Comedian/ actor Robin Williams was so beloved, his suicide four years ago at age 63 came as a shock to almost all who knew him. In a new HBO documentary, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, close friend, Billy Crystal recounts the last time he saw Williams he was in tears, and when Crystal asked why, is everything all right, Williams just said it was because he loved him so much; Crystal did not know this was a poignant moment close to the end. Marina Zenovich’s film, which had a special screening this week at SAG-AFTRA Foundation Robin Williams Center, weighs in on the side of a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis as the cause. Still, she makes good points for other contributing factors as she limns the changing times and his alienation. Much as you wish you could, you do not, in the end of this entertaining and insightful film, come inside his mind.
Clips of his astonishing, hilarious, antic, raunchy stand up performances, home movies of his childhood with a funny mother and two half brothers he barely knew, interviews with his first wife Valerie, and co-star Pam Dawber, Mindy to his Mork, are the high points. An outtake from Sesame Street with Elmo has the red puppet plunging with uncontrolled glee into a hole. Scenes from many of his best movies, including Good Morning, Vietnam, and television as Mork, had everyone laughing in delight, and in tears for what we loved of a bygone era.
Because so many guests such as Robert Klein and Lewis Black, knew him well, memories were shared at the 54 Below afterparty, with guests Gina Gershon, Dan Abrams, Jon Voigt, Bryant Gumbel, and Lawrence Wright. Alex Gibney, producer on this film, said he and Marina Zenovich were each working on a Robin Williams project and ended up joining forces. “She did a wonderful job,” said the prolific Gibney who is now wrapping a film on Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder and CEO of Theranos.
My own best memory of Robin Williams was meeting him at the New York premiere of Death to Smoochy in 2002, and my daughter (17 at the time) telling him how huge Mrs. Doubtfire was for her growing up. Without missing a beat, he launched into his best Mrs. Doubtfire brogue and agreed, “She was a grand old dame.”