I didn’t know Robin. Not personally. I only knew him through his amazing movies, his hilarious stand-up, and what tidbits here and there I read of him. What I will say is this. He was a great man. Not a perfect man — but, really, who is? — but a great man still.
I wasn’t raised by my biological parents. My father was gone on missions for the Air Force all the time, and my mother was a recluse who hid in her room watching old movies and British shows. I had to raise myself. But I had help.
That help came in the form of television shows and movies. My mothers were Roseanne Connor, Jill Taylor, Harriet Winslow, and Clair Huxtable. My fathers were Dan Connor, Tim Taylor, Carl Winslow, and Cliff Huxtable. My grandfathers were Danny Kaye and James Garner. My grandmothers were Betty White and Ethyl Phillips (from Dinosaurs). My first love was Sarah Polley in One Magic Christmas; my longest-running love was Natalie Portman from the first time I saw her in Mars Attacks! to her performance in Attack of the Clones.
And then there was the crazy, amazing, awesome uncle.
I can’t remember a time when Robin Williams was not one of my favorite actors. From the first time I saw him in The Survivors to hearing his boisterous voice in Aladdin, the man was a hero. I wanted to become a filmmaker just so I could meet him, shake his hand, and tell him how much he had inspired me. Over the years, I have caught many a performance. Good Morning, Vietnam. Patch Adams. The Birdcage. Dead Poets Society. Hook. Toys. FernGully. Mrs. Doubtfire. Jumanji. Hamlet. Jack(yes, even Jack). Flubber. Father’s Day. Jakob the Liar. Death to Smoochy. One Hour Photo. Robots. Night at the Museum. Happy Feet. RV. Happy Feet Two. Hell, I watched A.I. solely for his cameo.
But for me, his three finest performances were these:
Robin Williams: Live On Broadway- I have seriously never laughed harder or more constantly in my life, before or since. That was an amazing hour and a half, and came when I was in a very dark time in my life, a time when I seriously contemplated my own demise. He saved my life that night by making me laugh so hard and for so long that I realized that there was something in this world worth sticking around for, after all.
What Dreams May Come- This movie changed my life, I can not underscore this enough. I was an angry, self-pitying nihilist who was very much going along the same path as Harris, Kleibold, and the other monsters who have darkened our world. This movie changed all that. It made me realize that there are other paths besides the Organized Religion-Atheist Axis. We can forge our own destinies, and create our own postlife worlds with just a little luck, a lot of belief, and perseverance (I’ve since incorporated science fully in the pursuit of my ambitions, but the goal remains the same). Most importantly, that I could be a better person. And Robin’s performance was the key to selling that idea to me.
Bicentennial Man - I don’t care what anyone says about this film. This is one of my favorite movies, and by far my favorite Robin Williams performance. He made me realize that I didn’t have to be the loser everyone seemed to want me to be. I could be something more, something greater. I could contribute to the world in wonderful, amazing ways, and brighten people’s lives.
Robin Williams was my hero. And the fact that he and I shared a love of The Legend of Zelda (He named his daughter after Zelda…that’s devotion right there) only makes him all the more amazing to me. His daughter is right when she says our world is “a little darker, a little less colorful and less full of laughter in his absence.” But she is also right when she says that we should all work harder to fill that void. I plan to do my part.
But in the meantime, I leave you all with this; the truest testament to the man Robin was, and the man I choose to remember. Godspeed, Mr. Williams, and may our paths cross again someday.