ACTOR Robin Williams has been found dead in what police said was a suspected suicide at his home in California.
Williams, 63, known for films such as Good Morning, Vietnam and Mrs Doubtfire, had been grappling with severe depression recently, according to his press representative.
In a statement his wife Susan Schneider said: "This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings.
"I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin's family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin's death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions."
Mara Buxbaum, Williams' press representative, said: "Robin Williams passed away this morning. He has been battling severe depression of late.
"This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time."
A Marin County Sheriff's Office statement said: "At this time, the Sheriff's Office Coroner Division suspects the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia, but a comprehensive investigation must be completed before a final determination is made."
It added that an investigation into the "cause, manner, and circumstances of the death is currently under way".
A forensic examination is expected to take place today, with toxicology tests to take place later.
His daughter Zelda Williams, who recently celebrated her 25th birthday, posted an excerpt from French poet and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery's El Principito on Twitter, which read: "You - you alone will have the stars as no one else has them... In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night ... You - only you - will have stars that can laugh."
She added: "I love you. I miss you. I'll try to keep looking up."
Police were called to Williams' home in the town of Tiburon at around 11.55am local time yesterday (7.55pm BST) after receiving a call that a man was unconscious and not breathing.
Emergency services including police and firefighters arrived on the scene five minutes later, but the actor was pronounced dead at 12.02pm, the sheriff's office said.
It added that Williams was last seen alive at his home, where he lived with Ms Schneider, at around 10pm on Sunday.
Williams shot to fame in the late 1970s as an alien in the American TV comedy series Mork & Mindy. But he won his Academy Award in a serious role, as the therapist in Good Will Hunting.
US president Barack Obama led tributes to the star as a host of Hollywood A-listers spoke of their shock at Williams' death.
He said: "Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind.
"He arrived in our lives as an alien - but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most - from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalised on our own streets.
"The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin's family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams."
Steven Spielberg, who worked with Williams on Hook, said: "Robin was a lightning storm of comic genius and our laughter was the thunder that sustained him. He was a pal and I can't believe he's gone."
Steve Martin, who appeared alongside Williams in a 1988 theatre production of Waiting for Godot, said: "I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul."
Williams' Good Will Hunting co-star Minnie Driver said: "My heart's broken. Robin was a beautiful, kind soul. Can't bear that he's gone. So incredibly sorry for his family."
Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres tweeted: "I can't believe the news about Robin Williams. He gave so much to so many people. I'm heartbroken."
Graham Norton, who had interviewed Williams on his BBC chat show, said: "Such sad news. My heart goes out to his family. The great Robin Williams."
Jonathan Ross, who had also interviewed the actor, said: "Robin Williams is gone. I loved him. Incredibly talented performer. Wonderfully sweet and generous person. Heartbreaking news. So sad.
"What a devastating loss."
Police are expected to release more information about his death at a press conference scheduled for 7pm British time today.
Kevin Spacey, who was in the 2009 film Shrink alongside Williams, tweeted: "Robin Williams made the world laugh & think. I will remember & honor that. A great man, artist and friend. I will miss him beyond measure."
Actress Mara Wilson, who played Williams' daughter in Mrs Doubtfire, said: "Very sad, very upset, very glad I did not have to hear about this through Twitter. Probably going to be taking some time off it for a while."
Robin Williams took on many characters during a long and versatile career.
He may have been best known for his fast-talking, funnyman roles, but he mesmerised in serious ones as well and was memorable well beyond the big screen: on television, on the comedy stage, even on Broadway.
Here are 10 of his most distinctive roles:
1. Good Will Hunting (1997)
A rare but welcome serious role for Williams, who played the stubborn yet empathetic therapist who was somehow able to help maths prodigy Will Hunting (Matt Damon) figure out how to handle his life. Won a supporting actor Oscar.
2. Mrs Doubtfire (1991)
Who couldn't love a bumbling father who dressed up as a portly nanny - with a latex mask, a wig and a Scottish accent - in order to spend time with his young children? (A sequel was in the works.)
3. Aladdin (1992)
Will it ever be possible to see a cartoon genie and not think of Williams? Remember him shooting out of that bottle: "Ten thousand years will give you SUCH a crick in the neck!"
4. Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Williams' fast-talking style was perfect for the role of a DJ on Armed Forces Radio during the Vietnam War. this was his first Oscar nomination.
5. One Hour Photo (2002)
Another serious role, and it was a creepy one. Williams played a photo counter worker at a huge suburban store who got a little too involved in the lives of his customers when he realised one of them was having an affair.
6. Dead Poets Society (1989)
Played an unconventional poetry teacher who taught his Vermont boarding school students to stand on their desks, think on their own, and "seize the day". (Second Oscar nomination.)
7. The Fisher King (1991)
Williams played a half-mad homeless man, convinced that the Holy Grail was sitting in the Fifth Avenue abode of a billionaire. (Third Oscar nomination).
8. Mork & Mindy (1978-1982)
Mork from Ork. Nanu, nanu. What more needs to be said? This TV series, a spin-off from Happy Days, is how many of us first learned of Williams' sublime nuttiness.
9. Moscow On The Hudson (1984)
Williams played a Russian - quite credibly - in this film about a comically lovable circus saxophonist, Vladimir, who defects while touring New York (turning himself in at Bloomingdale's, naturally).
10. Bengal Tiger At The Baghdad Zoo (2011)
Appearing on Broadway, Williams gave an admirably thoughtful performance in the role of a tiger - actually, the ghost of a dead tiger - locked up at the Baghdad Zoo at the time of the US invasion in 2003.
Do you have any memories of Robin Williams or would you like to post a tribute? Feel free to get in touch by commenting below or visiting our Facebook page or Twitter feed.
Robin Williams - A timeline
1951: Robin McLaurin Williams is born in Chicago, Illinois.
1974: He is discovered for the role of Mork on an episode of Happy Days, while performing in a nightclub.
1978: Makes his big breakthrough in TV series Mork & Mindy, as Mork. Marries his first wife Valerie Velardi in June.
1987: Gains his first Oscar nomination for his role as a DJ on Armed Forces Radio in Good Morning, Vietnam.
1988: Divorces from Velardi, the couple having had one child together.
1989: He is nominated for an Oscar for portraying an unconventional poetry teacher in Dead Poets Society. Marries his second wife Marsha Garces Williams.
1991: Williams wins a third Oscar nomination for depicting a homeless man in Fisher King. He later captures imaginations as Peter Pan, opposite Dustin Hoffman's Hook in the film of the same name.
1992: Voices the Genie in Disney classic Aladdin, reportedly ad-libbing most of his lines.
1993: Stars as Mrs Doubtfire, a dad who dressed up as a nanny, complete with a latex mask, a wig and a Scottish accent, in order to spend time with his young kids. A sequel was planned for 2015.
1995: Appears in cult-hit Jumanji.
1997: Wins an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Good Will Hunting. He is also voted funniest man alive by Entertainment Weekly.
2006: Takes on the role of Teddy Roosevelt in comedy Night at the Museum, opposite Ben Stiller.
2010: Divorces from second wife, having had two children together. Later, in an interview with the Guardian's Decca Aitkenhead, he speaks about how he had started drinking again in 2003, after 20 years of sobriety, and that he had had his aortic valve replaced in 2009. He admitts he is a workaholic.
2011: Marries Susan Schneider. Appears on Broadway in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, as the ghost of a dead tiger.
2014: The 63-year-old is found dead at his home in Tiburon, California, in what police call a suspected suicide.