Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, The Birdcage, Awakenings, even Happy Feet - his ability to tell stories is unmatched.
But his character in Dead Poets Society, John Keating, changed my life. He spoke to me in ways for which words are insufficient. Into my small town world of conformity and limited possibility as a teenager, came this remarkable teacher who taught his students that their passions mattered, that their dreams mattered, that they had the ability to love and be loved. Keating had courage, he had a joie de vivre that inspired a bunch of 1950s teenage boys to sneak out of their dorms in the middle of the night to read poetry, of all things.
He's probably at least 60% of the reason I was an English major.
Keating told his students, "We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering - these are all noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love - these are what we stay alive for."
In the end, like the powers of conformity beat John Keating down, and got him fired from his job as a teacher, so too did the powers of depression beat down an incredible man, an incredible story teller, a man who knew the full expanse - height and depth, breadth and width - of the human soul.
And so I cry.
I have a suggestion to make for his friends in Hollywood. Usually they wear sunglasses to a funeral to hide their tears, to hide their puffy, red eyes, so that their image can remain unscathed. But for Robin, in recognition of his depression, I think the world should see sadness. I think we should see what crying looks like. I think we should see what pain looks like. I don't think we should hide it. I think we should feel it, and know how sad we are to lose such a man in this way.
I know there's a difference between clinical depression and sadness. But part of the stigma around depression is that we have some kind of fake understanding of reality, that sadness is something to avoid. But sadness, grief, loss, it's all part of the human experience. It's not something to fear, and it's not something to hide. If we try to avoid it, that only makes the stigma of depression worse.
So Hollywood - leave the sunglasses at home. Let the world see you cry. Don't be ashamed of your humanity. Embrace it. For Robin.
Rest in peace Mr. Williams. For your incredible life - your passion, your humor, your sensitivity, your wisdom - thank you. You will always be my Captain.
I'm going to get a Kleenex now.