Actors Get Too Caught Up in Their Roles Resulting in Death
I want to start by saying that I am devastated to hear of the recent news that Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams was found dead in his home on Monday August, 11th. His death was determined to be an apparent suicide by hanging; he was found dead in his bedroom, slightly suspended in a seated position with a leather belt around his neck. It remains a sad truth that that Robin suffered from depression the way that he did, and that he resorted to suicide as a means of escape from what he possibly saw as a terrible life.
Some would contend that they saw his suicide coming. Williams had recently sought treatment for depression, suffered from bipolar disorder throughout his life, struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, and even relapsed on alcohol in mid-2014 after many years of sobriety.
However, more than this, Robin Williams, along with many other actors/actresses, suffer from a syndrome where they inadvertently and inescapably get soo caught up in a character role that they attempt to portray that they actually become that character in real life.
In 2002, Robin Williams played in the movie One Hour Photo as Sy, a grocery store photo center clerk. Sy was a desperately lonely man with no real life of his own, and was obsessively making copies of photos of his customers for years, imagining himself to be “Uncle Sy,” a member of their family. Sy’s tenuous hold on reality collapsed when he lost his job and his dream family faced extramarital infidelity; Sy reached his breaking point and went crazy.
Robin Williams had never done a serious role before this role. But he completely captured it, he sold the idea that he was indeed a depressed, disheartened, miserable and despondent photo clerk who had no friends and no one who cared for him. Could it be that, after capturing and becoming this role for this motion picture, that he had actually become this person? Perhaps he was so convinced of the character he was attempting to portray that he himself too became dejected, glum, and depressed, eventually leading to his sad death.
This phenomenon has occurred with other late actors as well. Paul Walker was famously known for his role in the film series Fast and Furious, a movie that demonstrated the joys and thrills of racing fast cars and driving down inordinate streets and by-ways. On November 30, 2013, Walker and a friend were driving a red 2005 Porsche Carrera GT when they crashed into a concrete light pole and two trees, bursting into flames. The curve where Walker and friend were killed is a popular spot for drifting cars (a form of turning when racing). The coroner’s report stated that the Porsche may have been traveling at speeds up to 100 miles per hour before the crash. The name of the third Fast and Furious film was The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Coincidence? Or did he become his Fast and Furious character?
Heath Ledger is probably the most obvious example. Ledger played one of the most demonic, deviant characters in American film: The Joker in the movie The Dark Knight. Ledger mastered the role of the criminal mastermind. Soon after the movie hit theaters, Heath was found dead after overdosing on several prescription pain and anxiety pills. It has been assumed in many circles that his pill consumption stemmed from a life of heavy anxiety, deep depression, and mental anguish.
It is apparent that when actors like Robin Williams get too caught in roles that they are hired to play, these actors can in fact become these roles and detriment can result. As sad as it is for these actors, this could be a fact. Filmmakers should be more thoughtful in what type of screenplays they write and what type of characters they create for actors/actresses to portay.