SAN FRANCISCO — Robin Williams, the comedian and Academy Award-winning actor who imbued his performances with wild inventiveness and a kind of manic energy, died Monday at his home in Marin County, Calif. He was 63.
Mr. Williams was pronounced dead at his San Francisco Bay Area home Monday, according to the sheriff’s office in Marin County.
The sheriff’s office said the preliminary investigation shows the cause of death to be suicide caused by asphyxia.
“This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken,” Mr. Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider said.
“On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”
Mr. Williams had been battling severe depression recently, said Mara Buxbaum, his press representative.
Just last month, he announced he was returning to a 12-step treatment program he said he needed after 18 months of nonstop work.
He had sought treatment in 2006 after a relapse following 20 years of sobriety.
Mr. Williams, who was raised in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and in Marin County, attended the Juilliard School in New York before breaking through as a hyperverbal comedian and a star of the 1978 ABC sitcom Mork & Mindy, playing a giddy alien unaccustomed to life on this planet.
He went on to earn Academy Award nominations for his roles in films like Good Morning, Vietnam, in which he played a loquacious radio DJ; Dead Poets Society, playing a mentor to students in need of inspiration; and The Fisher King, as a homeless man whose life has been struck by tragedy.
He won an Oscar in 1998 for Good Will Hunting, playing a therapist who works with a troubled prodigy played by Matt Damon.
Beginning with roles in the 1977 sex farce Can I Do It ’Til I Need Glasses? and The Richard Pryor Show, a variety series hosted by one of his comedy mentors, Mr. Williams rapidly ascended the entertainment industry’s ladder.
Hired to play an eccentric alien in an episode of Happy Days, Mr. Williams caught the attention of the show’s creator, Garry Marshall, who cast him to reprise his career-making role of Mork from Ork in Mork & Mindy.
Mr. Williams soon graduated into movie roles that include the title characters in Popeye, Robert Altman’s 1980 live-action musical about that spinach-gulping cartoon sailor, and The World According to Garp, the director George Roy Hill’s 1982 adaptation of the John Irving novel.
He also continued to appear in raucous standup comedy specials like Robin Williams: An Evening at the Met, which showcased his garrulous performance style and his indefatigable ability to free-associate without the apparent benefit of prepared material.
Alongside his friends and fellow actors Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, Mr. Williams appeared in an annual series of telethons for Comic Relief, a charity organization that helps homeless people and others in need.
Mr. Williams’ acting career reached a new height in 1987 with his performance in Barry Levinson’s film Good Morning, Vietnam, for which he earned his first Oscar nomination.
He received another two years later for Dead Poets Society.
In dozens of film roles that followed, Mr. Williams could be warm and zany, whether providing the voice of an irrepressible magic genie in Aladdin, the 1992 animated Walt Disney feature; or playing a man who cross-dresses as a British housekeeper in Mrs. Doubtfire, a 1993 family comedy, or a doctor struggling to treat patients with an unknown neurological malady in Awakenings, the 1990 Penny Marshall drama adapted from the Oliver Sacks memoir.
His personal life was often short on laughter.
His father, Robert, was a sales executive at Ford Motor, and his mother, Laurie, was a former model her son would later call a “Christian Dior scientist.”
Each parent brought a much older child from a previous marriage into the family, leaving Robin to play alone with 2,000 toy soldiers — giving each a different voice.
As a child, Mr. Williams developed a sharp humor to attract attention from his parents.
To his father, who liked to be called “sir,” he instead used the honorific “Lord Stokesbury, Viceroy of India.”
He said his earliest comic influences were his mother, who enjoyed reciting funny poems, and Jonathan Winters, an absurdist improvisational comic of film and TV.
Mr. Williams acknowledged drug and alcohol problems in the 1970s and ’80s and was among the last to see John Belushi before the Saturday Night Live star died of a drug overdose in 1982.
More recently, he appeared in the Night at the Museum movies, playing President Theodore Roosevelt.
The third film in the series is in post-production, according to the Internet Movie Database.