Just three days ago, I was watching an episode of Arrested Development (2003), where Tobias (David Cross) decided to dress up as “Mrs. Featherbottom” to get closer to his daughter. It was his version of Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), a movie that has become a classic, a character that has become a household name for the past 20 years (can you believe it’s 21 years old?!).
As a kid of the 90s, the Robin Williams I knew best was Peter Pan (Hook, 1991), Genie (Aladdin, 1992), Mrs. Doubtfire, and the guy stuck in the board game (Jumanji, 1995).
I always thought he was entertaining. He was one of those comedians who established what was really funny, and early on, Williams represented hilarity in the movies to me. I won’t pretend to be his biggest fan, but I did have a lot of respect for Williams as an actor, and I appreciated his humor, warmth, and dramatic skills that he brought to many of his characters. He was exceedingly talented, and he brightened many of my childhood evenings with fun and laughter, voicing or starring in some of the best ’90s hits.
Perhaps my favorite role of Williams was in Good Will Hunting (1997), one of his first films I saw where he wasn’t funny. Here is my favorite line of his, and probably his most well known line, from that film:
Sean: So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you . . . I don’t see an intelligent, confident man . . . I see a cocky, scared s***less kid. But you’re a genius, Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my f****** life apart. You’re an orphan, right?
Sean: You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally . . . I don’t give a s*** about all that, because you know what, I can’t learn anything from you, I can’t read in some f****** book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I’m fascinated. I’m in. But you don’t want to do that do you sport? You’re terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.
RIP Robin Williams, an acting legend who will live on in the movies and in the hearts of family, friends, and fans. Keep an eye out for him in theaters for when Merry Friggin’ Christmas (2014), Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014), and Absolutely Anything (2015) are released.
I was very moved to see the tweet from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences trending . . .
What was your favorite Robin Williams’s role?