Billy Crystal Remembers Robin Williams at 'Come Inside My Mind' Premiere

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for HBO
Billy Crystal (second from left) with the filmmakers of HBO's 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind'

"Rejoice in the fact that you witnessed some really amazing comedy, some brilliant receptions, and he broke your heart in the same way as an actor."

During his lifetime, Robin Williams was an iconic comedian, a talented actor and a beloved husband and father. But above all, Williams had a heart of gold. It was that specific characteristic of the late comic that was most often acknowledged by attendees at Wednesday night's Los Angeles premiere of HBO's documentary film Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind.

Hosted by actor Billy Crystal and Williams' former manager David Steinberg at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, the evening brought together some of the industry's most notable comedians and those who knew him best to preserve the lasting legacy that Williams left behind almost four years ago. 

Helmed by Emmy Award-winning director Marina Zenovich, the documentary takes a look into Williams' extraordinary life and career, supplemented with exclusive interviews with his closest friends and loved ones, including Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Pam Dawber, ex-wife Valerie Velardi and son Zak Williams. The insightful tribute touches upon all elements of Williams' life, finding a balance between the highs of his one-of-a-kind creative existence and the lows that troubled him, eventually leading to his tragic suicide in 2014.

"There's only one Robin Williams," Zenovich told The Hollywood Reporter. "I wanted to celebrate that and show what can happen when you have an incredible amount of talent and you get opportunities because you're so talented. I knew that people loved him, but I had no idea how much. And I wanted to try to show all that he was."

In exploring the love felt for Williams, the director noted the "privileged" yet difficult process of interviewing subjects for the film. Although evoking emotion was the director's main goal, she explained how each interview was different, telling THR that some felt the discussions were "therapeutic," while others chose against it.

"It was all about trust and getting [them] to open up," Zenovich said. "It just became a delicate balance of going through the highs and lows."

Of all the interviews, it seemed as though Crystal's stood out most to the director. "With Billy Crystal, I didn't know what to expect," Zenovich recalled of Williams' close friend. "It was very deep because I realized when I was interviewing him, he thought that he was gonna grow old with Robin and he wasn't. You could almost feel that and I was floored. He was reminiscing and recollecting so many different things."

For Crystal, however, the night seemed to serve as a reminder to find the silver lining in what turned out to be a tragic end to Williams' lively existence. In his introduction of the screening, the actor acknowledged how "the world is a darker and lonelier place for a lot of us, for a lot of reasons," but urged the audience to "rejoice in the fact that you had [Williams] for as long as you did. Rejoice in the fact that you witnessed some really amazing comedy, some brilliant receptions, and he broke your heart in the same way as an actor."

Crystal wasn't the only one who felt a sudden void from Williams' passing. Steinberg, who worked as Williams' manager for 35 years and also served as executive producer for the film, discussed the unexpected loss of his friend and the misconception that happy people don't struggle with their own demons.

"Robin Williams and I spoke every day for forty-something years," Steinberg said. "I think what goes on in someone's head, it's a closed room. You don't know, there are secrets."

Despite the bittersweet nature of the evening, many attendees at Wednesday night's premiere, including Bob Saget, Ray Romano, Brad Garrett, Rosanna Arquette and Paula Newsome, spent the night reminiscing on their memories with Williams, as well as discussing the need for more conversations around mental health.

"We've always had to have these conversations," explained Saget, who in 1994 lost a sister who dealt with her own mental health issues. "It's the unthinkable, it's the untalkable. Within reason of respecting their privacy, it needs to be talked about and it needs to be dealt with. There's a lot of people who need to be helped and people out there who want to help so we need to."

Of the film's premiere coming on the heels of the recent passings of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain — who both died by suicide — Zenovich added: "If this film can help anyone, I hope it does. People need to know there's no shame. It's easy for me to say that, but it's the more people talk about it. If this timing ended up working out for people to talk, then it's great."

And while there's no question that Williams' passing was a tragedy, it's undeniable that his talent, charisma and charm will live on forever.

"I think it'll be closure for a lot of people. A lot of people — most people who didn't even know him — felt so much pain in his loss," explained Saget. "We all miss him and we all feel it. He was funny, he was wonderful, he was a great actor, but he was such a good person with so much talent and there will never be another."

Added Steinberg: "The whole idea was to try and preserve Robin's legacy. He had a genius that was once in a lifetime and that's a combination of his head and his heart and who he was."

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres July 16 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.