Robin Williams was ‘the saddest person I ever met,’ Sam Neill says

Fresh off winning the Academy Award in 1998 for his performance in “Good Will Hunting,” Robin Williams had reached a new apex of his career. He enjoyed respect as an artist, was a top box-office draw in movies and appeared to be happily married to his second wife and loved being the father of three children.

Yet, he appeared to actor star Sam Neill, Williams’ then co-star in the 1999 film “Bicentennial Man,” to be “inconsolably solitary and deeply depressed.”

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Sam Neill attends the world premiere of "The Portable Door" at Hoyts Entertainment Quarter on March 23, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
Sam Neill attends the world premiere of “The Portable Door” at Hoyts Entertainment Quarter on March 23, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images) 

“He had fame, he was rich, people loved him, great kids — the world was his oyster,” Neil has written in his new memoir, “Did I Ever Tell You This?” According to the Daily Mail, Neill also wrote, “And yet I felt more sorry for him than I can express. He was the loneliest man on a lonely planet.”

Williams died by suicide in August 2017 at age 63 in his home in the Marin County town of Tiburon. He had been struggling with depression and anxiety following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. But after Williams’ death, it was learned that he had been suffering with Lewy body dementia, a progressive disease that causes a decline in mental abilities and mobility. Williams’ widow, his third wife Susan Schneider Williams, referred to the disease as “the terrorist” inside his brain and said it had worsened before his death to include memory loss, paranoia and delusions.

Years before his death and throughout his adult life, Williams had publicly struggled with mental health issues and addiction. Neill said he observed some aspects of Williams’ struggles when they worked together on “Bicentennial Man,” a science-fiction comedy-drama in which Williams played an android who goes to work as a housekeeper for a family headed by Neill.

In his book, the “Jurassic Park” star fondly recalled having “great chats” with the actor and comedian in their trailers on the film’s set.

“We would talk about this and that, sometimes even about the work we were about to do,” Neill wrote. While Williams revealed “the dark space inside” during these discussions, he was a different person when the doors to their trailers “flung open” and they returned to the set, Neill wrote.

“He was irresistibly, outrageously, irrepressibly, gigantically funny,” Neill said. “Funny stuff just poured out of him. And everybody was in stitches, and when everybody was in stitches, you could see Robin was happy.”

Unfortunately, “Bicentennial Man” was one of Williams’ most notorious misses, despite its $100 million budget and its director being Chris Columbus from “Mrs. Doubtfire.”  It didn’t break even, only earning $87.4 million, and critics hated it with Roger Ebert saying the movie is “a letdown” with a script that is “robotic” and “cornball.”

Since Williams’ death, his children have publicly discussed their father’s mental health struggles and supported the work of  Bring Change to Mind (BC2M), a San Francisco-based mental health nonprofit co-founded by Glenn Close, Williams’ co-star in his break-out dramatic role in the 1982 film “The World According to Garp.”

As part of its gala fundraisers, the nonprofit gives out a Robin Williams Legacy of Laughter award to other celebrities to showcase the power of humor to break down peoples’ defenses and spur difficult conversations about mental illness. It presented the award to Melissa McCarthy at its latest fundraiser in San Francisco in October.

In a 2020 interview on The Dr. Oz Show, Williams’ oldest son, Zak Williams, talked about always being acutely aware of his father’s struggles with depression, according to the Daily Mail.

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𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝘆𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘆:
𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗗𝗠𝗖𝗔,
𝗣𝗹𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝘀𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝘂𝘀 𝗮𝗻 𝗲𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗹 𝗮𝘁

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