“Onstage, he was a master. He was really comfortable onstage. Offstage, I just felt he was holding himself together,” actor Steve Martin says of the late Robin Williams. The actor was confiding to the camera for a new HBO documentary on his dear friend Williams.
The film chronicles the actor’s highs and lows, from his rocket-propelled fame on TV’s Mork & Mindy (1978 to 1982) till his shocking death by suicide in 2014.
Producers talked to the people who knew him best at work and at home. The feted film — which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January — features interviews with his son Zak, and friends like Whoopi Goldberg and David Letterman.
Titled Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, it’s apt that Williams does most of the talking. His familiar, animated voice from previous interviews can be heard over home movies and onstage footage.
“Stand-up is survival. For me, that’s jazz, that’s what I have to do,” he says in one clip, alongside rare clips of his standup comedy days.
Audiences adored his rapid-fire wit, expressive rubber face and vivid emoting on screen. Critics thought likewise, bestowing him with a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, six Golden Globes, two Emmys and five Grammys.
Stand-up is survival. For me, that’s jazz, that’s what I have to do
But one person remained unimpressed — Williams himself. “My father didn’t always feel like he was succeeding,” says Zak in the trailer. “But he was the most successful person I know.”
What drove the talented comedian to the edge is anyone’s guess. William has shared candidly about his struggle with depression while he was alive. Perhaps Lewy body dementia had caused him inexplicable paranoia, delusions and insomnia. His wife likened the debilitating brain disease to “the terrorist inside my husband’s brain”.
What matters is we lost a bright spark. And he wasn’t the last.
Earlier this month, the world was shocked by two high profile suicides — fashion designer Kate Spade, followed by chef-author Anthony Bourdain. Both celebrities battled with depression.
Creatives seem to be more prone to mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar.
Dr Adrian Wang, a psychiatrist from Gleneagles Medical Centre says: “The very thing in their personality which lets them experience depths of emotions helps them create their art. Unfortunately, it also makes them experience sadness more than others.”
On how to help people going through the ordeal, Dr Wang advises: “The important thing is to be available. You don’t have to give solutions to their problems. Just listen non-judgmentally. Try to instil a sense of hope, so that the person can see his or her problems as solvable. In fact, you shouldn’t be too eager to give advice because you don’t want to come across as condescending.“
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is streaming on HBO GO and will also be available on HBO On Demand (StarHub TV 602).