Comedy genius Robin Williams was one of the world’s most beloved actors throughout his life, which was full of ups and downs, tears and laughter. Here are some hilarious facts about some of his most beloved films.
Good Morning Vietnam was the film that put Robin Williams on the map as a film actor, but it almost didn’t happen. After first being developed in 1979, the film was passed around for many years before it finally landed in Williams’ lap. After reading the script, he realized the movie would be the perfect platform for him to show the world what he was capable in terms of range.
36. Off the Cuff
In what would go on to become his trademark, Williams ad-libbed all of his on-air broadcasts for Good Morning Vietnam.
35. Not So Real, Real Life
The man his character was based on in Good Morning Vietnam—Adrian Cronauer—went on to say that only about 45% of the film was accurate, and if he would have said or done half the things Williams did in the film, he would have been immediately court-martialed.
34. A Film Full of Comedy Heroes
Absolutely Anything was the last film Williams would appear in. Released on the one year anniversary of his death in 2015, the comedy fulfilled a dream for Williams, as it was the first film to feature all of the surviving members of the legendary comedy group Monty Python since their 1983 film The Meaning of Life.
33. Final Time on Screen
While Absolutely Anything was Williams’ last film, only his voice was featured. The last movie he appeared in an onscreen role in was Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, where he reprised his fan-favorite role of President Teddy Roosevelt.
32. Mixing of Personalities
Out of all the films Williams was a part of and all of the directors he worked with, he considered Dead Poets Society to be among his favorites and the film’s director Peter Weir to be the best director he worked with. While shooting the movie, Weir would refer to Williams’ character John Keating as “Robin Keating,” as he wanted to coalesce Williams’ personality into the role he was playing.
31. International Fame
Williams was already a comedy icon by the time he did 1997’s Good Will Hunting, but his fame wasn’t necessarily international until after the film. After he won an Academy Award for his role in the movie, he then sent a miniature replica of his Oscar trophy to Peer Augustinski, his standard German voice dubber, with a note saying, “Thank you for making me famous in Germany.”
30. President of Comedy
It almost seems antithetical to his whole shtick, but Williams is so absurd, he is perfect for politics. He appeared as a President in three different films or film franchises throughout his career: as Theodore Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum films, as a fictionalized President in Man of the Year, and as Dwight D. Eisenhower in The Butler.
29. Adult to Children
Old Dogs was originally produced as a movie geared towards adults, and had an R-rating. However, after test screening went poorly, Disney decided to scrap the idea and cut the film down by 19 minutes, erased the adult-oriented jokes, and marketed the film towards children instead.
28. Delayed Release
Old Dogs was not Bernie Mac’s last movie to be filmed, but it was the last to be released, as the film’s release was delayed three separate times. The first was because of Mac’s early death, the second due to the death of John Travolta’s son, and the third from a health scare Williams went through.
27. Make a Wish
The Make-A-Wish Foundation was heavily involved in the filming of Patch Adams, and Williams and the entire cast made it a point to work and spend time with several sick children. These children would end up in the film as the kids Adams interacts with in the pediatric ward scenes.
26. Real Patch
The man who Patch Adams is based on shows up in the movie for a cameo. However, afterward, he stated he was not a fan of the film, and disliked the way the movie represented him.
25. Shave It
Williams was notoriously hairy. For the film One Hour Photo, he had to shave his arms, chest, and even his hands.
24. Drama Pieces
Although he was known for his comedic roles, in 2002 Williams switched things up and starred in two dark thrillers: Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia and the aforementioned One Hour Photo.
23. Farts Are Funny
Robin Williams ad-libbed the whole scene in Good Will Hunting where he describes his wife’s farts. That’s why Matt Damon is laughing so hard. Also, if you pay attention, you can notice the camera shake, perhaps because the cameraman is also laughing.
22. Class Clowns
During the filming of 1996’s Hamlet adaptation, both Williams and Billy Crystal were cast in the film. Uh-oh. The two funnymen were barred from being on set at the same time, as they were liable to crack up the cast at any moment and create unwarranted delays in production.
In order to prepare Williams for the role of Jack in the film Jack, director Francis Ford Coppola (yes, he directed Jack) gave Williams ten dollars to splurge at Toys “R” Us.
20. Taking From Life
Although it’s exaggerated in the film, Jack’s condition, Werner Syndrome, is real.
19. First and a Flop
Williams had become a comedy star, but he wasn’t able to use all his strength to prop up his first starring film. His debut movie was 1980’s Popeye, and though the film now has a cult status, this Robert Altman flick was a flop and a critical failure. Williams would go on to say that the movie has a plot if watched backward.
18. Sunk Costs
Throughout Popeye, sunken ships can be seen in the harbor. These ships were actual seafaring ships that were bought by the production and then sunk specifically for the film. Talk about sunk costs.
During the filming of Popeye, Williams’ Popeye accent was serious. So serious, in fact, that his muttering proved to be inaudible when the film was in editing. Williams had to go back in and re-dub his lines to this disaster of a movie.
16. Good Choice
For Popeye, Shelley Duvall was Altman’s first choice to play Olive Oyl, and though the producers wanted Gilda Radner for the role, Altman got his way. A good thing, too, as Duvall has said that while in grade school, her classmates would tease her by calling her Olive Oyl.
15. Two for 100
Not many actors have ever released two films in the same week, even fewer have released two successful films in the same week, and even fewer than that have reached the milestone of releasing two films in the same week that reached $100 million at the box office in the United States. Williams joined the elite company in 1996 with The Birdcage and Jumanji.
14. Robot Story
1999’s Bicentennial Man was the third and final collaboration between director Chris Columbus and Williams. Columbus and Williams had also worked together on Mrs. Doubtfire and Nine Months. A Mrs. Doubtfire sequel was also in the works in recent years, but was cancelled when Williams died.
13. Too Much Improvisation
Aladdin is considered as a classic for many reasons, but the main one is because of Williams’s brilliant performance as the Genie. Despite this, the Oscars rejected Aladdin for Best Adapted Screenplay because Robin Williams had improvised so much of his dialogue.
12. Don’t Need to Wish for Riches
Aladdin was such a hit, it became the first animated movie to ever gross $200 million, and only the 14th film in history to reach the achievement.
11. Stand-Up Genie
While Williams was the clear-cut number one choice for the Genie in Aladdin, the producers were nervous that they wouldn’t be able to land him for the role. In order to pitch him the project, they animated the Genie performing some bits from Williams’ previous stand-up routines, and screened it to him. Needless to say, he was quite impressed and gave an emphatic yes.
10. Feel Good Jokes
During the production of Aladdin, Steven Spielberg was filming his legendary Schindler’s List at the same time, and Williams would often speak to Spielberg and the film’s cast over the phone, cracking jokes in order to brighten up their days and provide them with an escape from the horror of the Holocaust.
Jokes aside, Williams was also working on two other films at the time, 1991’s Hook and 1992’s Toys. He would record the dialogue for his scenes in Aladdin during filming breaks from these two movies.
8. Dueling Films
Williams had a falling out with Disney after the release of Aladdin, as his film Toys was set to release just one month after it, and he asked Disney to keep his voice out of merchandising and limit the use of the Genie in ads to 25%. Disney ignored his request after initially agreeing on it, which led to a beef that went on for years.
7. Passing of the Sword
In order to get a genuine reaction from his cast of young actors, Steven Spielberg withheld the information of who the sword would be passed to at the end of Hook from almost the entire cast. Williams was the only person on set, besides Spielberg, who knew, and the reactions of the kids in the scene are real.
6. Scarier Than Thought
Jumanji was marketed as a family-friendly children’s film, but the movie is actually quite scary. Critic Roger Ebert criticized the film heavily for this, and even Williams did not allow his own kids to watch it.
5. No Zoo
Only a handful of states in the United States do not have any zoos, and coincidentally New Hampshire, the setting for Jumanji, is one of them.
4. Can’t Feel My Face
The famous scene of Mrs. Doubtfire where her face starts falling off was improvised, as the heat from the lighting of the scene accidentally started to melt the face off of Williams during filming. He just ran with it, giving us comedy cold.
3. Mock Dock
During the filming of Mrs. Doubtfire, director Chris Columbus used up to three cameras at a time in order to not miss any of Williams’ antics. Columbus’s philosophy during filming was that he was making a documentary and that Williams was his subject, so the actor was given free range to do as he pleased while cameras were rolling.
2. Change It Up
For The Birdcage, Williams was originally cast as the flamboyant Albert, however, after consideration, he asked to be recast as Armand, as he wanted a change of pace from always playing the crazier characters.
1. Going to Bat
After his death, one of his Mrs. Doubtfire co-stars revealed a damning letter Williams wrote, which was addressed to her school principal. Lisa Jakub, who played Lydia Hillard, was expelled from her school after she spent too long on the set of Mrs. Doubtfire, and Williams reacted by sending an amazing and critical missive to the school’s administrator. In it, he wrote that “a student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” and asked him to reconsider his policy. What a class act.
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