The Many Faces of Robin Williams

From Mork to Patch Adams to Teddy Roosevelt, the actor was as versatile as they come. 
Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Robin Williams, who died today at 63, worked as an entertainer for more than 40 years. A graduate of Juilliard, he was a master of dialects and voices: He could imitate, it seems, nearly anything and anyone. For the animated and CGI characters he played, from Aladdin to A.I. Artificial Intelligence, his voice was instantly, exuberantly recognizable. For live-action efforts, it made ordinary lines resonant.

But it was perhaps his face that was his most expressive instrument: He used it as a tool for connection that transcended costume and makeup. His eyes in particular made chameleonic performances his own. Whatever the disguise, they spoke directly to his character’s core humanity.

Celebrated for performances with infinite energy, Williams may be most remembered for his outspoken characters. It’s hard to imagine Mrs. Doubtfire without his screwball comedy or The Fisher King without his manic dramatics. Williams’ talent for disappearing into understated performance flew under the radar. Yet Williams anchored many darker films: his quiet brooding as a photo technician in One Hour Photo and childishness as a serial killer in Insomnia turned villains into unlikely heroes. He made difficult men understandable.

Below, a selection of videos that capture his versatility in action: smiling, wondering, guffawing, empathizing, mocking, and inspiring. Being average. And extraordinary. 

And here's a moment of Williams out of character, testifying before the Senate on May 9, 1990 about preventing homelessness.

Presented by

Katie Kilkenny is an editorial fellow with The Atlantic​.

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