"This might be the one time I'm speechless."
That's how Robin Williams opened his Oscar speech in 1998. A three-time Best Actor nominee (for Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poets Society and The Fisher King), Williams won the Best Supporting Actor statuette for his richly textured turn as Matt Damon's tough-love therapist Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting.
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After giving bear hugs to baby-faced Damon and Ben Affleck, Williams — the rarest of versatile performers who conquered stand-up, comedy, drama and everything in between — delivered a 65-second speech that was the man, and his career, in a nutshell: funny, heartfelt, irreverent, moving and irrepressibly joyful.
"Thank you so much for this incredible honor. Thank you for putting me in a category with these four extraordinary men," he said, referring to nominees Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), Anthony Hopkins (Amistad), Greg Kinnear (As Good as It Gets) and Burt Reynolds (Boogie Nights). "Thank you, Ben and Matt. I still want to see some ID."
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He dubbed South Bostonians "a can of corn" and shouted-out Oscar campaign shark Harvey Weinstein ("Mispucha Weinstein" — Yiddish for "family") before closing with loving tributes to his then-wife Marsha and his late father.
"I want to thank Marsha for being the woman who lights my soul on fire every morning. God bless you," he said. "And most of all, I want to thank my father, up there — the man who, when I said I wanted to be an actor, he said, 'Wonderful, just have a backup profession like welding.' Thank you. God bless you."
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After his death Monday at age 63, the most poignant parts of Williams' speech may be the bookends. Before he even reached the stage, Billy Crystal, his close friend and that year's Oscar host, walked out and proudly beamed as he watched his pal soak in the rapturous applause. When he finished his speech, they hugged it out, and the newly minted Oscar winner, in quintessential Robin form, hammed it up as he exited stage left.
Watch Williams' speech below:
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