6 Ways Robin Williams Touched the Greater Boston Community

Robin Williams, left, starred in the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting’’ as Sean McGuire, the college professor/therapist who shares his life experience with Will Hunting, played by Matt Damon, right.
Robin Williams, left, starred in the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting’’ as Sean McGuire, the college professor/therapist who shares his life experience with Will Hunting, played by Matt Damon, right. –Miramax Films

Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams died, leaving behind a legacy of work that has touched communities across the world. Thanks to films like “Good Will Hunting,’’ interactions with local writers, and interviews with local journalists, Williams left an impression on the Boston community which won’t soon be forgotten.

1. ‘Good Will Hunting’

Williams won an Academy Awards for his portrayal of rough-edged, Boston community college therapist Sean Maguire in “Good Will Hunting’’ (1997). The role was a departure from his comedic portrayals in films like “Mrs. Doubtfire’’ (1993) and “Flubber’’ (1997), showcasing a raw, intimate side of Williams which helped in turn to earn Williams a 1998 Screen Actors Guild Award (Outstanding Supporting Actor) and a 1998 Golden Globe nomination (Best Performance by a Supporting Actor).


When Williams accepted the Academy Award from Mira Sorvino at the Billy Crystal-hosted awards show, he shouted out the folks of South Boston, saying “I want to thank the cast and crew, especially the people of South Boston — you’re a can of corn. You’re the best.’’

2. CBS Boston’s Paula Ebben 2013 Interview

In 2013, CBS Boston anchor Paula Ebben interviewed Williams via satellite regarding his then-upcoming sitcom “The Crazy Ones.’’ Ebben opened the exchange by referencing Williams’ mark on Boston in “Good Will Hunting,’’ which he graciously replied to by saying, “I had an amazing — I had a great time doing ‘Good Will Hunting’ in Boston; in Southie. People in Southie were real sweet to me. Thank you. Especially the guys at the L Street Tavern.’’

She later went on to illuminate Williams’ novel career, which amassed fans of several generations. “There’s no one like you. I was so excited to be able to speak to you today. I love you, my kids love you, from everything, from ‘Mork & Mindy’ up to the present,’’ Ebben gushed. She then asked what made him return to television for “The Crazy Ones,’’ and he replied it was a meeting with the series’ creator, David E. Kelley, that sealed the deal.


“Basically what brought me back was meeting with David Kelley and pitching the idea of an ad executive who is really trying to stay topical and but yet still thinking ‘does he still have game.’’’

3. Globe Reporter Peter Abraham Shares Elevator with Williams

After hearing the tragic news of Williams’ passing, Boston Globe sports reporter Peter Abraham recalled an encounter where he shared an elevator with Williams and comedian Billy Crystal following a Mets game.

“I stood there silently, not wanting to be a pest. Crystal looked at the press credential hanging around my neck and said, ‘You work in Westchester? I have family there. How do you like covering the Yankees?,’’’ Abraham recalled in a short Aug. 11 post.

After exchanging niceties and complementing Crystal on his work, Abraham writes, “Williams said in a serious tone, ‘What, you don’t like my [expletive] work?’ which was, characteristically, a joke. Williams responded to a horrified Abraham with “Got you sport,’’ before he and Crystal walked off in laughter.

Read Abraham’s full recount of the event on BostonGlobe.com.

4. ‘Dead Poets Society’

Set in a fictional New England town, 1989’s “Dead Poets Society’’ featured one of Williams’ most timeless monologues. Although it doesn’t link directly to Hub, the Delaware-filmed drama which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, is eerily reminiscent of autumnal Greater Boston.

Williams was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as John Keating, a prep school teacher who educated through the words of Walt Whitman and other “dead poets.’’ The aforementioned speech revolved around the Latin phrase, “Carpe diem,’’ which is both poignant and haunting following Williams’ untimely death.


In a scene from the film a student recites several lines from Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time,’’ prompting Williams to ask his students why the poet chose the phrase, “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.’’ After one replies that Herrick must have been in a hurry, Williams responds “No. Ding. Because we are food for worms, lads. Because believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold, and die,’’ and as he leaned in while the boys in his class looked at a photo of the school’s alumni, he whispered to the group to “Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.’’

5. David E. Kelley On Williams’ Role in ‘The Crazy Ones’

David E. Kelley, a former Boston lawyer and the mind behind Boston-based dramas “Ally McBeal’’ and “Boston Public,’’ spoke candidly at a TCA panel year ago about Williams’s role as Simon Roberts in “The Crazy Ones.’’

In a piece about the event, The Huffington Post cited Kelley, who said Williams “says my words perfectly and then he uses his. He’s pretty much word perfect. He likes the box, he manages inside the box, and then we give him a few takes to break out of it. What you have in the end is the architecture of mainly the scripts, but you’ve got ad libs and the spontaneity.’’

Kelley later admitted that he and Williams “connected over who the character was, not just with his comedic sensibilities, but his personal flaws and professional insecurities.’’

6. Nerlens Noel Most Recent Watched Movie: ‘Jumanji’

The same day that Williams was found dead, Malden-bred 76ers rookie Nerlens Noel was interviewed by TMZ. When asked to name the most recent film to make him cry, Noel fumbled, but eventually revealed he had watched William’s family-adventure film, “Jumanji,’’ “the other day.’’

Do you have a specific memory of Robin Williams’ career that you’d like to share? Feel free to do so in the comments below.