Writing in his memoir Did I Ever Tell You This?, the Jurassic Park star recalled working with the late actor on the 1999 film Bicentenial Man and the “great chats” they would have during filming.
Describing Williams as “irresistibly, outrageously, irrepressibly, gigantically funny”, Neill wrote (via People): “We would talk about this and that, sometimes even about the work we were about to do.”
Neill said that, despite Williams being able to switch his funny side “on”, he could “sense the dark space inside” the Good Will Hunting star.
Neill said that Williams was also “the saddest person I ever met” who appeared to be “inconsolably solitary, and deeply depressed”.
“He had fame, he was rich, people loved him, great kids – the world was his oyster,” Neil wrote. “And yet I felt more sorry for him than I can express. He was the loneliest man on a lonely planet.”
Williams died by suicide in 2014 aged 63. He had been recently misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, with an autopsy revealing he was unknowingly living with Lewy body dementia.
Last week, ahead of his memoir’s release, Neill shared the news that he is being treated for stage-three blood cancer.
In an interview accompanying the book, the 75-year-old said that he’d never intended to write about his life, but found it to be a “lifesaver” when he was unable to work during treatment.
“I realised it was actually sort of giving me a reason to live and I would go to bed thinking, I’ll write about that tomorrow… that will entertain me,” he said. “It was a lifesaver really, because I couldn’t have gone through that with nothing to do.
“I’m not afraid to die, but it would annoy me,” he said. “Because I’d really like another decade or two, you know? We’ve built all these lovely terraces, we’ve got these olive trees and cypresses, and I want to be around to see it all mature. And I’ve got my lovely little grandchildren. I want to see them get big. But as for the dying? I couldn’t care less.”
Neill is currently cancer-free, but will be on chemotherapy medication for the rest of his life.
If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, the Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.
If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.