AWARD winning author Anne Fine last night paid tribute to tragic funnyman Robin Williams - who brought her character Mrs Doubtfire to life.

The Oscar-winning actor, who is believed to have taken his own life at his home in California, created a box office smash with his portrayal of a divorced dad who poses as a female nanny to spend time with his children.

Mrs Fine, who lives in Barnard Castle, County Durham, said: “I’m obviously as sorry as everyone else to hear of Robin William’s death.

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"I owe the man a great debt myself and I just think it’s an awful shame when somebody becomes so depressed that they cannot see any future.

The Northern Echo:
Robin Williams as Mrs Doubtfire

“I have a good deal of sympathy with that. It isn’t anything to do with what you’ve achieved or how rich you are. Depression is a grim, grim thing that hopefully gets lived through.

“He was a tremendously talented performer and he brought a great joy to a great number of people.”

She added: “In my case he made a very, very funny film in which he did highlight a serious problem, the problem that many children have after divorce.

“The fact that the children in the film were sympathetic meant that everybody could identify with them. After the film the subject of divorce was thrown open.”

The former Children's Laureate, never met Mr Williams although she was invited to, on two separate occasions.

“The first time I’d just moved back to Edinburgh after living in California for seven years, so I wasn’t able to go back to America to watch it being filmed.

“The second time I was invited to share (Michael) Parkinson’s sofa with him on his chat show, but I had previously arranged to give a talk to 200 children’s librarians.

“As a children’s author, they were my bread and butter, and it had been organised for 18 months so I wasn't going to miss it.

“I did however, arrive at my mother’s house in time to watch the show and he was so funny, so quick and so clever that even Parkinson didn’t get a word in edgeways.

“There’s no way I would have been able to keep up with him.”

Mrs Fine’s book, Madame Doubtfire, was published in 1987, before it was released as a film in 1993.

The author added that although she missed out on meeting the star, she will be forever grateful to him for bringing Mrs Doubtfire to life.