Last week the world was shocked to hear of the news that one of Hollywood’s greatest actors had died. Robin Williams was not only an actor but an icon. He had an innate ability to mesmerize the mind and to whisk us away with him right into the story. He portrayed each character with a raw sense of humanity. There was little “acting” involved as he transformed himself into the character allowing us the chance to not merely see a character on screen but to feel that character’s aura.
He has played in almost every genre, from fantasy to drama, from comedy to suspense. His characters have not only challenged social perceptions but broadened them. He has brought to life classics and like a pop-up book has done so with skill one can only appreciate with child-like wonder. This week at Vada we have decided to pay tribute to this great man by looking at some of his famous roles and asking people, “How did Robin Williams change your life?”
Jake Basford on Jumanji
‘What, are you crying? You don’t cry, all right? You keep your chin up. Come on, keep your chin up. Crying never helped anybody do anything, okay? You have a problem, you face it like a man [Peter continues to cry and Alan realises what he just said] Hey, hey, I’m sorry, okay?… Twenty-six years buried in the deepest darkest jungle, and I still became my father.’ Alan Parish, Jumanji
When Alan goes off on this rampage, he has spent 26years locked in a board game, separated from humanity, and having to fight for his life, and yet he still succumbs to biological determinism – i.e. the theory that we are all going to turn into our fathers/mothers gone past a certain age. At the end, however, he realises what he has said, how he sounds, and that he is repeating an abusive behaviour pattern from his own childhood (granted, he is a thirty-something man-child but bear with me here). I think it was Freud that said we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes as our fathers, but a big part in human progression is that we recognise the mistakes as they happen and ensure they are not repeated – this quote gives me hope. Hope that while I may make mistakes, that I will have the sense to learn from them. Hope that I have the self-awareness to recognise what is wrong, be humble in accepting it, and to learn and grow. Hope that I won’t turn into my father.
Jumani is one of those films that you remember from your childhood because the sheer simplicity – who didn’t play Monopoly and want a hotel on Mayfair, or play Cluedo and want to solve a huge murder investigation featuring several unwieldy characters and a rapidly increasing complexity. Jumanji managed to tap into our thought processes here, and bring out that child, slap ‘em around the face and remind us ‘be careful what you wish for’. Robin Williams played a character that had to fight for his life every day for over two decades after being separated from hearth and home, and still find a way back to his friends – the character was an inspiration for human survival, and his portrayal balanced this out with his classic sense of humour. He played many roles, all of which varied in seriousness and complexity, but Alan in Jumanji was a revelation like no other – a man who could accept his faults and learn from them. There is something beautiful in something so simple.
Matthew Hoy on Insomnia
In Insomnia, a psychological thriller, Robin Williams takes on one of the toughest roles of his career. Set in the isolated Alaskan fishing town of Nightmute, Williams becomes a violent murderer who derives sickening satisfaction from tormenting the investigator. What I love about this film is the utter skill portrayed. Here the man we know and love for his comedies takes on a psychopathic persona. His eyes lose their normal sparkle as he delves into the dark depths of such a being. His performance carries a dark, grisly beauty. It’s like watching something so disturbing; we become almost compelled to keep on watching. The shivers down our spine become titillating as we sit on the edge of our seats willing the game of cat and mouse on.
Alex Mitchell on his Stand up Career
Robin Williams to an outsider would appear as hyperactive running off jokes at 100 mph. On hearing the news that he had a history of cocaine use one can only think ‘wow, what was he like when he was high?’
An inspiration who used comedy as therapy to tackle his inner demons. Having grown up with him in kids films such as Aladdin, Mrs Doubtfire and Jumanji to then watch him on broadway in his stand up gigs was a privilege. A talent, a Hollywood star that shines no more in public but has a blinding glow in our hearts and minds. Rest In Peace Robin.
Sophia Carter on One Hour Photo
“And if these pictures have anything important to say to future generations, it’s this: I was here. I existed. I was young, I was happy, and someone cared enough about me in this world to take my picture.”
Experiencing dark periods in life left me feeling more alone than I could ever imagine. When you lose that fear of death because you had learned to welcome it, you acknowledge that you will leave as alone as you came. This quote reminds us, and myself that when you start to fear the dark you have truly started to live and let go. That is why a photograph can mean the world, to constantly remind you that there will be those who love you, and you could be happy if you allow it. A moment frozen in time, a lasting footprint to show ‘future generations’ that everyone in this world does indeed, matter.
Joins us again tomorrow as we take a look back at the life and lessons of Robin Williams.