'Mrs. Doubtfire' cast remembers Robin Williams's brilliance — and his candor about drugs and depression

Pierce Brosnan will never forget the first time he met Robin Williams on the set of Mrs. Doubtfire. In an NBC News interview for the 25th anniversary of the beloved comedy, Brosnan joined his onscreen stepchildren Lisa Jakub, Matthew Lawrence and Mara Wilson to share memories of working with Williams, who died in 2014. Brosnan, who played Sally Field’s boyfriend, Stu (and Wiliams’s onscreen rival for her affections), joked that he met Mrs. Doubtfire before he met Robin.

“There was Robin in the makeup trailer. He had a Hawaiian shirt on, big hairy arms, cargo pants, big hairy legs, but he had the head of Mrs. Doubtfire. It was so bizarre!” Pierce said, before launching into an impression of Robin in character: “Oh, hello, Pierce! Oh, you look so handsome! Oooh, give us a kiss! Don’t smudge me.”

In Chris Columbus’s film, Williams plays a deadbeat father of three whose wife (Field) has filed for divorce. In order to spend time with his children, his character disguises himself as an elderly female nanny. Naturally, hijinks ensue. And according to the cast, the hilarity onscreen was just a reflection of how Williams constantly cracked them up on set. Wilson, who was 5 when she made the film, recalled Williams making hand puppets to entertain her. Lawrence said that Williams once took him for a walk in full Mrs. Doubtfire makeup, striking up conversations with unsuspecting strangers. But it was on camera that his brilliance really shined through.

“We’d do a lot of takes — ‘OK, take 25!’ — and Robin would be different every time,” Wilson said.

Brosnan remembered that during the film’s climactic dinner scene, Williams improvised an R-rated monologue to make his co-star appear appropriately shocked. “You were all dismissed when they came to do the close-ups!” he told his co-stars, who were children at the time. “And it was on my close-up — he just unleashed the most bluest, the craziest innuendos about Sally’s character.”

In addition to praising Williams’s incomparable comedic skill, the cast members all remembered him being an excellent listener, whose honesty and openness had a profound influence on their lives.

From left, Pierce Brosnan, Matthew Lawrence, Sally Field, Mara Wilson, Lisa Jakub and Robin Williams in <i>Mrs. Doubtfire.</i> (Photo: 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection)
From left, Pierce Brosnan, Matthew Lawrence, Sally Field, Mara Wilson, Lisa Jakub and Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire. (Photo: 20th Century Fox/Everett Collection)

“Robin … was like a guiding force,” said Lawrence. “Like he would just, all of a sudden out of the blue like, look over to me like, ‘By the way, don’t do drugs! Really messed up my brain! I’m serious. Do not do them.’ I was like, ‘OK!’ That stuck with me. And that helped me with my teen years and my 20s, when I was going out in L.A.”

“One of the most powerful things for me about working with him is that he was very open and honest with me talking about his issues with addiction and depression, and that was so powerful to me at 14,” said Jakub, who has written a book about her own mental health struggles. “I have struggled with anxiety my whole life, and the fact that he was so honest about those things had a major impact on me. … We needed that 25 years ago, and we still need it now.”

Watch interview highlights above, or view the extended version at Today.com.

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