Story by Jack Foley
ROBIN Williams may have entered his dark period as an actor, but the real-life funnyman has lost none of his wackiness away from the screen.
Spending time in his company is rather like stumbling, uninvited, into a stand-up comedy routine, albeit improvised, or entering some kind of alternate reality.
Journalists arrived at the Dorchester Hotel in London intending to quiz the star about his performance in Mark Romaneks creepy One Hour Photo, in which he plays a lonely obsessive who stalks a family; but were instead treated to a virtuoso performance of sheer breathless energy and lightning fast wit, taking in everything from frank social commentary to John Wayne impressions and pot-shots at President Bush (every day, he does something thats a comedy gift, he candidly confesses.).
Yet while the actor has managed to convert some of the biggest Williams sceptics
into taking him seriously once again, the criticisms which followed career
choices such as Patch Adams and Bicentennial Man obviously hit hard - even
though, publicly, he pokes fun at them.
When asked whether his roles in One Hour Photo, Insomnia and Death To Smoochy were deliberate choices, Williams is quick to say no - talking, instead, about the privilege of taking on such a role and of working with some acclaimed directors.
"They were so good and so strange, that I had to do them. I know they were not normally roles Id get offered, which was great.
"The chance to work with Chris Nolan, I mean after seeing Memento. I saw it with 12 people and everyone came out saying, [in stoned voice] what was that? I have to get a tattoo now, see movie again!
"And then I got to work with Ed Norton and Danny DeVito, which was great, and then when I read this movie, which was the first one, I thought this was so strange; and when I saw Mark Romaneks videos, then I had to do it.
"So will I continue to keep playing nasty characters? Well if they send
me one more, then probably, but if I keep doing that theyll start saying,
oh, another dark character, Mr Williams?' And Ill have to leave
the brown period and find something else, some other type of movie.
"But its been great to have the privilege to play these type of characters who are no longer bound by the laws of likeability. And when you start off, it also gives you kind of a surprise attack because people think, oh, its that nice man, you know?
"Even with Insomnia, people thought,
oh, he wouldnt do anything awful, and even if he did it wouldnt
be that bad, and then they realise, hes a prick! Hes a little
"But it helped the movie, in that way, because I think it kind of confused people, so that when it starts to take a turn, it is great for the mystery, and thats good."
Yet anyone thinking that Williams went down the method route in order to
get in touch with his dark side, should think again. The star doesnt
believe in it, opting instead to break out into the zany persona that has
become his hallmark in between takes.
"If you stay in method all the time, you can drive people crazy," he continued, after alluding to Al Pacinos desire to see him in nipple clips. "When we were acting and working, Id get very concentrated and then blow it off, because you have to, especially with One Hour Photo.
"Near the end, it was 18 Hour Photo, it was crazy the amount of work people were doing and if youre doing that method thing where, like, you must call me by my characters name, its like uh-ho; or stalking PAs on the way home, Im just following you, dont be afraid.
"We can do wild stuff and then be these dark, nasty, very contained characters and it really helps to have both."
this all means that Williams is planning a return to the type of sentimental
roles which earned him such scathing reviews remains to be seen, however,
for the actor confesses to being completely surprised by the level of abuse
which greeted the likes of Patch Adams.
"It was frightening. It got to the point where I would read reviews about other movies and they would attack me again.
"One reviewer said that the people who made this movie should
be put on the same desert island as the people who made Patch Adams, and then
drowned with Robin Williams and I was like, oh really, come on!
Someone must have had an awful experience with a clown, thats all I
Since completing work on the three dark movies, however, Williams has gone back to stage work and stand-up, details of which can be found in part two of Indielondon's special feature on One Hour Photo. (Click here).
Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2002
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to read about Robin Williams' views on the aftermath of September 11...
Click here for Indielondon's review of One Hour Photo...
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Click here to read Indielondon's review of Insomnia...