Grief and homage for Robin Williams, comic genius who hanged himself aged 63

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 11:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 August, 2014, 9:46am

An outpouring of grief and homage greeted the news that Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams had taken his own life after a battle with depression.

Struggling with depression, Williams tried to cut his wrist and hanged himself with a belt in a bedroom of his San Francisco Bay Area home, officials said on Tuesday.

The 63-year-old known for his high-energy, rapid-fire improvisation and clowning was one of the most beloved entertainers of his time. One publication called him the funniest man alive.

US President Barack Obama led tributes to an entertainer he described as "one of a kind", while Hollywood titan Steven Spielberg, a close friend, hailed Williams as a "lightning storm of comic genius".

Williams - the star of films such as Good Will Hunting, Good Morning Vietnam and Mrs Doubtfire - was found dead at his home in Tiburon, just north of San Francisco, California, just before noon on Monday, police said. He was last seen alive at his home on Sunday night.

A statement from the Marin County Sheriff's Department said Williams' death appeared to be "suicide due to asphyxia". An autopsy was scheduled, followed by further toxicology testing.

Publicist Mara Buxbaum said Williams - who had openly spoken about his battles with alcohol and drugs - had been battling severe depression recently.

Just last month, he announced he was returning to a 12-step treatment programme he said he needed after 18 months of non-stop work. He had sought treatment in 2006 after a relapse following 20 years of sobriety.

Williams' widow, Susan Schneider, urged the father-of-three's millions of fans to remember his talent for making people laugh. "This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings," she said.

In a message that was alongside a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Williams' daughter Zelda wrote: "I love you. I miss you. I'll try to keep looking up."

After beginning his career as a stand-up comic, Williams rose to fame in the US television sitcom Mork & Mindy, channelling his anarchic, high-energy style to his role as an alien struggling to fit in on earth. He later reeled off a string of big-screen hits throughout the 1980s and 1990s in roles that often showcased his phenomenal improvisational skills, but he also earned plaudits in weightier dramas, landing a best supporting actor Oscar for 1997's Good Will Hunting.

Obama spoke of Williams' array of beloved performances as he led the tributes. "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 said in a statement.

Watch: Tribute to Robin Williams on Hollywood's Walk of Fame