TIME celebrities

Robin Williams Hanged Himself, Police Say

Robin Williams before his performance at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk
Robin Williams before his performance at the Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Va., on Oct. 28, 2009 Jay Paul—The New York Times/Redux

Confirming reports he committed suicide

Robin Williams died because of asphyxia from hanging himself in his California home, police said Tuesday, confirming a day after the actor’s death that he had committed suicide.

The Marin County Sheriff’s Office also said Williams, who was 63, suffered “acute superficial” cuts to his wrist, and that a pocket blade was found near his body. A forensic examination showed no signs of a struggle, and toxicology results for Williams, who had long struggled with substance abuse and depression, won’t be available for about two to six weeks, police said.

Williams was last seen by his wife at 10:30 p.m. local time on Sunday when she went to bed. Williams’ personal assistant became concerned the next day when the actor failed to respond to knocks on his bedroom door. Upon entering, the assistant found Williams “clothed in a seated position, unresponsive, with a belt around his neck,” Lieutenant Keith Boyd told reporters during a news conference. He was pronounced dead shortly after noon on Monday.

Fans of the late comedian and actor gathered near the news conference in San Rafael, Calif., on Tuesday.

“It surprises me that someone who was so loved felt so alone,” said Leigh Carliglio of Contra Costa County. “He was loved, he was wonderful. This is devastating.”

She particularly remembers Mork & Mindy and then quickly adds Mrs. Doubtfire and Aladdin. “All of them.”

She was surprised to find out how he died. “We need more care for mental-health patients. We don’t understand how deep depression runs.”

Other fans filmed the news conference with their cell phones, lamenting how “a whole generation” grew up with Williams’ character in Mork & Mindy.

Outside Williams’ home in nearby Tiburon sat flower bouquets and notes address to “Robin.” A few fans lingered. “Anything he was in, I would go see it,” one said. “It’s just devastating. I have depression in my family.”

— Katy Steinmetz reported from San Rafael and Tiburon, Calif.


TIME celebrity

WATCH: Hollywood Reacts to Death of Robin Williams

Comedians, actors and entertainers pay tribute to the late star

Like the rest of the nation, actors, comedians and entertainers were shocked by the sudden death of superstar talent Robin Williams. Celebrity reactions to his apparent suicide have flooded media both social and traditional, with many paying tribute to their own personal relationships with the late star.

Steve Martin referred to him as a great talent and a genuine soul. Kathy Griffin tweeted of how every moment shared with Williams was a pivotal one, and that it was a comic’s dream to be in his presence. Judd Apatow wrote about the lengths he went to simply be near the legendary comic, saying that he took an internship at Comic Relief at the age of 18 in order to work with Williams.

Billy Crystal wrote poignantly, “No words.”

Other comedians such as Jimmy Kimmel and Chelsea Handler marked the tragedy by attempting to raise awareness of depression, telling those in need of support to not be afraid to reach out for help, and to remain strong.

TIME movies

Where to Watch Robin Williams’ Best Movies

Today
Actor Robin Williams talks about his film, "License to Wed" on NBC News' TODAY on June 28, 2007 NBC NewsWire--NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

Looking to revisit some of your favorite Robin Williams film moments? Here's a list of places to watch online

With the news that actor and comedian Robin Williams has died at age 63—he was found at his home in California after an apparent suicide on Monday—fans around the world have been left reeling.

From Twitter to late night, tributes have poured in for a man who, for many, defined comedy. From the tone and emotion behind many of the remembrances, it’s become apparent that there are many people who not only admired the actor—they felt genuinely moved by him. Whether it was Mork from Mork and Mindy or Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting or the Genie from Aladdin, everyone seems to have their own favorite Robin Williams moment or character that they hold dear. It’s not surprising: Williams was an absolute master of creating a character that resonated with people one way or another.

For those looking to revisit your favorite Robin Williams moment—or even camp out and watch a whole marathon of his movies—we’ve compiled a list of places where you can stream or rent online some of his best and most memorable films.

  • Popeye (1980) — Netflix
  • Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) — Amazon
  • Dead Poets Society (1989) — Amazon
  • Awakenings (1990) — Amazon
  • The Fisher King (1991) — Netflix
  • Hook (1991) — Netflix
  • Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) — Amazon
  • Jumanji (1995) — Netflix
  • The Birdcage (1996) — Netflix
  • Good Will Hunting (1997) — Hulu
  • Patch Adams (1998) — Amazon
  • What Dreams May Come (1998) — Amazon
  • Insomnia (2002) — Amazon
  • One Hour Photo (2002) — Amazon
  • Man of the Year (2006) — Amazon
  • Night at the Museum (2006) — Amazon
TIME celebrities

Watch Conan O’Brien Announce Robin Williams’ Death to a Stunned Audience

“God bless Robin Williams”

Late-night comedian Conan O’Brien had almost wrapped up his Monday night show when news broke that his friend and fellow comic Robin Williams had died.

A visibly stunned O’Brien then told the hushed studio audience, apologizing to them for having to do so. Co-host Andy Richter and guest Will Arnett appeared shocked.

“This is absolutely shocking and horrifying and so upsetting on every level,” said O’Brien. “We’re at the end of the show and it felt like it needed to be acknowledged.”

Arnett went on to poignantly reminisce on the kindness Williams had always shown to friends and colleagues.

“He was even better as a person,” said Arnett. “He was one of the loveliest and sweetest and kindest guys I’ve ever worked with.”

TIME Mental Illness

Robin Williams’ Depression Struggles May Go Back Decades

The storied comedian and actor Robin Williams had spent time at a rehab facility this summer to maintain his sobriety, his publicist said.

“This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings,” Williams’ wife Susan Schneider said in a written statement on Monday afternoon. According to the local sheriff’s office, coroners believe Williams may have committed suicide by asphyxia, and the actor’s representative said he had been “battling severe depression of late.”

While the representative did not elaborate on the potential source of his recent depression, one-third of people with major depression also struggle with alcoholism, and Williams admitted to abusing both cocaine and alcohol during the height of his popularity in the 1970s as alien Mork on Mork & Mindy, which showcased his manic improvisational style. He quit using drugs and alcohol in 1983 and remained sober for 20 years after the birth of his first son.

But in a revealing interview in the Guardian, Williams admitted that while working in Alaska in 2003, he felt “alone and afraid” and turned to the bottle because he thought it would help. For three years, he believed it did, until his family staged an intervention and he went into rehab, he told the Guardian. “I was shameful, did stuff that caused disgust — that’s hard to recover from,” he said then.

He said he attended weekly AA meetings, and this July, People.com reported that Williams spent several weeks at Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in Minnesota, for what his representatives said was an “opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment [to sobriety], of which he remains extremely proud.”

Studies suggest that alcoholism and depression may feed each other. People who are depressed are more vulnerable to abusing alcohol than those who don’t experience depressive episodes, and those who drink heavily are also more likely to experience depression. The latest evidence also hints that the same genes may be responsible for both conditions, and depression is a strong risk factor for suicide. About 90% of people who take their own lives are diagnosed with depression or other mental disorders. Suicide is also more likely among baby boomers, according to 2013 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The coroner’s office is continuing its investigation into Williams’ death.

TIME Television

Game of Thrones Season 5 Actor Dies Shortly After Filming New Role

Actor J.J. Murphy, who was slated to play Ser Denys Mallister, the oldest member of the Night's Watch in the upcoming fifth season of Game of Thrones, died on August 8, 2014 at the age of 86.
Actor J.J. Murphy, who was slated to play Ser Denys Mallister, the oldest member of the Night's Watch in the upcoming fifth season of Game of Thrones, died on August 8, 2014 at the age of 86. Independent Agency—Youcef Boubetnikh

The 86-year-old was set to play Ser Denys Mallister, the oldest member of the Night's Watch in the show's upcoming fifth season

Belfast-born actor J.J. Murphy, who was slated to play Ser Denys Mallister, the oldest member of the Night’s Watch in the upcoming fifth season of Game of Thrones, died on Friday at the age of 86. He had begun filming his scenes in Northern Ireland — where much of the popular HBO drama is filmed — last week. HBO has not yet said whether the role would be recast or Murphy’s scenes would be re-written.

According to The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Murphy served as a mentor to many young actors in the region, including Liam Neeson.

It’s not clear whether Murphy’s untimely death will cause a snag in production for the upcoming season, but — given the size of the role — it isn’t likely to have a significant impact on scheduling.

[via Belfast Telegraph]

MONEY Estate Planning

What Parents Can Learn From Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Will

Philip Seymour Hoffman
Victoria Will—Invision/AP

When it comes to deciding who inherits what, the law gives the dead wide latitude to impose a number of conditions.

On Tuesday, the will of Oscar-winning actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman was released to the public. In addition to dictating who would receive various parts of his estate, the document also contained a more esoteric request: that his son, Cooper, be raised in one of three cities—New York, Chicago, or San Francisco—to ensure that he would grow up in a rich cultural environment.

It’s an understandable request (and as a New Yorker, I’m flattered we made the list), but is it really legal to dictate where your children grow up after you’ve already passed on? And, more broadly, to what extent can one control their descendants’ actions post-mortem?

By law, Hoffman could not have ordered his child’s guardian to keep Cooper in a particular place. Gerry W. Beyer, a professor at Texas Tech University School of Law, explains that wills can do no more than transfer property from the deceased to their survivors. That said, there are plenty of ways the dead can use property to encourage (or, some might say, coerce) descendants into living a certain kind of life.

If you want to influence your survivors to do something—finish college, go to mass, take good care of Fido, etc.—the best way to do it is to promise them money on the condition they fulfill your request. For example, if you want to make sure your son takes his education seriously, you can leave him $10,000 on the condition he is admitted to a top-ranked college. If Junior knows too many late homework assignments could mean missing out on a huge payday, he’s probably going to hit the books.

Because the deceased have no obligation to give away anything after death, courts tend to give them wide latitude in how their wealth is distributed. The only clear restriction is that inheritance cannot be conditioned on an illegal act (kill the neighbor and you’ll get my car). Otherwise, the condition must simply avoid acting against “public policy”—it can’t encourage something the state doesn’t like—and defining what that includes is almost entirely up to an individual judge.

Ample room for interpretation can sometimes lead to controversial results. In a landmark 2009 ruling, a judge upheld the will of a Chicago dentist that denied funds to any of his grandchildren who married a non-Jew. Various family members sued, arguing the clause provided monetary incentive towards racism. “It is at war with society’s interest in eliminating bigotry and prejudice, and conflicts with modern moral standards of religious tolerance,” one (disinherited) granddaughter wrote in a brief to the Illinois Supreme Court. The verdict? Too bad. The judge found no reason why her grandfather could not choose to favor those descendants who followed his religious traditions.

According to Beyer, this type of decision isn’t uncommon. “This is something the court is doing in its equitable powers,” says the professor. “You can even find similar cases in the same state that go different ways.”

Highlighting this issue, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania had previously ruled against a different will that also attempted to mandate religious observance. In that case, the document required a son to “remain faithful” to his father’s religion in order to receive any money. Unlike the Illinois case, this court found that the will contradicted the state’s Bill of Rights, which declared no human authority could interfere with acts of conscience. Does that sound inconsistent? Now you’re getting the hang of it.

Luckily, there are some relatively standard limits to what strings one can attach to their will. Beyer advises that courts will often use public policy arguments to deny provisions that are “manifestly unfair or unreasonable.” For example, a provision that would grant a person money for divorcing their spouse would be ruled invalid.

However, when it comes to the more contentious issues, there’s no telling how a case will turn out. Hoffman graciously chose to merely suggest that Cooper be raised in a cultural center, leaving the final decision completely up to Mimi O’Donnell, the mother of his children and inheritor of his estate. However, had Hoffman chosen to stake O’Donnell’s inheritance on keeping his son in a major city, Beyer says, the outcome would rest on the relevant court’s prerogative.

“Where you draw the line can be kind of fuzzy,” Beyer says. “People have done a lot of strange things.”

TIME Interview

Innocents in the Crossfire: Alessio Romenzi’s Shocking Photographs From Gaza

Correction appended, July, 22.

Italian photographer Alessio Romenzi harbors no illusions that his images of dead civilians—many of them children—caught in the crossfire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip will have an impact on the conflict. But he can’t stay away from the story.

Romenzi, 40, has lived for the last five years between Israel and Palestine. In 2012, he documented Gaza during the Israeli Defense Forces’ “Operation Pillar of Defense,” which ended after just eight days.

This year, as Israel enters the third week of “Operation Protective Edge,” Romenzi doesn’t see a way out of the conflict. “I don’t think the different sides know how to get out of this situation,” he told TIME in a phone interview. “I can see that both sides are very determined to keep on fighting.”

According to U.N. figures, 479 Palestinians and 27 Israelis have been killed since July 8. The U.N. says that 121 Palestinian children have been killed. Since the murder of three Israeli teenagers – which, along with the killing of a Palestinian teen, partly led to the start of the war – no further Israeli children have died in the fighting. Doctors say armed operations – from Israel Defense Forces airstrikes to Hamas rocket attacks – have traumatized a large number of children on both sides of Gaza’s borders. Critics of Israel say its military is killing too many civilians in its war against Hamas. The Israeli military says it does everything it can to avoid killing civilians and claims Hamas members deliberately seek shelter in civilian homes, putting those civilians in harm’s way.

“It’s a common theme to all wars,” Romenzi says. “You have two sides, and civilians—people who are guilty of nothing—are caught in the middle. Sometimes people die because they were at the wrong place at the wrong moment. They were near a target. But nobody knows exactly where these target are and why they are targets.”

Romenzi is used to covering conflicts—he was in Syria in 2012 and in Libya the year before. Each time, he deliberately chose to focus on civilian victims. “Children should never be touched by war,” he says. “But here . . . a very high percentage of victims are children.” And while his images can be tough on viewers, Romenzi doubts his work will have any short-term effect on public opinion. “[Every] day, people stop me and ask me why the world is not intervening to stop [what’s going on]. They ask me why all these children, all these innocents, are going through all of this once again. I don’t think the world is prepared to do anything. There’s been a lot of talk, a lot of [outrage], but there’s nothing happening on the ground.”

The problem, Romenzi tells TIME, is that these images of dead kids are not effective anymore. “We’ve seen them before and we are again in the same situation,” he says. But he takes comfort in the thought that his work will be remembered later on. “We, photographers, are doing this for the future.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the number of casualties in the Gaza conflict. According to official U.N. figures, 479 Palestinians and 27 Israelis have been killed since July 8.


Alessio Romenzi is an editorial, corporate and portrait photographer whose work has appeared in TIME, Newsweek, the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, among others. See his earlier work ‘Syria Under Siege‘ on LightBox.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent


 

TIME Behind the Photos

Malaysia Airlines Ukraine Crash: ‘Unreal’ Scenes from Photographer Jerome Sessini

Warning: Graphic images and details can be found in the photographs above and in the text below.

Late Thursday afternoon, a field of sunflowers in the village of Torez in eastern Ukraine was transformed into a scene of a tragedy when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was brought down by a surface-to-air missile.

Jerome Sessini, a French photographer with the agency Magnum Photos, was one of the first people to arrive at the scene. A veteran war photographer who has worked in conflict sites like Iraq and Somalia, Sessini says he wasn’t prepared for the weight of what he saw.

Sessini, who had been working in a nearby mining village in Donetsk, first heard about the crash when his driver received a call from a local journalist, who explained that a plane had been downed in nearby Torez, apparently by pro-Russian rebels. Initially assuming it was a Ukrainian military plane—the pro-Russian rebels had already destroyed a military transport plane and reportedly brought down two other military aircraft—Sessini and his driver headed out.

“As we made our way to Torez, we learned that it was in fact a civilian plane,” the photographer told TIME. It didn’t take the pair long to reach the scene and they had no trouble accessing the crash site, as there were very few people in the area at the time. Yet the rebels soon arrived, and they initially gave Sessini trouble, taking his memory card away. They eventually returned it and allowed Sessini to take photographs.

“[What I saw] was horrific, almost unreal,” he says. In addition to the charred wreckage and debris of the destroyed Boeing 777 plane, there were bodies strewn across the fields. Some were still attached to their seats. “I was in shock. I don’t think I ever felt so sick.”

More than a hundred bodies have been found so far, with some located as far as 6.2 miles (10 km) away from the crash site. “I found one body that went through the roof of a house and landed in someone’s bedroom,” says Sessini. “It’s a real nightmare.”

Sessini noted that while some of the bodies were virtually intact, others had broken apart in the explosion and crash. But for the seasoned photographer, one of the hardest sights to take in wasn’t the dead themselves, but the mementos from their lives, strewn across the ground. “One of the saddest parts was to see all of their luggage in the grass,” he says. “All these Duty Free bags, the swimsuits, the children’s books.”

“I don’t think I’ll be able to board a plane without thinking about these images,” Sessini says.

-interview by Olivier Laurent


Jerome Sessini is a French photojournalist represented by Magnum. Megan Gibson is a writer and reporter at the London bureau of TIME. Find her on Twitter at @MeganJGibson. Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent.


TIME History

15 Years Later: Remembering JFK Jr.

JFK Jr. TIME Cover
The cover of TIME's July 26, 1999 issue: "John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. 1960-1999" Ken Regan—TIME

The son of the 35th president was 38-years-old when his plane was lost at sea

Fifteen years ago Wednesday, a shocked nation grieved as the Kennedy family lost another one of their own. John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr., 38, died in a plane crash with his wife and sister-in-law on July 16, 1999.

“He was lost on that troubled night, but we will always wake for him, so that his time, which was not doubled but cut in half, will live forever in our memory and in our beguiled and broken hearts,” then-Sen. Ted Kennedy said in a eulogy for his nephew, an American icon turned magazine editor. Kennedy outlived his nephew by 10 years, passing away in 2009 after nearly a half-century in the U.S. Senate.

In that same eulogy, Kennedy praised the “lifelong mutual admiration society” shared between JFK Jr. and his sister Caroline, who now serves as the United State ambassador to Japan.

Kennedy was often asked whether he would further the political legacy of his father, who died when his son was only two years old. JFK Jr. once said of his father, “He inspired a lot of hope and created a sense of possibility, and then the possibility was cut short and never realized.”

Read TIME’s special 1999 cover story marking JFK Jr.’s death here.

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