In 1998, Robin Williams accepted the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Good Will Hunting.”
In the 87 year-history of the awards, Williams’ speech remains one of the most memorable for its perfect storm of humour, humility, and heart.
The comedian, who died of an apparent suicide last August, was nominated three other times but this was his only Oscar win.
“Good Will Hunting” starred Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who also took home gold statues for Best Writing. The movie, about an under-achieving janitor at M.I.T who has a gift for mathematics, grossed $US225 million worldwide.
Williams played Sean Maguire, a part-time therapist who aims to help the young man (played by Damon) open up and find direction in life. Their relationship culminates in a memorable breakthrough that will bring any viewer to tears.
That year, the Best Supporting Actor category pinned Williams against some of the greats. Robert Forster (“Jackie Brown”), Anthony Hopkins (“Amistad”), Greg Kinnear (“As Good as It Gets”), and Burt Reynolds (“Boogie Nights”) were also nominated.
When his name was called, Williams jumped out of his seat, kissed his now-ex wife Susan Schneider, and ran into the arms of his co-stars.
Since his passing, Damon and Affleck have said they “owe everything” to Williams.
Williams took the stage visibly shaking. He clutched his heart with joy and blew kisses to the cheering crowd.
“This might be the one time I’m speechless,” he said.
He began with the polite acceptance speech fodder — by giving thanks to the Academy and showering the other nominees with praise. But the tone quickly shifted, with Williams nailing joke after joke, transforming the expo center into a comedy club.
“Thank you, Ben and Matt, I still want to see some I.D.,” he deadpanned.
And, “Thank you, Gus Van Sant, [the director] for being so subtle you’re almost subliminal.”
The mood turned sentimental once again when he thanked his then-wife, Susan Schneider, saying that she “lights [his] soul on fire every morning.”
The most heart-wrenching moment was when Williams raised his gaze to the ceiling to thank his late father. He took a deep breath and broke into a smile.
“Most of all, I want to thank my father, up there, the man who when I said I wanted to be an actor, he said, ‘Wonderful, just have a back-up profession like welding.'”
Watching Williams transfix an audience in just over 60 seconds is pure magic.
Watch the full speech below.
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