Oscar-winning actor and comic Robin Williams, who was found dead Monday at his Northern California home, was beloved over his nearly four-decade career. An movie and television actor, voice artist and stand-up comedian, Williams's notable roles include such beloved films as Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Birdcage, and many others.
A consistent theme throughout Williams's career was politics. Years before same-sex marriage went mainstream, and gay rights were widely accepted, Williams's roles helped push those issues forward. In Mrs. Doubtfire, released in 1993, Williams played a cross-dressing nanny. And in The Birdcage (1996), he was a gay father who made a fool out of a conservative senator.
Good Morning Vietnam was in many respects an anti-war film, mocking military censorship and civilian leaders who lead America deeper into an unwinnable morass. Dead Poets Society takes place at an elite boarding school on the cusp of the 1960s, with Williams's character, an English teacher, challenging his privileged students to challenge authority.
Williams died Monday at 63 of an apparent suicide, the Marin County Sheriff's Department said. Around 11:55 a.m. Monday, sheriff's officials said, a 911 call came in about a man who was unresponsive in his home in the Marin County community of Tiburon. He was pronounced dead at the scene, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Dubbed 'the funniest man alive' by Entertainment Weekly in 1997, Williams brought audiences hours of laughter, putting his imaginative spin on characters in film and television. He was lauded for his serious roles as well, winning a best supporting actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire, the therapist who counsels Matt Damon's math genius in 'Good Will Hunting' (1997), and receiving nominations for 'The Fisher King' (1991), 'Dead Poets Society' (1989) and 'Good Morning, Vietnam' (1987).
The higher Williams's profile rose, the more politically vocal he became. Williams was a major Democratic contributor. His contributions over the years topped $150,000 to Democratic candidates and liberal causes. And in 1996 he headlined a star-studded Washington D.C. gala with President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.
At time his political humor could be biting. He played President Ronald Reagan in this unflattering late 1980s-era sketch.
And when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, succeeding George W. Bush, Williams said in a comic routine:
It's the end of the reign of George the 2nd. The reign of error is over. America is officially out of rehab...He's a gift to comedy, though, he's a comedy pinata. I'm going to miss him.
On Monday political commentors across the spectrum paid tribute to Williams.
Robin Williams Obit Twitter and Phillip Seymour Hoffman Obit Twitter will look a lot alike. Stunned retrospectives on actual legends.- Slade Sohmer (@SladeHV) August 11, 2014
My cousin was in "Mrs. Doubtfire" with Robin Williams; my aunt said he was a truly decent person. If reports are correct, tragic.- Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 11, 2014
So many wonderful Robin Williams memories . . . what a huge talent and a lovely man.- Jeffrey Toobin (@JeffreyToobin) August 11, 2014
I hope this Robin Williams news is a hoax.- Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) August 11, 2014
Robin Williams news a shocker. What an immense comic talent. It seems, after Philip Seymour Hoffman, that the giants keep falling.- HowardKurtz (@HowardKurtz) August 11, 2014
RIP Robin Williams. What a talent. Everyone should see his work in "The World According to Garp" and "Moscow on the Hudson"- Kevin Madden (@KevinMaddenDC) August 11, 2014