When I was a kid, Robin Williams was my favourite actor. I loved his earnest, joyful performances, tinged with pathos and vulnerability; his funny moments were always just as good as his emotional ones. I would watch and re-watch Patch Adams, Bicentennial Man, Jumanji, Aladdin, and Mrs Doubtfire, finding immense comfort in his reassuring, dadly presence.
When I was a teen, I was faintly embarrassed by this fact. It’s not cool to enjoy sincerity; teens are generally far more interested in cynicism and satire. Even having a favourite actor is kind of uncool. I distanced myself from the things I loved, but I never stopped loving them.
As an adult, I’m proud that I was able to recognise Robin Williams’ talent at any age. He was brilliant. He was one-of-a-kind. When news of his sudden death broke, it broke my heart — a world without his gentleness and humour seemed a little darker.
His love for video games lives on, of course, just as his incredible filmography does: in the trailers that he recorded for Nintendo, in a tribute character in Breath of the Wild, and in his daughter, Zelda — named for the princess.
When Skyward Sword came out originally in 2011, Robin Williams (and Zelda) recorded a trailer for the game, in which Robin told his daughter, “you have a lot to learn before you become a master“. Like the rest of his work, it’s a goofy, silly, but heartfelt moment; you can feel his affection for her radiating out despite the trailer only being 30 seconds long (and half of that is game footage).
In October 2011, Robin and Zelda played the DSiWare re-release of Four Swords Adventures together, in which they have a bet — and Robin loses, being forced to shave off his magnificent beard, and instantly transforming from “fluffy dad Robin Williams” to “hey, that’s the guy from that movie!”
Earlier in the same year (they probably recorded all of these ads at the same time), Robin and Zelda had also teamed up for a duo of adverts for the release of Ocarina of Time 3D, which are achingly sweet — over shots of Link exploring Hyrule, Robin says “for you, I travelled to the four corners of the world,” and it’s only when we cut from game footage to Robin and Zelda on the sofa that we realise he was talking about a different Zelda.
“Dad — are you mixing me up with the princess again?”
“Hard to say… You’re both pretty magical.”
It’s a touching bit of dialogue that’s followed with a chuckle from both, as they hold hands on the sofa — a moment that feels like a glimpse into their relationship, despite the fact that it was most likely scripted.
But that’s just how Robin Williams is in my mind: his warmth and kindness weren’t manufactured. He worked them into whichever character he was playing, and although his legacy is as a comedian, I’ll always remember him for the way he brought an ocean’s worth of depth to everything. The world is a little less colourful without him in it, but thank goodness he left so much of himself behind.
Happy birthday, Robin. We miss you.