Robin Williams, the actor whose madcap comic style made him one of television and film's biggest stars was remembered as a creative genius yesterday as family, friends and fans mourned his death in an apparent suicide at the age of 63.
Williams was discovered unconscious and not breathing on Monday in his home near Tiburon, north of San Francisco. The cause of death is under investigation and an autopsy was to be conducted yesterday.
The comedian's appeal stretched across generations and genres, from family fare as the voice of Disney's blue Genie in "Aladdin" to his portrayal of a fatherly therapist in the 1997 drama "Good Will Hunting," for which he earned his sole Oscar.
But many remembered the master of impressions for his tender portrayal in "Mrs Doubtfire," when he played a divorced father pretending to be a British nanny so he could be close to his children.
Williams had been recently suffering from severe depression, his publicist, Mara Buxbaum, said in a statement, and the actor had repeatedly talked about his past struggles with alcohol and drugs.
Williams' wife, Susan Schneider, released a statement saying, "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."
Lieutenant Keith Boyd of the Marin County Sheriff's Office said he was found "in a seated position unresponsive with a belt secured around his neck with the other end of the belt wedged between the clothes closet door and the door frame."
"Mr. Williams, at that time, was cool to the touch with rigor mortis present in his body," he told reporters, adding that the inside of his left wrist bore signs of having been cut.
Boyd, who is Marin County's assistant coroner, refused to say whether a suicide note had been found, as an investigation continues.
He said Williams had last been seen alive Sunday by his wife Susan Schneider before she retired for the night.
She left the house on Monday assuming he was still asleep in a separate room, he said.
He was found dead by his personal assistant, who entered the room "when he failed to respond to knocks on his bedroom door," Boyd said.
LAUGHTER 'SUSTAINED' HIM
Social media was alight with appreciation for Williams, who introduced his boyish exuberance and outlandish vaudeville-esque style to audiences as a quirky extraterrestrial in the late 1970s TV comedy "Mork & Mindy."
US President Barack Obama called Williams a "one of a kind" actor who could make people laugh and cry with his array of characters.
"He arrived in our lives as an alien - but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit," Obama said in a statement.
Secretary of State John Kerry described Williams as "an absolute genius, with an extraordinary zest for his profession."
"He loved people and he committed himself to any issue that concerned him. Robin wasn't just a huge creative genius, but a caring, involved citizen," Kerry said in a statement.
Williams, who was most recently in the CBS television comedy "The Crazy Ones" until it was cancelled after one season in May, had entered a rehabilitation centre this summer to help him maintain sobriety.
His representatives at the time said Williams was not using drugs or alcohol but was there to "fine-tune" his sobriety after a demanding work schedule.
The death of Williams shook Hollywood, and colleagues mourned the loss of what many called a big-hearted man and one of the most inventive comedians of his time.
Michelle Gellar, who played his daughter in "The Crazy Ones," said her life was better for knowing Williams.
"To my children he was Uncle Robin, to everyone he worked with, he was the best boss anyone had ever known, and to me he was not just an inspiration but he was the father I had always dreamed of having," she said in a statement.
Williams, who was born in Chicago in 1951 and grew up in suburban Detroit earned four Academy Award nominations, the first for his portrayal of US Army radio announcer Adrian Cronauer during the Vietnam War in "Good Morning, Vietnam."
He also earned Oscar nominations for the 1990 coming-of-age prep school drama "Dead Poets Society" and 1991's "The Fisher King."
Williams married three times, most recently in 2011 to Schneider. He had three children.
In a 2009, the actor told Reuters that his children often referred to his own struggles with substance abuse when he would confront them about their own misbehaviour.
"They went, 'And you had a three-year drunken relapse.' Ah, thank you for bringing that back, my little happy creatures," Williams quipped.
His death also deeply affected his local artists' community, far from the hype of Hollywood.
"He embodied what it meant to be humble," said Lucy Mercer, executive artistic director at Throckmorton Theatre, a small venue near Williams' home, where the actor was known to try out new material.
"He doused us in his love and positive glow and never asked for anything in return."
Williams will appear in the upcoming film "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb," playing the statue of Teddy Roosevelt who comes to life at night, and the holiday comedy "Merry Friggin' Christmas." He also was attached to a sequel to 1993 hit "Mrs. Doubtfire."
In his final posting on Twitter on July 31, Williams had wished his daughter Zelda a happy 25th birthday. Late on Monday, Zelda wrote on Twitter: "I love you. I miss you. I'll try to keep looking up."