Robin Williams Talks About His Best-Known Films
For a performer who was famous for acting (and reacting) in the moment, Robin Williams actually had a very thoughtful approach to his craft, one that frequently emerged in the numerous interviews he gave over the years. Here are Williams’ own memories about playing some of the most iconic roles in his filmography:
Role: That spinach-loving, Olive Oyl-rescuing sailor man.
Trivia Time: Popeye was Williams’ first big-screen leading man role after years as a stand-up and TV star.
Robin Reminisces: "Crazy-ass movie. Amazing people to work with. Literally, near the end of the movie … the studio had pooled all of the money, so all the special effects people left. It was Ed Wood the last weeks of the movie. Shelley Duvall was in a pond, basically, with an octopus with no internal mechanism, having to drape it over her body like a feather boa. I’m in the water, and I’m kind of like sitting there. And, eventually, Robert Evans, who is there, is kind of wandering around going, ‘How do we end the movie? How do we end the movie?’ And I joked, ‘We could walk on the water like Jesus.’ And he’s like, "That’s the way! That’s how we’ll end the movie! That’s how we’ll end the movie!’…you know, we’re there on Malta, which is a very small island in between Italy and North Africa, and it was some of the worst weather they had had in 60 years. So it was a pretty crazy experience. But! I got to work with Robert Altman and I’ll never forget that.”
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Role: Freewheeling radio DJ Adrian Cronauer, who wages a tough battle to maintain his enthusiastic zeal in the face of the harsh realities of the Vietnam War.
Trivia Time: The film won Williams the first of his four Oscar nominations. He eventually took home a statue for Good Will Hunting almost a decade later.
Robin Reminisces: "Until this role, the acting and the comedy have been pretty much separate on screen. [Director Barry Levinson] would say, ‘You don’t have to be funny here.’ In the past I used to think, ‘I’ll push it, I’ll make it funnier.’ [Psychotherapy] allowed me to show more vulnerability, and I think the camera can catch that. I think therapy has helped me to bring out a deeper level of comedy."
Dead Poets Society (1989)
Role: Everyone’s favorite English professor, John Keating.
Trivia Time: Keating’s immortal “Carpe diem” line sits at number 95 on the AFI’s list of the 100 best movie quotes.
Robin Reminisces: "It talks about something of the heart and of pursuing that which is a dream-and in some cases, to a tragic end. Originally, my character was supposed to have leukemia, which would have been Dead Poets Love Story. Then [director] Peter Weir said, ‘Let’s lose that. Focus on the boys.’ Lose the melodrama and it becomes much simpler and much better.”