Robin Williams: What To Expect From His Final Films

A preview of the final parts of the actor's legacy

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As my Esquire colleague Miranda Collinge recently pointed out about Philip Seymour Hoffman: actors have strange lives, but even stranger deaths.

The in-demand among them – and Robin Williams was certainly that – usually have a handful of films in post-production when they die, final acts we then view through the prism of their passing.

After Heath Ledger died in 2008, rightly or wrongly, many attributed his disturbing portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight to the fragile mental state that led to his drug overdose shortly. His posthumous Oscar, though fully deserved, carried the sad poignancy of that idea.

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Hoffman, as US Esquire’s John Hendrickson observed recently, chain-smokes and drinks his way through spy thriller A Most Wanted Man like a man already physically doomed. Dark comedy God’s Pocket, and another instalment of The Hunger Games, will conclude his legacy in the next 12 months.

So what is left to expect from Williams, who in his final years worked harder then ever?

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb – the only of his remaining films with a release date – will be out on the 19 December. In it he will reprise his role as President Theodore Roosevelt, though it is not known how much screen time he has alongside Ben Stiller, Ricky Gervais, Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan, the other comedians in the hugely succesful comedy franchise.

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Another seasonal comedy, Merry Friggin’ Christmas, will also come out this year and follows Boyd Mitchler (Joel McHale), a father who reluctantly agrees to spend Christmas with his estranged family, only to realise he’s left the presents at home. Mitchler sets off on an eight-hour road trip to retrieve them with his own father, played by Williams.

His final voice-over role will then arrive in Terry Jones’ sci-fi comedy Absolutely Anything, which stars the Monty Python team as CGI aliens who bestow special powers onto an unwitting teacher played by Simon Pegg. Williams stars as Dennis the Dog, presumably Pegg’s sidekick. “He has the best scenes and I think he’s going to steal the show,” Jones has said.

It is, then, Williams the family-friendly comedian rather than the dramatic actor we will see in his final three films. Whether they are more Mrs. Doubtfire or Patch Adams in quality remains to be seen, but it seems fitting that, over the Christmas period, one last generation of youngsters will be converted to his anarchic charm.

There is one other film Williams left behind early this year, though its limited release in the US means it is unlikely to find a distributer in the UK.

Boulevard, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, sees him play a lonely middle aged man coming to terms with his homosexuality after picking up a gay hustler and paying for his company. It’s sad, tender performance, the kind we fell for in Dead Poet’s Society and Good Will Hunting, and hopefully, his death will mean it is seen more widely.

It is impossible, watching the final acts of these strange deaths, not to search them for some clue that makes sense of sad reality they accompany. In Boulevard, William’s character Nolan carries a terrible burden that he hides from the world out of kindness for his wife and kids. What he feels inside is obscured by his devotion to making others happy. It feels like a fitting send off.