Few actors, if any at all, carry the cultural weight for an American President to comment on their untimely death, with the late Robin Williams being a certain anomaly when Barack Obama released a statement in 2014 praising the life work of the icon.
“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between,” Obama touchingly stated at the time. Continuing in his gushing tribute, the 44th American President added, “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”.
One of the funniest actors and real-life comedians, Williams was often the most gifted comic in the room, being the brightest spark in 20th-century cinema as a sage-like figure capable of soothing the soul and healing the mind in films like Good Will Hunting, Mrs. Doubtfire and Dead Poets Society. Working with some of the most influential filmmakers of all time including Barry Levinson, Peter Weir, Penny Marshall, Terry Gilliam, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola and Gus Van Sant, Williams left an indelible mark on American pop-culture.
Throughout his 38-year career, no collaboration would be more significant than with Gus Van Sant, with the director’s 1997 movie Good Will Hunting leading the actor to his first and only Academy Award, winning the award for Best Supporting Actor.
Appearing alongside Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who together wrote the screenplay for the multi-award-winning film, Williams delivers a breathtaking performance as Sean, a psychologist who gives direction to Will, a natural born mathematician who is working as a janitor in a college when his talents are discovered. Helping him academically and emotionally to unlock his inner potential, it seems as though Williams merely brings his real-life affable charm to bring the unforgettable role to life.
Filmmaker Gus Van Sant had steadily grown in his career to reach such an apex too, having worked for 20 years making such cult hits as Drugstore Cowboy and My Own Private Idaho before Good Will Hunting would fling open the Hollywood door.
Speaking about his collaboration with the director in an interview with Whoopi Goldberg, Williams exclaimed, “Working with Gus Van Sant, he’s the greatest, he’s so good. You get to the point we don’t realise you’re acting”.
Continuing, he explains the director’s ability to work closely with the actors, ading, “You stop acting and you just talk and then you realize ‘oh that really is acting isn’t it’, that behavior stuff where you’re just in character and you’re talking to each other… but the other part of the equation is, you’re engaged”.
Take a look at his discussion with Goldberg on Sirius XM, below.