Robin Williams dead; family, friends and fans are ‘totally devastated’

Updated 10:19 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
01:46 - Source: CNN
Robin Williams: 9 memorable moments

Story highlights

NEW: President Barack Obama says Robin Williams "was one of a kind"

"He has been battling severe depression of late," his rep says

Williams was last seen alive at his home, where he lives with his wife, about 10 p.m. Sunday

Williams underwent rehab drug treatment at least twice, including this summer

Share your memories of Robin Williams.

(CNN) —  

Robin Williams – who first made America laugh and eventually touched “every element of the human spirit” in a remarkable range of performances – died at his Northern California home Monday.

Williams apparently took his own life, law enforcement officials said. He was 63.

“He has been battling severe depression of late,” his media representative Mara Buxbaum told CNN. “This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”

In the 2009 film “World’s Greatest Dad,” Williams played a man named Lance Clayton – and delivered a line now making the rounds online: “If you’re that depressed, reach out to someone. And remember: Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.”

Williams married graphic designer Susan Schneider in Napa Valley, California, ceremony in October 2011.

“This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken,” Schneider said.

“On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

Word of Williams’ death stunned the entertainment community and beyond Monday.

President Barack Obama’s statement sent from the White House summed it up:

“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.”

Comedian Steve Martin tweeted, “I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul.”

Former CNN host Larry King said he would remember Williams as “a genuine caring guy.  Not just a funny man, but a guy who cared about people.”

Marin County deputies responded to an emergency call from Williams’ home in unincorporated Tiburon, California, at 11:55 a.m., reporting “a male adult had been located unconscious and not breathing,” the release from the sheriff said.

Williams was pronounced dead at 12:02 p.m., it said.

Williams was last seen alive at his home, where he lives with his wife, at about 10 p.m. Sunday, the sheriff’s statement said.

“An investigation into the cause, manner and circumstances of the death is currently underway by the Investigations and Coroner Divisions of the Sheriff’s Office,” the sheriff’s statement said.

“Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia, but a comprehensive investigation must be completed before a final determination is made.”

An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, the sheriff said.

From Julliard to ‘Happy Days’

Born in Chicago on July 21, 1951, Williams studied theater at Juilliard School before taking his stand-up act to nightclubs. He was cast as Mork, an alien visitor to Earth, for a 1978 episode of television’s “Happy Days.”

“Happy Days” star Henry Winkler said he “realized I was in the presence of greatness” at Williams’ first rehearsal as Mork.

Winkler said he “realized I was in the presence of greatness” at Williams’ first rehearsal as Mork.

“I just realized my only job is to keep a straight face,” said Winkler, who played “The Fonz.” “And it was impossible. Because no matter what you said to him, no matter what line you gave to him, he took it in, processed it, and then it flew out of his mouth, never the same way twice. And it was incredibly funny every time.”

The role led to the spinoff show “Mork & Mindy” which showcased Williams’ unusual comic improvisation talents from 1978 through 1982.

He proved his dramatic acting skills in “Good Will Hunting,” a 1997 film that earned him a best supporting actor Oscar.

His memorable movies over the past three decades include “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Dead Poets Society,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “The Birdcage.”

Williams credited the influence of Jonathan Winters’ comic irreverence and quirky characters as a great influence on his comedy. The connection between the two was completed when Winters was cast as Williams’ son on “Mork & Mindy.”

When Winters died in 2013, Williams said he was “my idol, then he was my mentor and amazing friend.” He tweeted that Winters was his “Comedy Buddha.”

“Mork & Mindy” co-star Pam Dawber simply said “I am completely and totally devastated. What more can be said?”

WIlliams and Dawber reunited on TV earlier this year on an episode of the CBS comedy “The Crazy Ones.” 

Williams’ fans can look forward to four more movie appearances coming to theaters, including another installment in the “Night at the Museum” franchise.

The film, set for a December release, has Williams reprising the Teddy Roosevelt role he delivered in the first two comedies.

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CNN’s Travis Sattiewhite, Rachel Wells and Carolyn Sung contributed to this report.