Williams, Robin: Death Sends Shock Waves in Hollywood

The shock of Robin Williams’ death spread far and wfast on Monday, a reflection of the actor’s long career in movies, television, stage and standup comedy.

Tributes came in from friends and colleagues, studios and executives, the directors of his many features and even President Obama.

Steven Spielberg called him “a pal” and expressed shock at Williams’ death of an apparent suicide at the age of 63. Williams starred as Captain Hook in Spielberg’s 1991 movie “Hook,” and he had a voice role in the director’s 2001 feature “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.”

“Robin was a lightning storm of comic genius and our laughter was the thunder that sustained him. He was a pal and I can’t believe he’s gone,” Spielberg said.

Chris Columbus, director of Williams’ 1994 smash “Mrs. Doubtfire,” said watching the actor at work was a “magical and special privilege.”

“We have lost one of our most inspired and gifted comic minds, as well as one of this generation’s greatest actors,” Columbus said. “His performances were unlike anything any of us had ever seen, they came from some spiritual and otherworldly place. He truly was one of the few people who deserved the title of “genius”. We were friends for 21 years. Our children grew up together, he inspired us to spend our lives in San Francisco and I loved him like a brother. The world was a better place with Robin in it. And his beautiful legacy will live on forever.”

Obama on Williams

Obama noted the breadth of Williams’ work on screen and the common threads in the characters he played.

“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. 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.”

Jeffrey Katzenberg was involved in some of Williams’ signature pics — “Good Morning Vietnam,” “Dead Poet’s Society” and “Aladdin” — during his Disney tenure. Katzenberg called him “singularly unique.”

“He truly was one of the single most brilliant and unique true geniuses that I’ve had the good fortune of working with,” Katzenberg said. When you think of those performances (in the three movies), no one else on this planet could have done what he did and made those films what they were.” Katzenberg recalled that the last time they spoke was a few months ago when his son, David Katzenberg, directed an episode of Williams’ CBS comedy “The Crazy Ones.”

“We just had a great laugh about how we were growing old and our children had turned out so well,” Katzenberg said.

20th Century Fox, the studio behind “Mrs. Doubtfire,” hailed Williams as “immensely talented.” More recently Williams was a key star in the “Night at the Museum” franchise, the third installment of which is set for release in December.

“There really are no words to describe the loss of Robin Williams. He was immensely talented, a cherished member of our community, and part of the Fox family. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and fans. He will be deeply missed,” Fox said in a statement.

Last season, Williams worked for the TV side of Fox on “The Crazy Ones,” the 20th Century Fox TV-produced comedy for CBS. The studio noted that although the show did not last beyond one season, Williams’ was well-loved on the set.

“Robin Williams was a comedy giant, and although we only knew him personally for a season, he was warm, funny and a true professional. His cast and crew both loved him and loved working with him, and our hearts go out to his family and friends. He was one of a kind,” 20th TV said.

SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard noted Williams’ legacy of working to raise money for various causes.

“He was a performer of limitless versatility, equally adept at comedy and drama, whether scripted or improv,” Howard said. “With his incomparable manic style, he could appeal to adult sensibilities in a stand-up comedy routine or elicit giggles from children as the voice of Genie in ‘Aladdin.’ Outside of his career, he used his considerable talents to raise money for charity. He was not only a talented man, but a true humanitarian. It’s such a tremendous loss.”

Many others expressed shock and appreciation for Williams via social media, moments after the news broke that he’d been found dead at his home in Tiburon, Calif., near San Francisco.