The death of actor and comedian Robin Williams on Monday was sudden and shocking to fans and friends alike.

The Academy Award winner and comic supernova whose explosions of pop culture riffs and impressions dazzled audiences for decades and made him a gleamy-eyed laureate for the Information Age, died from an apparent suicide. He was 63.

One of his first costars, the Cuban-Venezuelan actress Maria Conchita Alonso who appeared with him in 1984's "Moscow on the Hudson," tweeted out an appreciation to him in Spanish. "Sweet. Genius. Gentle. Timid. Humble. Respectful. Star. Rest in peace."

 

Williams was pronounced dead at his home in California, according to the sheriff’s office in Marin County, north of San Francisco. A preliminary investigation shows the cause of death to be a suicide due to asphyxia.

“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,” said Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider. “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.”

Williams had been battling severe depression recently, said Mara Buxbaum, his press representative.

Some of Hollywood’s greatest were quick to offer the condolences and prayers to his family via Twitter.

Michelle Rodriguez tweeted: “Robin Williams named etched throughout my mind made me cry laugh and think you’ll be missed/ I hope it wasn’t a hope lost situation cause if it was a part of me just died… Sometimes people symbolize more than what they think they are.”

Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan tweeted, “Can’t believe news about Robin Williams. I’m heartbroken! Praying for his family, loved ones, fans worldwide & peace for his soul… RIP.”

Zoe Saldana sent out a message saying, “No words can express the sadness I feel for this tragic loss. My prayers are with the Williams family. RIP Robin Williams. -ZS”

“Glee’s” Harry Shum Jr. wrote, “I was partially raised by Robin Williams films. I would come home to watch 'Mrs. Doubtfire' everyday after school as I found comfort in the soft spoken Euphegenia Doubtfire,  dear. My first speech in junior high was an excerpt from 'Good Morning Vietnam' that I carry with me to this day. I'm gutted that he is gone. May he RIP as his genius & the gifts he has given us will live forever. Thank you Robin Williams.”

Mario Lopez posted a picture on Instagram: “Had the pleasure of interviewing Robin Williams recently and was absolutely the nicest & funniest guy.”

George Lopez wrote, “Robin Williams - Vaya Con Dios my friend. I love you.”

Naya Rivera tweeted, “We lost a great light. Rest peacefully, Robin Williams.”

Arturo Sandoval wrote on Twitter: “Robin Williams is gone? I can't believe it.
God, why him? why not those ones that make us cry? people like him should live eternally. RIP RW."

From his breakthrough in the late 1970s as the alien Mork from Ork in the hit TV show, "Mork and Mindy," through his standup act and such films as "Good Morning, Vietnam," the short, barrel-chested Williams ranted and shouted as if just sprung from solitary confinement. Loud, fast, manic, he parodied everyone from John Wayne to Keith Richards.

During his career, he played a Russian immigrant to New York City in "Moscow on the Hudson," donned possibly the worst drag outfit in the history of Hollywood for "Mrs. Doubtfire," and bounced off the frame walls a cartoon genie in "Aladdin." 

Possibly because he had to rein in his manic side, his occasional dramatic roles were for the most part intense, as with his creepy photo lab worker in "One Hour Photo" and the charismatic boarding school teacher in "Dead Poets Society." He won an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role playing a troubled, but good-natured psychologist the 1997 film "Good Will Hunting."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.