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Remembering Robin Williams: His best LGBT roles

Megan Boyanton August 11, 2016

On the second anniversary of Robin Williams’ death, PinkNews revisits his most influential LGBT roles throughout his acting career.

The 63-year-old comedian, who had struggled with depression, died by suicide on August 11, 2014.

His widow Susan Schneider said at the time of his death: “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.”

Even at home, Williams exhibited acceptance for the LGBT community with his trademark playfulness.

While he was at times fiercely private about his personal life, he had no qualms about discussing the sexuality of his pet pug.

He said: “I also have a gay rescue pug called Leonard.

“He has a boyfriend and they are planning to adopt a Siamese kitten together.

“We’re very modern.”

When the Westboro Baptist announced its intentions to picket his funeral, pro-LGBT organisation Planting Peace raised over $40,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – one of Williams’ favourite charities.

Planting Peace co-founder Aaron Jackson said: “Robin Williams played many different roles in so many people’s lives, and giving back to others was at the top of that list.”

Mrs Doubtfire

In the iconic 1993 film, Williams portrays Daniel Hillard, a divorced husband, who dresses in drag to spend time with his children.

With heavy make-up and costume, his character takes on the alternate role of Mrs Iphegenia Doubtfire, a nanny hailing from Scotland.

Williams worked alongside out gay actor Harvey Fierstein, who played Daniel Hillard’s brother and make-up artist Frank.

“Mrs Doubtfire”, co-produced by Williams, seamlessly addresses the same-sex relationship between Aunt Jack and Uncle Frank.

While the comedy often pokes at societal transgender stereotypes, it was one of the first movies to address the issue upfront.

The soundtrack also reflects the subject matter, with Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” and The Four Seasons’ “Walk Like A Man” were featured.

It won Best Makeup at the 66th Academy Awards and was nominated for Best Makeup and Hair at the 48th BAFTA Awards.

The Birdcage

In 1996, Robin Williams starred as Armand Goldman in the re-make of French film “La Cage aux Folles”.

Playing the openly gay and Jewish owner of a drag cabaret, he confronted the issues of homophobia far before mainstream media caught on.

He said: “If I can use my celebrity status to draw people into a movie theatre to see me perform as an admirable gay man and thereby make them a little most positive about gay people, why wouldn’t I do it?”

The Birdcage follows a gay couple, whose son is marrying the daughter of an ultra-conservative Republican US senator.

To please their son, the two hesitantly pretend to be all-American, heterosexual parents upon meeting the in-laws.

Armand’s partner Albert – played by Nathan Lane – who works at the club, dons his drag and pretends to be Armand’s wife.

Their out gay housekeeper, Agador, takes on the persona of Spartacus, a Greek straight manservant.

Praised by GLAAD, the film earned $18.3 million during its first weekend.

Although Williams was originally cast as Albert, he preferred the role of Armand, after just playing Mrs. Doubtfire.

Boulevard

In one of his final performances in film, the drama “Boulevard” contrasts starkly with his other LGBT roles.

Williams delves into a serious subject, often untouched, about discovering sexuality at a later age.

While the movie had issues finding a cinematic distributor, Williams described it as a “beautiful, sad movie”.

Finally released in July 2015, Williams stars as Nolan Mack, a suburban 60-year-old banker coming to terms with his homosexuality.

He said: “[It’s] a guy who falls in love with a gay prostitute, basically comes out.

“He’s married, and he has to come out to his wife.

“It was powerful to do.”

Following Williams’ death, the movie has even more of a dynamic effect, highlighting the life of a closeted man in a unfulfilled marriage.

After meeting Leo, a young male prostitute, Nolan is finally motivated to pursue his true self.

Heart-wrenching and moving, the movie seems to be a suitable last film for Williams to act in on-screen.

More: birdcage, Robin Williams, US

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