Williams during a 2004 visit to Baghdad. (AP)
Los Angeles, Aug. 13: Peering through his camera at Robin Williams in 2012, the cinematographer John Bailey thought he glimpsed something not previously evident in the comedian’s work.
They were shooting the independent film The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, and Williams was playing a New York lawyer who, facing death, goes on a rant against the injustice and banality of life.
His performance, Bailey said yesterday, was a window into the “Swiftian darkness of Robin’s heart”. The actor, like his character, was raging against the storm.
That defiance gave way on Monday to the personal demons that had long tormented Williams. With his suicide at age 63, Williams forever shut the window on a complicated soul that was rarely visible through the cracks of an astonishingly intact career.
Given his well-publicised troubles with depression, addiction, alcoholism and a significant heart surgery in 2009, Williams should have had a résumé filled with mysterious gaps.
Instead, he worked nonstop. At the very least — if his life had followed the familiar script of troubled actors — there would have been whispers of on-set antics: lateness, forgotten lines, the occasional flared temper.
Not so with Williams. “He was ready to work, he was the first one on the set,” said Bailey, speaking of Williams’s contribution to The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, of which he was the star.
“Robin was always 1,000 per cent reliable,” said a senior movie agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity to conform to the wishes of Williams’s family. “He was almost impossibly high functioning.”
As Hollywood struggled yesterday to understand how Williams — effervescent in the extreme — could take his own life, authorities released details of his death. A clothed Williams hanged himself with a belt from a door frame in his bedroom in Tiburon, California, according to Lt Keith Boyd, assistant deputy chief coroner for Marin County.
Williams’s wife, Susan Schneider, went to bed at 10.30 Sunday night and woke up on Monday believing her husband was still asleep in a separate bedroom.
A personal assistant, concerned that he was not responding to knocks on his door, discovered the body, cool to the touch and with rigor mortis, at about 11.45am on Monday.
Williams, who had recently been treated for severe depression, was declared dead at 12.02pm. Officials found a pocketknife in the room, apparently with dried blood on it, and superficial wounds on Williams’s left wrist, said Lt Boyd, who declined to say whether there was a suicide note. Toxicology reports are still pending.
To a large degree, said studio executives and agents who worked with him, Williams seemed to use work as a way to keep his personal demons caged.
At an age when most actors are slowing down, Williams was engaged with a half-dozen recent and planned projects. They ranged from stage work and low-budget films to an anticipated — though still distant — big-budget sequel to his biggest hit, Mrs. Doubtfire.
Williams interrupted a live comedy tour for his heart surgery in 2009. But he quickly returned to finish his run.