STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It may have taken his death to realize what a giant presence Robin Williams was in American culture. News of his apparent suicide spread yesterday.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And it brought to mind Robin Williams' movies that worked their way into our lives. As a young man dreaming of a career in broadcast, I listened to his lines as a DJ in "Good Morning, Vietnam" over and over again. It's 0600. What's the O stand for? Oh, my God, it's early.
INSKEEP: When I was married in New York one June, my brothers and friends walked around singing a Robin Williams line from "The Fisher King." I like New York in June. How about you?
GREENE: Aspiring writers could relate to the aspiring writer he played in "The World According To Garp."
INSKEEP: Anybody who reads a line of Walt Whitman - I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world - and has tended to yawp herself, may recall Williams' pushing a student to yawp in "Dead Poets Society."
GREENE: In "The Birdcage" in 1996, he played a gay man in a loving relationship at a time when gay characters were far less common and less accepted than they are today.
INSKEEP: And in "Good Will Hunting," he played a psychologist who focused on his patient's problems.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GOOD WILL HUNTING")
ROBIN WILLIAMS: (As Sean Maguire) People call these things imperfections, but they're not. Oh, that's the good stuff.
INSKEEP: A memorable insight in that screenplay by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. It is our craziness that makes us human.
GREENE: Robin Williams, of course, was a performer on stage as well as the screen. And many of his greatest roles featured characters who put on a performance - a teacher before class, a man on the radio, a gay man trying to pass as straight.
INSKEEP: The preliminary finding of suicide suggests there were layers beneath his performance that the world never saw. But that he carried off such a performance for so very long - that was the good stuff. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.