TIBURON, Calif. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Actor and comedian Robin Williams was found dead Monday in his northern California home, in what was suspected to be a suicide.
Marin County, California officials said around 11:55 a.m. Pacific Time, county officials were dispatched to Williams’ home in the unincorporated community of Tiburon, California.
Williams, 63, was pronounced dead a few minutes later.
An investigation into the cause and manner of Williams’ death was under way Monday evening.
Preliminary information indicated that Williams was last seen alive at his home, where he lives with his wife, around 10 a.m. Sunday.
The Marin County Sheriff’s Office Coroner Division said the cause of death is suspected to be suicide by asphyxia. But a comprehensive investigation must be conducted before any final determination.
A forensic investigation will be conducted on Tuesday.
Mara Buxbaum, Williams’ press representative, released a statement Monday evening.
“Robin Williams passed away this morning,” He has been battling severe depression of late.
This is a tragic and sudden loss,” Buxbaum wrote. “The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”
Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider, also expressed her grief in a statement.
“This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief,” she wrote. “As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”
New Yorkers told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond and 1010 WINS’ Holli Haerr that Williams’ death was a big loss.
“He was just a very sweet, kind, gentle guy, and hilarious,” said Chris Mazzilli, owner of the Gotham Comedy Club in Chelsea.
And CBS 2’s Lou Young found a crowd with in a somber mood Monday evening at the Stand Up NY Comedy Club, on the Upper West Side.
“You’d laugh at a joke and you’d miss the next one, so you really had to pay attention — he was just so full of energy,” said tourist Jake Johnson.
The young acts waiting to go on at the club tried to absorb the shock of it all.
“He was a hero. He was. But we’ll go on, and I guess the best comedy comes out of tragedy, and that’s what we need,” said comedian Mara Marek.
Comedian Derek Gaines said those of his craft have to carry on.
“You have to be funny with a heavy heart, because that’s what comedy is, like, so you have to be funny in spite of. So I’ll do it and I think of his life instead of his death,” Gaines said.
Still, the more the comedians thought about the laughs Williams provided, the tougher it got.
“As big of a deal as it gets, man – it’s a terrible loss, terrible loss,” said comedian Neko White.
Multiple celebrities also mourned Williams via Twitter late Monday.
I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul.
— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) August 11, 2014
Ah Robin, I’m so sorry the earth couldn’t stay worthy of you. Hope happiness awaits you.
— jason alexander (@IJasonAlexander) August 11, 2014
Oh Robin…Our hearts are broken. Rest in peace darling. We loved you.
— Goldie Hawn (@goldiehawn) August 11, 2014
I am stunned and just reeling from the news of Robin Williams’ death. He brought so much joy and heart to millions… Just, wow.
— Neil Patrick Harris (@ActuallyNPH) August 12, 2014
Robin Williams was like no other ..To watch him create on the spot was a privilege to behold.. Robin you are an angel now !!! REST IN PEACE
— Henry Winkler (@hwinkler4real) August 11, 2014
His heart was as big as his genius. So sad. Rest in Peace Robin Williams.
— bob saget (@bobsaget) August 11, 2014
I can’t believe the news about Robin Williams. He gave so much to so many people. I’m heartbroken.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) August 11, 2014
My heart is broken to lose one of my all time favorite entertainers today! To think of all the amazing… http://t.co/qC5Bou12bG
— Melissa Joan Hart (@MelissaJoanHart) August 12, 2014
We mourn the loss of our friend Robin Williams, who always made us laugh and smile. pic.twitter.com/UOY8LTjVRA
— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) August 11, 2014
CBS also released the following official statement:
“Our world has lost a comic genius, a gifted actor and a beautiful man. We will remember Robin Williams as one of the unique talents of his time who was loved by many, but also as a kind, caring soul, who treated his colleagues and co-workers with great affection and respect. Our heartfelt thoughts and sympathies go out to his family, loved ones and friends.”
President Barack Obama also released a statement encapsulating Williams’ entire career and his many roles.
“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind,” Obama wrote. “He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams.”
As CBS 2’s Alice Gainer reported, Williams first rose to fame from the stand-up comedy circuit in the 1970s, with a manic improvisational style all his own. He appeared on the sitcom “Happy Days” and then starred as a lovable alien on its popular spin-off, “Mork & Mindy,” from 1978 to 1982, CBS News recalled.
His big-screen debut came in 1980 in the box-office bomb “Popeye.” But his career on the big screen soon took off.
Over the decades, his roles varied from the owner of a gay nightclub in South Beach, Florida in “The Birdcage” (1996), a father who dressed as a British nanny so he could keep seeing his kids in “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993) and a cartoon genie in “Aladdin” (1992).
Williams also proved he had serious acting talent as well. He delivered critically praised performances in films like “Good Morning Vietnam” (1987), “Dead Poets Society” (1989), and “Good Will Hunting” (1997), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He even had the chance to play a sociopathic villain in “One Hour Photo” (2002), a role that won him a Saturn Award for Best Actor.
WCBS 880 film critic Jeffrey Lyons said Williams had a rare talent in the world of comedy.
“He made me laugh in the 10 times I’ve interviewed him, and you never knew what to expect,” Lyons said. “You know, Ed Wynn, the old vaudevillian, said: ‘A comedian says funny things. A comic says things funny.’ Well, Robin Williams did both – very, very select group. Danny Kaye could do it before him, maybe Martin Short can do it – not many can do it on a continual basis.”
Lyons said Williams was truly a jack of all trades when it came to the talent of acting.
“He could do everything. He could do drama. He could do comedy, of course. And a very dear friend of mine, Conrad Janis, played Mindy’s father on ‘Mork and Mindy.’ I haven’t spoken to him yet. But he said the moment he saw Robin Williams on the set the first day, he knew that there was somebody special, and he was the nicest guy,” he said.
He first studied political science, but later spent spend some time in New York, attending the Juilliard School and studying drama from 1973 to 1976.
At Juilliard, Williams became friends with actor Christopher Reeve, with whom he remained close until Reeve’s death.
Williams would remember himself as a shy kid who got some early laughs from his mother — by mimicking his grandmother. He opened up more in high school when he joined the drama club and he was accepted into the Juilliard, where he had several classes in which he and Reeve were the only students and John Houseman was the teacher.
Encouraged by Houseman to pursue comedy, Williams identified with the wildest and angriest of performers — Jonathan Winters, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin. Their acts were not warm and lovable, but rather, they were just being themselves.
“You look at the world and see how scary it can be sometimes and still try to deal with the fear,” he told the Associated Press in 1989. “Comedy can deal with the fear and still not paralyze you or tell you that it’s going away. You say, OK, you got certain choices here, you can laugh at them and then once you’ve laughed at them and you have expunged the demon, now you can deal with them. That’s what I do when I do my act.”
Winner of a Grammy in 2003 for best spoken comedy album, “Robin Williams — Live 2002,” Williams once likened his act to the daily jogs he took across the Golden Gate Bridge. There were times he would look over the edge, one side of him pulling back in fear, the other insisting he could fly.
“You have an internal critic, an internal drive that says, `OK, you can do more.’ Maybe that’s what keeps you going,” Williams said. “Maybe that’s a demon. — Some people say, `It’s a muse.’ No, it’s not a muse! It’s a demon! DO IT YOU BASTARD!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! THE LITTLE DEMON!!”
Most recently, Williams starred in the CBS sitcom “The Crazy Ones.” He sat down with CBS 2 to talk about the show – and his softer side was exposed when he talked about his daughter, Zelda.
“She’s been so sweet with me. I’ve been living in L.A. and she’s been down there for a while, and she’s kind of walking me through, ‘Dad, are you OK?’ I say, ‘Yeah, baby, thanks for calling,’ and she takes me out to dinner,” Williams said.
Williams reportedly had several film projects in the works when he passed away, including “Night at the Museum 3” and a “Mrs. Doubtfire” sequel that was in the development stages.
He is survived by his wife and three children from previous marriages.
CBS San Francisco reported Williams’ last Instagram post featured a photo of a photo of a younger version of himself holding Zelda, now 25, in a Throwback Thursday post, saying, “Happy Birthday to Ms. Zelda Rae Williams! Quarter of a century old today but always my baby girl. Happy Birthday @zeldawilliams Love you!”
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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)