and dishonest. Patch Adams is a popular comedic target—Futurama and Cecil B. Demented are among the institutions that have satirized it—but it’s so devoid of self-consciousness that it’s ultimately beyond parody.

    Patch Adams has a reputation in some circles not just for being bad, but for being the worst of the worst, the black nadir of rank, self-aggrandizing Robin Williams sentimentality. And does it ever live up to that reputation. I re-watched the film in a strange state of intense yet strangely liberating joylessness. Re-watching Patch Adams finally allowed me to see Williams as he truly was: a genius, and a good man, but also an actor who perpetrated some of the worst movies of the past quarter-century. Even Hoffman couldn’t elevate the material. Nothing could make Patch Adams anything other than an enduring abomination: not time, not even the deaths of two cultural figures whose significance it’s hard to overstate.

    It was somehow freeing being able to see Williams and Hoffman in utter garbage, in a film guaranteed to knock the halo off the loftiest acting angel. Williams was no longer a paper saint. He was just an actor who had made some really deplorable films in exchange for great deals of money, and that’s okay. There’s no crime in that—it’s what actors do. Even actors as beloved as Robin Williams. The halo effect helps us process and work through pop-culture grief, but I still feel like I made a breakthrough once I was able to laugh at Patch Adams, rather than with it. It was oddly comforting to feel a strong, honest, intense reaction to the beloved late comedian—even if it was one of extraordinary distaste.


  132. Robin Williams: 5 Awesome Performances & 5 That Sucked:

    A career of stark contradictions in review.


  133. bipolar coke addiction his Parkinson was straw broke camels back i was upset that his cancelled tv crazy ones was said to be reason to kill himself he had plenty of films lined up he had alot of clout its not like he was in trouble of not finding work he was to good for that show anyways made me wonder how they would write his death in story line had the show got renewed for 2nd season


  134. Steven Spielberg’s Hook: What Went Wrong?

    Spielberg’s Hook boasted a star cast, a prime release slot, and was set to be the big hit of 1991. So: what happened?

    If you’ve never quite warmed to Hook, then you’re not alone. Its director, Steven Spielberg, apparently isn’t much of a fan of it either. In fact, let’s leave the ‘apparently’ out of it. Chatting to the Kermode & Mayo radio program while promoting the film Lincoln, he was pretty candid. “I want to see Hook again,” he told them. “I still don’t like that movie. I’m hoping some day I’ll see it again and perhaps like some of it.”

    Hook was something of a disappointment all round. TriStar Pictures gambled heavily on the film – not that it appeared much of a gamble on the surface – and the then-depressed film industry was looking to the star-laden blockbuster to inject fresh life into 1991’s blockbuster numbers. Another E.T.-scale success was expected.

    But it never happened.

    Not that Hook flopped (although the far cheaper The Addams Family did equivalent business in the US around the same time). By the time the film had finished its theatrical run, the movie had taken over $300m at the global box office. That was a lot of money in the early ’90s, although so was Hook’s $70m budget. Had Terminator 2: Judgment Day not become the first $100m movie that summer, the focus may have been more on the cost of the film, which at that stage was one of the five most expensive of all time.

    “We Don’t Wanna Grow Up”

    So how does Hook stand up? Well, as I did when looking back at the last three Indiana Jones movies last year, I recruited my children to help answer that. I find it interesting to try and see the films I grew up with through their eyes, and whilst I was late teens by the time Hook landed (and we didn’t get it in UK cinemas until Easter 1992), I still remember the excitement of going to see it, tempered slightly by the memory of me looking at my watch as often as Captain Hook tried to avoid anything ticking.

    Thus, my six-year old daughter and my 11-year old son feasted their eyes on the film. And – spoiler! – they quite liked it. My daughter warmed to it more, but both were fidgeting long before the exhausting 144 minute running time was up.

    And in fact, bloat is one of Hook’s problems.

    The film, as you probably know, is the tale of what happens when Peter Pan grows up. As it turns out, he turns into an early ’90s corporate suit, glued to an oversized mobile phone and not engaging with his children.

    Worse, he goes to a meeting at the office, rather than his son’s baseball game.

    Worse, he shouts at his kids.

    Worse, he takes a phone call during his daughter’s play.

    Worse, he… well, you get the idea.

    But just in case you don’t, a good 20 minutes is spent establishing why Peter Banning (played by Robin Williams) is such a terrible ’90s dad. Hulk Hogan, in the film Suburban Commando, got across just as much about the era with the line “this is the ’90s, I’m gonna sue ya” than the extended prologue we get with Hook. And it’s not until Banning and his incredibly patient family – there’s a $5bn deal to be done, y’know – arrive in London that the film finally starts to splutter into life.

    There are, I feel, moments in Hook that remind you of better films, and when they’re sat upside in Granny Wendy’s house going to bed, I did wonder about sticking Labyrinth on. But then we get Dame Maggie Smith, with her performance leading me to wonder if she was always this age. She is, of course, brilliant, and whilst conflict is being set up between Banning and his son in these early stages (ready to be fairly easily resolved later), Smith is as magnetic as she always is. She leaves you rooting for the fact that her stories are true.

    The Media Circus

    Enter Tinkerbell, then.

    A Premiere article going behind the scenes of Hook back in December 1991 – as with most of the media at the time – was slightly obsessed with Julia Roberts in the role. Primarily because of the troubles she was going through off-screen rather than her work on it. In fact, set rumors – and this was in a pre-internet age – were damning. Roberts, we were led to believe, was difficult to work with. She was “Tinkerhell,” according to a report in the Premiere piece, and even the article – which was a supportive one – describes her as a “curious presence” on set, “sometimes somber, sometimes at the near edge of hysteria.”

    If that was indeed true, who could blame her? Her proposed marriage earlier that year had collapsed, and she’d then been hospitalized with a particularly strong case of flu. That, and every tabloid on the planet was seemingly after a story about her.

    At the time of shooting Hook, Roberts was still in her early 20s. Who of us could deal with what she went through at that age, for better or worse? Spielberg, to be fair, defended his star. “Julia probably went through the most trying times of her life, and it was simply bad timing for all of us that she happened to start on Hook at that low point,” adding that he thought her performance “is terrific.”

    I bring all this up because it does seem to have had some impact on the screen. Tinkerbell is a supporting role in Hook, but she’s the character that basically glues the grown up world and the Neverland world together. And for whatever reason, she seems a bit flat.

    We’re in the age before CG dominance in blockbusters, so Spielberg is playing clever tricks in keeping her miniature against all the other characters, but it feels and looks like there’s distance. Inevitably, a modern Blu-ray transfer shows the joins a little, but even so, Tinkerbell is one of the parts of the Hook jigsaw that doesn’t seem to work too well.

    The biggest one though – and this remains as much a surprise to write now as it was then – is Dustin Hoffman. His Captain Hook makes you pine for Jason Isaacs, as we regularly do. It’s as if there’s a tonal misjudgment here.

    Hook himself, bluntly, comes across as a pantomime fool (he’s even de-wigged at the end!), save for one or two brutal moments that feel more out of character than defining parts of how he’s supposed to be. When he kills Dante Basco’s Rufio, there’s a sense of ‘where did that come from?’ It doesn’t help that the script – which I’ll come to – asks us to believe that Hook has waited decades to enact his revenge on Peter Pan, then gives him a few days to go off and train (this is the same screenplay that, when their kids are kidnapped, has the Banning parents sit around quietly chatting, with little sign of panic).

    Furthermore, his key plan to defeat his nemesis – given to him by Bob Hoskins’ far more entertaining Smee – is to befriend Peter’s eldest son. Even in the early ’90s, that felt wrong.

    It’s fitting that affable old Hook’s demise comes when an apparently-dead crocodile lands on his head, and then he mysteriously disappears into said croc’s stomach. Even if there’s still, even now, a sense of ‘was that it?’ about it.

    But then, ironic given that his name is in the title, and that the running time is so elongated, there’s barely any room for Captain Hook in the movie. Instead, the script focuses more on Peter Pan’s family problems, Tinkerbell, and the Lost Boys.

    Tick Tock Tick Tock

    The problem there is there’s nothing in Hook that you can’t see coming a mile away. We weren’t even in the era where every secret was given away in the trailer months ahead here, and the word ‘spoiler’ was rarely used around movies.

    But did anyone go in to see Hook not knowing that Banning would become Peter Pan? Even a character like Rufio, who dislikes Peter when they meet: was anyone in any doubt that they’d end up chums?

    Yet the process is so, so, so, so, so drawn out. Peter doesn’t find his happy thought until over halfway through the movie – over 70 minutes in! Until then, he’s been the grumpy, confused twit with the mobile phone. In a story with few surprises as it stood, it felt exhausting waiting for Robin Williams to get his tights on.

    Look what Spielberg did next to get a flavor as to how to work the balance. Jurassic Park is a two hour film. Take the immediate beginning off, and the leisurely animals that we meet early on, and you get 45 minutes or so of build, and 75 minutes of release. James Cameron’s triumphant Aliens extended edition keeps you waiting just over an hour to meet the xenomorphs properly, and layers in plenty to keep you interested up to that moment. But even Cameron knew he had to release them eventually.

    Hook just takes too long to do anything. It’s as if all concerned got blinded by how attractive the idea of the movie was. After all, Steven Spielberg directing a grown-up Peter Pan movie? When the press wasn’t obsessing over Julia Roberts’ personal life, that was the other key message. The Peter Pan of modern cinema, directing the story of when Peter Pan grew up. They must have doubled the budget for the Christmas party there and then.

    Yet placed in the context of Spielberg’s career, Hook came at a crossroads of sorts. He’d just come off the back of the raging success of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Hook would repeat a marketing trick from that, putting Spielberg himself in an early teaser trailer), but before that, there was his lowest profile movie of the 1980s, the thoroughly decent Always.

    It was no secret that his filmmaking was balanced between the blockbusters he’d become renowned for, and more adult subject matter. Yet as liked as films such as The Color Purple and Empire Of The Sun were and are, it felt like he hadn’t quite found his voice fully in either; that he fell back a little on what people expected from a Spielberg film.

    Now I really like Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade as well, but rarely for a Spielberg film, it does feel like it got away from him just a little. It’s an awful lot of fun, but it’s the sparkling character dynamic between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery that’s the key there. Without that, it’s a long film, one that has just enough material and moments to sustain it.

    Hook doesn’t, and after its release, Spielberg would set to work on the two films that would be the springboard for the next part of his career. That’d be one of his very best blockbusters, Jurassic Park, and one of his very best ‘older’ films, Schindler’s List. In both, he hit the mark.

    With Hook, he missed. And somewhat inevitably, there’s a sense that this is a mid-40s Spielberg going through a transition. But that’s easy to see now. At the time, it was just a puzzle as to how a good idea on paper had missed the mark so much.

    The Upsides

    Having said all that, there’s still more to like here than I remembered. Accepting I’ve spent a good 1000 words on the downsides of Hook, I do think that Spielberg may be being a bit harsh in entirely dismissing his movie. When Peter Pan takes to the skies, is there anyone better at getting across the joyful wonder of a glorious movie set via an action sequence than Spielberg, for instance? His energetic camera, and his desire to have a boat full of extras – again, no CG, they’re all real people – is hugely cinematic. When the fun comes, it is worth waiting for, and for half an hour, Hook is very good indeed, I’d argue.

    Furthermore, John Williams’ score is quite, quite brilliant. Take the ‘we want to be like Peter Pan’ song out of it, and I rank it amongst his ten best. Not something that’s said lightly. The double CD release is an absolute treat.

    Its message of family, and what matters, is delivered with the quiet sensitivity of smacking your knackers against some blunt garden shears, though. Nothing is done in half measures. And maybe the genesis of the screenplay didn’t help there.

    Hook started as one thing, after all, and ended up another. It started and ended with James V Hart, though, who penned a screenplay for Paramount Pictures in the early ’80s, with Dustin Hoffman cast pretty swiftly as Captain Hook. Michael Jackson was mooted for the lead at that point, be he declined.

    Spielberg, who had been circling the film, dropped out in the mid-80s after pre-production had begun. And the film sat in limbo for a bit, not least when Spielberg walked away altogether to make Empire Of The Sun a few years’ later.

    Enter Nick Castle, and the idea of an older Peter Pan. Paramount hired him to direct, and The Last Starfighter helmer got to work. Hart was still involved, the project shifted from Paramount to TriStar, and Castle recruited Robin Williams to join the still-attached Hoffman in the cast. Yet, when the pair didn’t see eye-to-eye with the new director, and when Spielberg’s name re-entered the conversation, Castle got a $500,000 pay off, and an eventual story credit. The film was then green lit when Spielberg was installed, and a large scale success was expected.

    But maybe it was all too perfect a fit. Hindsight is wonderful, but which of us, had we been running a movie studio, would have called bullshit on a project that at that stage had what looked like a pretty perfect cast, and the ideal director to make it? Still, Spielberg – a filmmaker notorious for coming in under time and under budget with his post-Jaws movies – ran 40 days over here (to 116 days) and around $15m over budget. This one hadn’t gone to plan.

    Spielberg himself gave an interview in 2011 to Entertainment Weekly, where he said that he wasn’t keen on the Neverland sequences, “because I’m uncomfortable with that highly stylized world today.” I liked those bits, though, notwithstanding the narrative issues. And my kids did too. In fact, take 25 minutes out of Hook – again, an easy thing to write in an article, and an easy thing for a non-filmmaker to say – and it may have played better, more evenly and more satisfyingly. It’d be fascinating to see how it would come out if Spielberg re-edited it now, and made an alternate cut available.

    Yet contrary to reports, Hook was and is no disaster. It just feels like a missed opportunity, a film that had a few too many interesting ingredients, and nobody really imposing themselves on what it should ultimately have become.

    The bottom line for me is that it can still sit and entertain, to differing degrees, a sofa full of two children and a grumpy man. That counts for something, and a muddled mess like Hook, for my money at least, is worth a box set of Transformers films.

    But still: when the credits finally rolled, I think all three of us on my sofa just wished for slightly more than we got with Hook.


  135. Death to Smoochy is one of my favorite movies of all time.


    • I didn’t feel strongly about it either way (though I felt some moments were off the mark from what was intended). I happened to catch it on HBO the previous decade, and used it to pass an hour and a half or so. I guess now I would say the film is a twisted misfire.


    • I think it was Roger Ebert who said a movie as bad as Death to Smoochy could only be made by extremely talented people because it takes a lot of confidence to go that far astray. These things are a matter of taste. So I can imagine some people really grooving on it even if the majority didn’t like it. For the small handful of people who enjoy the movie, it’s going to be a favorite I would imagine.


      • I remember reading that review and feeling that comment was right on point. I do see where there is an audience that favors it, but I also understand why it was thrashed.


  136. Robin Williams had parkinson’s and Lewy body disease. This causes you to think slower,move slower. poor memory, this disease is progressive. Robin was probably feeling these symptoms for a long time. I’ve watched many clips and saw him do comedy and mix his words up, and be slow at remembering what he was to say as far back as 2002 Can you imagine robin being slow at anything. This had to be devastating for him. He lived to perform and he knew he was losing that ability. Robin was still very talented but these diseases were not allowing him to show them in the way he was use to. He never complained or let anybody know what he was going through, but he still worked hard to do the best he could. Also look at his personal life. I think he lost the love of his life, his second wife Marsha. His children were grown and gone, ? money problems, how much can one man go through. I don’t think his so called friends were there for him, like he was for them. I read a article where is new wife only cared about her two boys and herself. The article said his children was not even allowed to come to robins house.
    Not even for holidays. My heart just breaks for him. This life can be so unfair and cruel for some. I hope and pray there is a heaven, and robin is experiencing the love, joy, fulfilment,
    happiness, and full appreciation of others he so deserves. Robin received an amazing send off, lets just hope he sees it. Why don’t so many of us show this while a person is alive. Including myself. GOD BLESS YOU ROBIN WILLIAMS.


    • It’s horrible that he contracted those diseases and that his ability was apparently diminished. I can imagine the thoughts he had daily, and they had to be accompanied with a mix of terror and despair. Performing is what kept him around for so long, for sure. My only comfort is that he left plenty of entertainment behind, but I wish things turned out better for him at the end (I feel he was someone famous who was easy to root for).


  137. Robin Williams deserved a better swan song than Boulevard:

    Robin Williams was a great comic actor, and at times he could be a very effective dramatic actor as well. Without a strong director to rein him in, however—a Peter Weir or a Gus Van Sant or a Christopher Nolan—he had a tendency to think he was projecting “deep” when he was actually turning in something uncomfortably close to “moist.” Boulevard, the final theatrical release in which Williams plays the lead role (he has one voice-only performance as a dog that’s still pending), was directed by Dito Montiel (A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints, The Son Of No One), who clearly lacked either the will or the authority to keep his star from laying on the morose regret with a trowel. There’s no joy in reporting that this beloved actor’s last handful of movies were stinkers (see also A Merry Friggin’ Christmas and The Angriest Man In Brooklyn), but honoring the great work he did requires acknowledging the lousy work as well.

    It doesn’t help that Boulevard is a movie that feels at least a decade past its sell-by date, if not two. Williams plays Nolan Mack, a rather meek fellow who’s spent his entire adult life married to the same woman, Joy (Kathy Baker), and working at the same dead-end job, pushing papers around at a small Nashville bank. Nolan and Joy have an affectionate rapport, but they sleep in separate bedrooms, and it comes as no big surprise when Nolan, driving home one night after visiting his hospitalized father, suddenly stops his car alongside some young men who are pretty clearly for sale. As it turns out, though, Nolan doesn’t want sex, to the befuddlement of Leo (Roberto Aguire), the guy he picks up. He’s content simply to look at Leo naked, hold him occasionally, and help him out financially. Joy, meanwhile, seems to be well aware that her husband is gay—she repeatedly catches him in lies, never confronting him—but that doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s ready for him to end the marriage and pursue real happiness.

    Arriving several years after Beginners, for which Christopher Plummer won an Oscar as an octogenarian who joyously embraces his homosexuality late in life, the soggily repressed Boulevard plays like the two steps back to that film’s one step forward. Screenwriter Douglas Soesbe’s decision to make Nolan more or less asexual can be justified psychologically—after a lifetime spent in the closet, one might well be terrified of acting on genuine desire—but the lack of even some tentative exploration feels like an act of cowardice by the filmmakers rather than by the character. Williams tries hard to convey Nolan’s sense of liberation (with Leo) and guilt (with Joy), but that’s the problem, as it often was: He tries way too hard, telegraphing the character’s emotions so furiously that the performance becomes overbearing. (That the super-relaxed Bob Odenkirk plays Nolan’s best friend compounds the problem.) It’s left to Baker, who rarely gets a part this juicy nowadays, to provide some much-needed subtlety; the scene in which Joy finally speaks her mind about why she married Nolan provides Boulevard with its sole incisive moment. Had the film been more about that relationship, instead of focusing almost exclusively on its protagonist’s soft-spoken, wet-eyed ineffectuality, perhaps it could have served as a better swan song.


  138. The Good Son:

    Posted 05 July 2015 – 11:21 PM
    Yeah talk about a complete 180 in roles. This might have worked if Culkin waited a few years to make it more surprising of a turn towards darker material, like Robin Williams did in the early 2000s or what Culkin himself did in Party Monster. Yet to do it right after being in two huge holiday hits is just mind boggling and really shows why he sort of had to separate himself from his parents, as I’m sure they were a focal point in him taking this role. And very rarely do killer kid movies do well enough to not come off as bonkers or hokey. The Omen and Bad Seed are two examples of it working well for a variety of reasons while this and countless others are just insane because eventually the audience realizes that the kid is either going to have to be killed or is going to get away with it, both which are pretty downer types of endings.

    Posted 06 July 2015 – 07:05 AM
    To be fair he was just a stalker in that, but that was also paired with Insomnia where he was a killer, Death to Smoochy which I thought was his best role of all these dark roles, and even the Final Cut which was kind of a dark sci-fi movie. He even did an episode of Law and Order: SVU which played on the news story that Compliance was also based on. And I don’t think it took much to convince him to do it, as at that point in his career was sort of on a downturn after winning his Oscar with What Dreams May Come, Patch Adams, Jakob the Liar, and Bicentennial Man, so he was probably looking for something new to reinvent himself, which was a great choice on his part.

    Posted 06 July 2015 – 07:26 AM
    I’m glad he chose to do a bunch of more diverse projects his darker movies are great. Insomnia is one of my favorite things he’s been in.

    Culkin on the other hand, chose the wrong role to diversify with and ended up just creeping everyone out.


  139. 5 Robin Williams roles that help illustrate his major talents


  140. ‘Jumanji’ Star — Film Reboot Not Right Without Robin Williams


  141. Category: This Sucks So Bad … Created on Monday, 01 September 2014 17:53 Written by George Rother

    The signs were all there, why didn’t I heed them? Everything pointed to Being Human, a vignette-comprised drama starring Robin Williams (Mrs. Doubtfire), being a stinker. There were no advance screenings. Warner didn’t market it at all. It was dumped into an early May release date. Writer-director Bill Forsyth (Gregory’s Girl) disowned it after a dispute with the studio over running time and content. Nevertheless, I went to see Being Human on a Saturday night with a group of friends. Yep, I dragged others into it as well. WOW! And I don’t mean that in any good way. Not only is it Williams’ worst movie, it’s one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. The main reason? It’s SO BORING! My God, I’ve seen turtles move at a faster pace! It’s a pitiful attempt at an existential historical epic that follows a human soul through five different periods in history.

    Williams appears in all five vignettes, in different incarnations, as a man named Hector. Simply put, Hector is a loser. It takes him thousands of years to complete his journey, if you can even call it that. I’ll explain in more detail in the next paragraph.

    Interestingly enough, all of Williams’ characters speak English regardless of the country in which the action takes place. In the first segment, Williams is a caveman (or an ancient Celt) whose wife and children are taken from him by Viking raiders. At one point, his wife warns him not to lose the children. He does and that’s what his journey appears to be about, reuniting with his children. In the second part, he’s a Roman slave with a foolish master (Turturro, Quiz Show) that agrees to kill both himself and Hector in order to repay a debt. Hector tricks his master into granting him his freedom and he escapes with a slave girl (Mahlaba). In the third vignette, he’s a Scottish trader on his way home to his family when he gets sidetracked by a beautiful Roman woman. They don’t understand each other since she appears to be the only one in this movie that doesn’t speak English. After a brief stay at her home with her children, he decides to move on. Part number four has Williams playing a Portuguese man circa the Renaissance that finds himself shipwrecked in Africa with a bunch of others including his spurned lover (McInnerny) and her new mate (Hyde, Jumanji). The final part of the movie takes place in present-day New York where Hector attempts to rebuild his relationship with his estranged children (he hasn’t seen them in four years).

    There are many recurring motifs in Being Human such as shoes, chickens, religious icons, rope and crossing water. I know what it’s supposed to mean, I think. It emphasizes the fact that all five Hectors possess the same soul due to the magic of reincarnation. Throughout his life, he keeps making the same mistakes. It’s as good an explanation as any. As for the movie’s slower-than-slow pace, it’s supposed to emphasize how slow life often is. Baloney! It sounds like the studio’s publicity department at work to me. That’s just the kind of statement they come up with to try and make their movie look and sound better. No amount of positive spin can cover up that Being Human is a giant cinematic turd. It’s dull, turgid and utterly pointless. Seriously, what’s the damn point? I typically like Forsyth’s films but this one effectively put an end to his career as he’s only made one other movie in the twenty years since this came out. That would be Gregory’s Two Girls (1999), a sequel to the delightful 1981 teen comedy-romance that I’ve purposely avoided watching. Why ruin the memory of one of my favorite “Hidden Treasure” movies? As much as I like Williams, it turns out five times the Robin Williams doesn’t make a movie better. He makes a valiant effort, but even he can’t rise above the material. The rest of the cast doesn’t fare much better. At no point did Being Human feel real or authentic to me. It looks more like a bunch of overgrown college kids at a history-themed costume party. The only nice thing I can say about Being Human is that the picture is always in focus. Okay, now I’m just reaching. This movie is just one big miscalculation. It’s two hours of my life that I’ll never get back. If it’s trying to make a statement about the human condition, I totally missed it. Any and all tributes to the late comedian should just skip including Being Human. I’m sure he doesn’t want to be remembered for this one.


  142. #BREAKING: Robin Williams Family Settles Fued Over Estate


  143. One thing that I didn’t know before: Ted Danson got his CSI part over John Lithgow and Robin Williams:


    • I wasn’t an avid watcher of the show (viewed a decent amount of the finale), but what I’ve seen of Ted Danson in it he does a good job, but John Lithgow is always reliable, and play make any character believable.


  144. i could see lithgow doing not sure about robin. I wish before robin passed he worked ewith gus van sant again they could have recpatureed magic of good will hutning


  145. Robin Williams’ widow: “If Robin was lucky, he would’ve had maybe three years left”

    Susan Williams detailed her husband’s illnesses for the first time in an interview with GMA.


  146. Disney exec: Robin Williams’ will prevented potential sequel using Aladdin outtakes

    If not for the will of the late Robin Williams, there might well have been an Aladdin sequel voiced by the legendary comedian. Williams recorded enough unused material during the making of the original film in 1991 for another one, claims an unnamed former Disney executive in a new interview with The Times of London (via New York Post).

    The source claims the outtakes were planned to be used in a fourth film in the Aladdin franchise, but the project had to be shelved when Disney found points in Robins’ will that prevents the major production studio from using his name, or any taped performances or recordings for a full 25 years after his death.

    While the performance outtakes weren’t used for the original feature film, the unnamed Disney executive said that they were top-notch. “When he was on form, the hyperactive motormouth we love from Good Morning Vietnam, Hook, Dead Poets Society, and Mrs. Doubtfire was making 30 jokes a minute.”

    The clause isn’t all too surprising for Williams, who has expressed disappointment with Disney in the past. In a 1993 interview with the Today Show, he explained that he didn’t want the mega-studio using his voice to promote Aladdin-inspired merchandise.

    “We had a deal,” said Williams to interviewer Gene Shalit (via LA Times). “The one thing I said was I will do the voice. I’m doing it basically because I want to be part of this animation tradition. I want something for my children. One deal is, I just don’t want to sell anything — as in Burger King, as in toys, as in stuff.”

    The clause puts any use of Williams’ recording on ice until 2039. In the meantime, “[the jokes] will remain in the vaults,” said the Disney exec. That said, some of the outtakes (apparently those that were previously authorized) were released in last month’s Blu-ray release of Aladdin. Check out some of those extended outtakes via ABC’s Good Morning America below.


  147. Re: Flubber. From Lebeau narrative

    . . . “Jumaji. Like that film, reviews were negative. But families turned out in droves and made Flubber a hit””

    Very true indeed. This was a lesson learned for me. I took my 6 year old granson to see this movie (Flubber). I find it so nauseous that for the last hour or more of the movie, I wanted to grab the kid and go. But I hung in there!

    But guess what, my grandson loved it and so did almost all of the kids in the audience.
    Leaving the theater it struck me like no time before that a certain movie was being made for a certain demographic. It this case, under 9 year old kids.


    • He he, I think kids have been torturing their elders for years with films like “Flubber”. I don’t think I made my father’s day when He had to sit through 1 3/4 (we showed up late for the first viewing) viewings of 1986’s “Transformers: the Movie” (although I think he kind of liked it, especially the phrase “Me Grimlock kick butt”). Oh well: a year later we viewed “The Hidden”, which is mature, violent, and wicked underrated.


  148. Read an oral history of Mork and Mindy

    The classic ‘70s sitcom’s writers delve into the show that made Robin Williams and Pam Dawber stars.


  149. Re: Actors whose careers you would have thought would have been bigger

    Originally Posted by legend42
    Amazing as it is, Robin Williams never found his comedy niche on film. Belushi, Aykroyd, Jim Carrey, Tom Hanks, Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Michael Keaton, and I might even be missing a few, all had multiple roles that showed off their comedy chops better than anything that Williams was in. Tbf, Pryor only had two and they were really early.

    I guess Good Morning, Vietnam comes closest, but it still feels like the improv is forced. The next is The Best of Times and he was way against type. Does anyone remember Cadillac Man? Was it even supposed to be a comedy?
    Williams was way better as a dramatic actor than a comedic one. One Hour Photo, Insomniac, World’s Greatest Dad, and Good Will Hunting are way better than any of the slapstick things he does great in standup but that didn’t translate as well to the big screen.


  150. 15 Most Critically Hated Films From 2015

    Absolutely Anything

    Rotten Tomatoes Score: 8% (3.2/10)

    Why Critics Hated It: “Embarrassingly awful” feels like one of the few apt ways to describe this cinematic bowel movement from Monty Python alum Terry Jones.

    Simon Pegg again proves that he seems to flounder in starring roles away from Edgar Wright or big Hollywood franchises, but critics were more crestfallen that this is the movie the late Robin Williams’ career ended on, voicing a profane dog (with an admirable level of enthusiasm, at least).

    The genuine laughs can be counted on one hand, it feels like a terrible skit show pilot that goes on about an hour too long, and somehow the lovely Kate Beckinsale also got roped into it (as Pegg’s rather implausible romantic interest, no less).

    American critics should count their blessings that they didn’t have to sit through it.


  151. Holy Crap, These Recently Surfaced ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ Deleted Scenes Are Depressing As Hell

    Most of us haven’t watched Mrs. Doubtfire since we were kids, but when you think of the movie today, what comes to mind? Cake to the face? Fake breasts on fire? Music montage to “Dude Looks Like a Lady?” Sure, at the movie’s heart there are some serious issues going on, like how a divorce can affect a family, but who remembers that stuff? Well, if these recently surfaced deleted scenes from Matthew Keys had been included, Mrs. Doubtfire may have been a significantly more depressing movie.

    In the first one, Robin Williams’ character Daniel shows up to his daughter Lydie’s spelling bee, only to find out that some lady had taken the seat that his other kids had tried to save for him. (Side note: what kind of monster tells some kids they can’t save a seat for their father?) As such, Daniel proceeds to get in an argument with his estranged wife Miranda in the middle of the spelling bee, causing Lydie to bungle her word on stage while she looks on at her fighting parents, heartbroken.

    As if that’s not bad enough, he later tries to make good with his daughter outside, who tells him, “Why can’t you just pretend? You pretend to be Mrs. Doubtfire. You pretend to be Pudgy the Bird, and all those other things. Why can’t you and mom just pretend to be happy?”

    Okay. Seems a little heavy for a kid’s movie. Until the next scene that is, when Daniel shows up at the family home only to get in a screaming match with Miranda while the traumatized, crying kids listen on in the background. After each parent yells at the other that the kids love them more, the kids materialize behind them to tell them that they hate them both, as Robin Williams’ face crumples into despair.

    So yeah. Having seen this, it’s pretty easy to understand why they went with more fake boobs on fire and not a version that might literally have put kids in therapy someday.


  152. I highly recommend that people watch all of Williams serious roles. He was a better actor then comedian and he was a pretty good comedian. His original stand up for the 70s and 80s is amazing stuff.


  153. Celebrate Earth Day by watching this insane, all-star TV special from 1990

    On April 22, 1990, the 20th anniversary of the original Earth Day, ABC marked the occasion the best way it knew how: with a two-hour, star-studded primetime special featuring Robin Williams, the Muppets, Bette Midler, several Looney Tunes characters, and an absolutely flabbergasting lineup of guest stars from the worlds of film, television, music, and comedy. Titled simply The Earth Day Special and credited to 10 different directors, including Jim Henson and James Burrows, the show is a free-associative, almost dreamlike collection of vignettes, all centered around a central narrative: the near death of Mother Earth (portrayed by a mournful, maternal Midler). Seemingly, just about anybody who was anybody in 1990 was in this show. There are crossovers with (among others) The Cosby Show, The Golden Girls, Murphy Brown, Cheers, and Doogie Howser, M.D., all featuring actors from those series in character. Vintage NPH, anyone?

    And that’s just the tip of the ever-melting iceberg. Dennis Miller from Saturday Night Live stops by to do a “Weekend Update”-style monologue. Christopher Lloyd reprises his Doc Brown character from Back To The Future. Harold Ramis turns up as Elon Spengler, the brother of his Ghostbusters character. Carl Sagan stops by to deliver a mini lesson about global warming. There’s even a Jeopardy! crossover with Alex Trebek himself. Want more? Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Danny DeVito, Chevy Chase, Kevin Costner, and Dan Aykroyd appear in on this special, too. Even viewers who don’t have time to watch this entire thing will want to give at least three minutes of their day to this rap number, featuring Will Smith, Quincy Jones, Tone Loc, Queen Latifah, Ice-T, and E.T. No, E.T. doesn’t actually rap. That might be gilding the lily just a bit. How much more could anyone want from a single TV special?


  154. “SNL” Just Served Up The Darkest Parody Of “Dead Poets Society” You’ll Ever See


  155. my friend passed away from suicide today is his 3 year anniversary his unfortunate death. He was big fan of robin williams. He reminded me so much of robin full of energy humor. He even had same mental illness as robin. I think of my buddy death when i think of robin


  156. Robin Williams’ Widow Wrote A Heartbreaking Essay About His Battle With Parkinson’s


  157. Shelley Duvall tells Dr. Phil that Robin Williams not dead, merely “shapeshifting” and that the Sheriff of Nottingham is after her.


  158. Nostalgia Critic Real Thoughts On: Patch Adams (1998)

    A well meaning comedy turns into a clumsy operation, but how did it happen? Doug and Rob take a look.


    • One key criticism that I rad about “Patch Adams” is that it felt like Robin Williams was trying to once again play John Keating in “Dead Poets Society”. Like Keating, Patch was all about challenging the establishment. However, at the end of the day, Keating was a teacher who knew the difference between daring and caution, not with Patch Adams (who simply takes it too far). A perfect example of this is when all those little cancer victims come into the courtroom at the end, If Patch was such a great doctor, he’d say, “Hey, you kids should get back in bed because your immune systems are shot to hell! Thanks for coming to support me, but I don’t want you to die.” Can you now see why a lot of people didn’t care for the film?


  159. Everyone has been requesting this so let’s take a look at the real Pan, Robin Williams.


  160. 12 Actors Who Won Oscars For Completely The Wrong Role

    Robin Williams

    Won For… Good Will Hunting

    Should Have Won For… One Hour Photo

    There’s a fairly reasonable suggestion that Robin Williams should have won Oscars for all of his nominated roles (The Fisher King, Good Morning Vietnam and Dead Poets Society being the ones he missed out on), but there’s an even bigger case that he deserved wins for two unnominated performances.

    He could have won for Insomnia, and nobody would have called injustice, but he absolutely SHOULD have won for his excellent, clawing performance as Sy The Photo Guy in One Hour Photo. It’s a complete transformation of a performance, creepy and dangerous in its mundanity, and bubbling with something darker and more sinister.

    Sy is the archetypal portrait of a killer whose neighbors would say he “kept himself to himself”, and where there was huge potential to play him as a pantomime creation, Williams instead offered something more considered and more effective for it. He’s just as wounded as Dr. Sean Maguire, but he’s a victim of a monster inside himself, and the lack of passionate explosions marks him out as the superior creation.


  161. 15 Worst Movies To Gross Over $100 Million


    Patch Adams Robin Williams Monica Potter 15 Worst Movies To Gross Over $100 Million

    This abysmal 1998 release finds Robin Williams delivering a cloying performance as a medical student who believes in the adage “Laughter is the best medicine.”

    Patch Adams does whatever it takes to bring smiles to the faces of the ill people around him — including dancing with bedpans on his feet and swimming in a pool filled with 12,000 pounds of wet noodles. But his unorthodox behavior stirs the wrath of the university’s humorless dean (Bob Gunton), who you know is the bad guy because his face is often lit from underneath. Patch also annoys a fellow physician (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who’s actually the most sensible character in the film but is treated by the hack filmmakers as a lout simply because he won’t wear a clown nose like the insufferable Adams.

    Patch Adams offensively trots out every hoary plot device, no matter how improbable, exploitative, or downright imbecilic. Incidentally, the film is based on a real individual, Hunter “Patch” Adams. Needless to say, he despises this movie.


  162. THE GOSSIP LIFE 04/04

    I may be about to commit sacrilege. This famous comedian/actor might be beloved by all of us as one of the world’s greatest comedic actors, but he was/probably still is despised by the comedy community. ‘[name omitted] was the biggest joke thief on two feet,’ according to a comedian from back in the day. ‘He’d come into a club, spot a comedian killing and do half their routine the next night on Letterman. Scum!’ Robin Williams


    • Robin Williams dropped out of the limelight gradually after he won his Oscar for “Good Will Hunting”, and then after “One Hour Photo” the dramatic roles really stopped. And just about and all he could get was jobs where he was treated as the same old clown. I always got the feeling he loved doing the dramatic stuff (Robin if I’m not mistaken, did say that the film role that he was most proud of was “Dead Poets Society”), I mean did go to Julliard after-all. I always got the sad clown vibe from him who always wanted to be treated as a serious actor. But even into his 60s he was asked to do comedy roles. Even his last role before his suicide was as a talking dog. He probably just called it quits after being diagnosed with dementia. But it’s sad how from about 1997-2013 or so he was basically known for….nothing.


  163. Re: Celebs you’re glad when their careers flopped

    Robin Williams – Had a few hits but during the last years of his career but got very bitter and it reflected in his stand-up and lack of movies. He was relentless in going after MJ even after he died and was just mean. He then commits suicide cause he couldn’t handle it all.


  164. A dark comedy shows richer shades of Robin Williams’ talent

    For grieving fans of the late Robin Williams, World’s Greatest Dad may hit a little too close to home. Here’s a film, after all, whose plot revolves around a tragic death by asphyxiation, and the various ways the public responds to what appears to be a suicide. But if real-world parallels have now complicated the enjoyment one might take from this taboo-teasing comedy, they can’t quite cloud the surprising breadth of poignancy Williams provides it.

    In one of his most restrained comic performances, the actor stars as Lance, a creative writing teacher whose world is shattered by the freak-accident demise of his only son—a masturbation mishap involving a tightly coiled belt. Truth be told, Kyle (a terrific Daryl Sabara) was something of an irredeemable cad, prone to tossing around homophobic insults, snapping panty shots of unsuspecting women, and treating just about everyone in his proximity with toxic disdain. Lance, of course, loved him unconditionally, as only a father can love his total shithead of a son. And so to save his offspring from eternal humiliation, he makes the accident look like a suicide, knocking out an eloquent farewell letter. It’s when everyone starts gushing about the hidden depths of their departed classmate that things start getting out of hand, with Lance fabricating a whole library of poetic musings for his posthumously popular kid.

    Written and directed by the fearless Bobcat Goldthwait, World’s Greatest Dad is an affront to delicate sensibilities. But it’s also strangely moving, a comedy about the limits of parental devotion. On the one hand, Lance’s lie isn’t completely selfless; there’s sharp irony in the fact that this failed writer finally achieves recognition through words he wrote in the name of his dead child. At heart, however, the man’s grand deception is an act of love—an attempt to retroactively rescue the reputation of his boy, an asshole robbed of the time and opportunity to blossom into a decent person. But by twisting the reality of who Kyle really was, isn’t he basically betraying him? Among other things, World’s Greatest Dad is about how people misremember the dead, putting on rose-colored glasses when confronted with their own mortality.

    That particular point resonates strongly in the wake of Williams’ death, when bereaved critics have tossed aside their misgivings about his schmaltzier efforts to reconnect with what they loved about him. Not that it takes a selective memory to appreciate the highlights of the man’s career, including his expertly seriocomic turn in World’s Greatest Dad. The scene of Lance discovering his son’s body may be Williams’ rawest display of on-screen emotion, his manic energy channeled into an explosion of pure grief and shock. And he’s frequently hilarious, too, leaning on a drier wit than the one exhibited in some of his better-known comedies.


    • Robin Williams was always capable of this, but hey, they all can’t be winners, just like how every day is not always a good day.


  165. Musical Hell: Popeye (1980)

    It’s Robin Williams in his first not-so-great film role.


  166. Howard Stern Regrets Being ‘A***ole’ To Robin Williams: ‘I Didn’t Know He Was Dying’

    Howard Stern cannot get over the way he treated Robin Williamsalmost 30 years ago!

    During his show on Wednesday, the shock jock shared with listeners his deep regrets about how he treated the late 63-year-old actor decades ago on terrestrial radio.

    Stern, 63, told guest star David Letterman he was still feeling “horrible” for the way he spoke to Williams during a 1986 interview on The Howard Stern Show.

    “I have a horrible feeling. Somebody the other night had like a little game we were playing with the dice and they ask you questions, ‘do you have any regrets?’ and I went ‘oh f**k.’ I said this is the only thing I wanted to admit to them,” a sad Stern said.

    “I did an interview with Robin Williams a hundred years ago…I was such an ahole…the week before Robin Williams died,” Stern admitted. “I didn’t know he was dying or that he was going to kill himself. I said ‘I want to call him and apologize to him because I was such a fking moron and I love Robin Williams. And then, of course, that happened. And there’s only a couple of people I really feel this way about.”

    Stern previously mentioned the same regret back in 2014 — just one day after Williams committed suicide.

    “I wasn’t rude with Robin Williams, but I asked some questions that perhaps went into areas that he had enough of,” Stern recalled at the time. “I think my whole demeanor and attitude was just shitty. I wasn’t trying to be mean to Robin Williams. I was just trying to be provocative and interesting for the audience, and doing what it is that I thought had to be done. And I was an immature asshole. And so that always haunted me … and then I kind of filed it away and forgot about it.”

    “This was a guy who should have been celebrated.”


  167. Making ‘Jumanji’ With Robin Williams: An Oral History


  168. ‘Their friendship is the stuff of legend’: Glenn Close says Christopher Reeve could have prevented pal Robin William’s suicide

    She got quite emotional


  169. Steven Spielberg’s Hook: What Went Wrong?

    Spielberg’s Hook boasted a star cast, a prime release slot, and was set to be the big hit of 1991. So, what happened?


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