Every year I make a point of watching Hook. This year, I watched it in April. I’ve seen the movie countless times, but on this viewing something new happened—I cried.
I first saw Hook in theaters in 1991, and my answer to the question “What’s your favorite movie?” has remained the same ever since. Yes, I love this movie, but I also believe that the movie has shaped me as a person. Having first seen it at the impressionable age of three, it molded me into the chronically nostalgic, child-like, death-fearing person that I am today.
It’s peculiar, then, that I never cried during the film until this year. I cried at the moment, near the end of the film, when Granny Wendy says to Peter, “So, your adventures are over.” He responds, “Oh no. To live—to live would be an awfully big adventure.” (Cue emotional John Williams score and credit roll.) The reason that I’d finally cried during this movie, after 23 years of obsessively watching it, can’t be explained. But it haunts me to know now that its star—my favorite actor Robin Williams—would die a mere four months later.
A few months ago, I tried to express in words why I loved this movie, in an effort to write a “Last Movie I Loved” column for The Rumpus. I thought of the ways it influenced me and came up with this list:
But that’s as far as I got. I felt like I loved the movie too much to say why—any explanation that I came up with would not do my feelings justice. So I stopped. Now, it seems clear that part of the reason I love Hook is because it was the movie that made me fall in love with Robin. Watching it is like revisiting a memory of love-at-first-sight. And as I continued to watch Robin’s work, my adoration only grew.
When I was nine years old I had the pleasure of meeting Robin in the parking lot of Alpine Meadows, a ski resort near where I lived. I had just finishing skiing, and Robin had just finished snowboarding. My mom pointed him out and I didn’t believe it was him, as he was bundled up in snow gear and had a full beard.
Knowing how much I admired Robin, my mom said we had to talk to him.
“This is Chloe,” my Mom told Robin. “She adores you. She’s a creative girl—I think she’ll grow up to be a lot like you.”
Robin smiled. I was shy and slightly embarrassed by my mother’s audacious comment. I stared and said, “Are you sure this is Robin?”
The first time I thought about Robin dying was in 2011. It occurred to me in that same way you first realize that one day your parents will be dead, or your pet. I was taking a video profile class at journalism school. On the first day, my professor asked us, “If you could film a profile of anyone, who would you chose?” My answer was Robin Williams, of course. Later on in the class, the professor shared a video about a well-known scientist, and Robin appeared in an interview. I was so surprised to see him that I started to cry from joy. This strong emotional reaction to just seeing him on screen made me realize, and imagine, the sadness that I would feel when he died. But I didn’t anticipate it would happen so soon.
In Hook, Robin plays Peter Banning (formerly Peter Pan), a character who once lived in Neverland as a way to avoid death. Watching this as a child, that fear of death was something I instantly connected with, and is perhaps another reason why I love this movie. Thoughts of death haunt me— this was especially true when I was a young child, and thought about death more frequently—but haunt me so much that it’s almost comforting.
As a kid I would spend more time pausing to think about how I would feel once I died—contemplating the absence of life, that terrifying void. This habit has waned. On some level, I did this to spook myself, in the way that people enjoy watching scary movies, or looking at morbid imagery. But I also thought about death as a way to cope with the inevitable.
As I’ve aged, and have experienced more people in my life dying, I have become more accepting of death. And I know that when it happens for me—best case scenario—I will be ready. It’s devastating that Robin took his own life—that he was not only ready for death, but that it became, perhaps, a preferable alternative to living.
The last time I saw Robin was in February of 2013. He was a customer at the cafe I worked at in San Francisco. Upon seeing him, my heart fluttered and my mind freaked out. I asked if I could help him. He had already been helped. He had ordered an espresso.
I went over to another customer, who was equally excited, and asked her, “What do we do?” I thought, well, I could remind Robin of our run-in at Alpine. Or the time I hand-delivered a note to him requesting his presence at my Mrs. Doubtfire screening. But I would never seriously mention any of this to him. I adored him too much to speak to him. I answered my own question, “There’s nothing we can do.”
On August 11th, I was in my last day of an improv class. It was a bittersweet feeling, as something great was coming to an end—I have a true fondness for my improv teacher and fellow students and would miss this weekly class that had become part of my routine for the past eight weeks. The class took a ten-minute break, and, per usual, I looked at my phone. I saw that I had an unusual amount of text messages and missed calls. Friends asking, “Are you okay?” and “Chloe! Have you heard?”, and, finally, texts that revealed the news.
Stunned, I shouted “Oh my God,” and began to cry. My improv friends were kind and brought me tissues and water. My teacher asked if I wanted to leave early. I didn’t want to leave. Although the moment was surreal and disturbing all at once, I wanted to stay and improvise. And I’m sure Robin would approve.