For many years, Robin Williams was easily among the most beloved stars of his generation. The actor shifted from comedy to drama and adult-oriented to family-friendly with ease. So it’s no wonder his legacy continues on years after his death. Even some of his most popular works — such as 1995’s Jumanji — have re-entered the cultural zeitgeist in the past few years. And when he won his Academy Award in 1998, Williams’ acceptance speech was just as heartfelt and memorable as fans might expect, particularly when the actor thanked his late father.
Robin Williams was already an acclaimed dramatic actor
All throughout the 1997-1998 Oscar season, Williams seemed like he could be heading toward his first Academy Award win. While he didn’t win the Golden Globe Award that year, Williams was a mainstay in critics’ picks and did take home the Screen Actors Guild Award for his work in Good Will Hunting. But until he was triumphantly grasping his Oscar onstage, the race could have taken many different turns.
After all, Williams faced tough competition at the Oscars. Robert Forster, Anthony Hopkins, Greg Kinnear, and Burt Reynolds all gave widely acclaimed performances that year. Besides, Williams had already earned three previous Academy Award nominations. And he had lost for Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, and The Fisher King. Who could know that his Good Will Hunting nod would be the one to secure him an Oscar win at last?
The actor revealed his father’s hilarious advice about Hollywood
Judging by his reaction, Williams certainly didn’t. Taking to the stage, an overwhelmed Williams hugged his Good Will Hunting screenwriters/co-stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Once he emerged, the famously high-energy Williams claimed the milestone “might be the one time [he’s] speechless.” Williams overcame the shock, thanking the movie’s cast and crew, his fellow nominees, and then-wife Marcia. He closed with a tribute to his father.
“Most of all, I want to thank my father up there,” Williams said at the 1998 Academy Awards. “When I said I wanted to be an actor, he said, ‘Wonderful. Just have a back-up profession like welding.’”
Robert Williams died in 1987, and his son’s tribute — while hilarious — also is a testament to the support the actor had early on in life. Considering the cheers in the room at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Williams likely felt a similar swell of love and support when he claimed his Oscar. In particular the presence of longtime friend Billy Crystal — who hosted the Academy Awards that year — made Williams’ Oscar win an unforgettable moment.
Robin Williams continues to inspire and entertain fans
Williams himself died in 2014. But his legacy of laughter and joy continues to inspiration generations of fans. From his star-making work on TV’s Mork & Mindy to his dark, sinister turns later on, Williams truly left behind something for everyone. And most fans agree Good Will Hunting is among the best work of his career.
The actor’s final live-action role was in the posthumously released 2014 hit Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. Along with Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Happy Feet, that franchise accounts for some of Williams’ biggest hits, according to The-Numbers.com. Good Will Hunting is currently streaming on HBO Max.