PSU grad reflects on time spent with Robin Williams

Robin Williams stars in Portland filmmaker Douglas Soesbe's low-budget film, 'Boulevard'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Actor Robin Williams was famous for many movies, but he also wasn’t shy about his addiction struggles.

Douglas Soesbe (middle) poses with Robin Williams (left) and Roberto Aguire (right) on the set of "Boulevard" in Nashville. (Courtesy of Douglas Soesbe)
Douglas Soesbe (middle) poses with Robin Williams (left) and Roberto Aguire (right) on the set of “Boulevard” in Nashville. (Courtesy of Douglas Soesbe)

In 2006, he checked into a Newberg, Ore., rehab facility, but for those who worked closely with him, including filmmaker Douglas Soesbe – a Portland native, that’s not how Williams will be remembered.

“He was just a spectacular man, and I just can’t give words to how tragic this is,” said Soesbe, who grew up in Northeast Portland.

Soesbe shot the movie “Boulevard” with Williams last year. The low-budget film was shot in Nashville and was Soesbe’s first movie set for theaters.

“He would love to talk about the character,” said Soesbe. “He had such wonderful insight and just the nicest man you ever wanted to meet.”

Soesbe wrote the script a decade ago and spoke to KOIN 6 News about it from his Los Angeles home Monday evening. He moved there in the 1970s after graduating from Portland State University.

“Williams stuck to the script, and I was very flattered he never got off script,” said Soesbe.

Roberto Aguire (left) and Robin Williams (right) in a still from Douglas Soesbe 's low-budget film "Nashville," which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. (Courtesy of Douglas Soesbe)
Roberto Aguire (left) and Robin Williams (right) in a still from Douglas Soesbe ‘s low-budget film “Nashville,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. (Courtesy of Douglas Soesbe)

Beside his success, Williams also fought a cocaine addiction in the early ’80s. Five years ago, he was hospitalized with heart problems and put his work on hold but not for long. Recently, he returned to television on CBS’s “The Crazy Ones,” bringing his talents that will always leave audiences laughing.

Soesbe said “Boulevard” was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, but he’s waiting for a distributor before it can be released in theaters.

In addition to the Newberg facility, Williams also checked into the Hazeldon Treatment Center in Minnesota in July. He leaves behind his wife and three children. He was 63.

Authorities in California said they suspect Williams death was a suicide due to asphyxia.

Coping with suicide: local groups offer help, comfort

Locally, there are numerous resources available to those in need of help or support during difficult times:

  • Lines for Life – www.linesforlife.org
  • Suicide Lifeline – 800-273-TALK
  • Alcohol & Drug Helpline – 800-923-HELP
  • Military Helpline – 888-457-4838 or text MIL1 to 839836
  • Youthline – 877-968-8491 or text teen2teen to 839863
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