A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of chatting to cinema’s Popeye, Robin Williams (the interview of which will run here in full shortly) about not only his throat-warping skills on George Miller’s “Happy Feet Two” – he plays dual characters again – but what films he’s considering lending his ‘face’ to next.
Though Williams said he’s been taking it a bit easier after “the surgery”, he confirmed there is a couple of projects he’s circling.
One of the projects, I later discovered, has an Australian connection. “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn” is penned by the same chap who gave us Aussie success story “Red Dog”, Daniel Taplitz.
I know a bit about this one. An old mate, talented filmmaker Richard Shepard (“The Matador”) was briefly attached to direct called it. ‘Shep’ is no longer directing the picture (and hasn’t been onboard for a year or two), and the new director hasn’t been announced, but the project – which has been in development for three years now – is gearing up again. And possibly with Williams in the lead role.
“Negotiations are currently underway”, we’re told, suggesting this could be Williams next project.
Landscape Entertainment and Overture Films have sparked Williams’ interest in playing a man who, slapped with a very progressive form of Cancer, has to decide what he wants to do in the last hour-and-a-half of his life.
Here’s a summary of the project that we’ve been emailed :
**** SPOILER ALERT ****
It is the day before Thanksgiving and HENRY ALTMANN is stuck in Brooklyn traffic while on his way to a meeting. His car is suddenly struck by a Taxi, which propels him into a fit a fury which he unleashes upon the TAXI DRIVER. The Driver is quietly upset about this outburst and vows revenge as he speeds off. Henry goes to the Brooklyn hospital where DOCTOR SHARON GILL is doing her daily rounds. She is covering for DOCTOR PAUL FIELDING, Henry’s usual doctor, and feeling quite emotional about the recent death of her cat.
After taking several scans of his brain, Sharon approaches Henry in the waiting room. Henry is already irate and angered further by the wait time he has experienced. He says he sees Dr. Fieldings normally because he has migraines; looking at his chart, Sharon reveals that he in fact has a brain aneurism and his outlook is not good – he is a ticking time bomb, and any rise in his blood pressure could make it worse. Henry erupts, throwing insults at Sharon and demanding that she tell him how long he has to live. She tries to dodge the question, but Henry is persistent. Sharon begins to panic and blurts out the first thing that comes to mind – ninety-two minutes. If this is the case, he will be dead by 4:32pm. Henry threatens that he will have her fired, and storms out of the hospital before she can check him in for more tests.
Sharon talks with DR. JORDAN REED who realizes the consequences of her actions – the way she treated Henry will surely get her fired and have her license revoked. Sharon reveals that she and Dr. Fieldings had an affair and that he promised he would leave his wife. However, he has taken the day off from work to spend time with his wife and her family, making it clear to Sharon that he will not be leaving any time soon. Sharon resolves to find Henry and put him into immediate care.
Henry arrives at Altmann, Altmann & Altmann, the family law firm, and storms into a meeting his brother AARON is conducting with several older clients. He tells the room that he has a client with only ninety-two minutes to live, and ask them what they would do with such time. After a few jokes are made, STEINMAN, the eldest of the group, says this person should go home, make love to his wife and die in her loving arms. Newly energized, Henry runs from the room, followed by a very confused Aaron. He says he is intent on finding his wife, BETH and his son, TOMMY. Aaron makes it clear that Henry has not been on good terms with his wife or son for a number of years now, fighting constantly with Beth and disapproving of Tommy’s decision to become a dancer. Henry is unaffected by his brother’s words, and leaves for his apartment.
Meanwhile, Sharon is talking with Jordan on her cell while in a cab trying to find Henry. Jordan says that a specialist has gone over Henry’s chart and it is true – Henry’s case is serious enough that he could potentially drop dead at any minute.
Henry calls JANE, his receptionist, while on his way to his apartment. He tells her to organize a get together for himself at Ben’s Diner in forty-five minutes. He wants to invite twenty-five random people from his past including ex-girlfriends and old teachers. Jane is overwhelmed, but starts making preparations. Henry then dials the Brooklyn Dancing Academy and tries to get a hold of Tommy; however Tommy refuses to accept the call.
Sharon arrives at Henry’s office where she tells Aaron of his brother’s diagnosis. Aaron reveals that Henry had a son, Peter, who died in a senseless accident, and that ever since, he has not been the same. Aaron and Sharon leave for Henry’s apartment.
Henry arrives home with a bouquet of flowers, only to find his wife Beth sitting on the couch with their neighbor, FRANK. Without hesitation, Henry professes his love for Beth and his desire for them to make love right then and there, hoping to
make up for his behavior over the past few years in just a few minutes. Beth is not taken by his words, calling his distant and unsupportive since the death of Peter and has fallen in love with Frank. The two have a fighting match, ending only when Beth throws Henry out of their house.
Henry calls Brooklyn Dance Academy again, and the song that is played while he is on hold sends him into a flashback. We see a younger Henry, dancing with his wife and son he receives the fateful news about his son, Peter. He still has no luck getting a hold of Tommy at work.
Henry arrives at Ben’s Diner for his gathering and finds only BIX FIELD, his oldest friend from high school. He is thankful that Henry contacted him in his hour of need, and uses this time to finally tell him how hurt he was when Henry stole his girlfriend. Henry is mad and leaves, resolving to find his son.
He buys a camcorder at a local store, and approaches a group of bums in a nearby alley. He finds someone willing to film his final words for him, and Henry launches into a declaration of his regrets. He speaks directly to Tommy, giving him his blessing and telling him he is proud of whatever he wants to be. He grows angry as he makes his declaration, and collapses.
Beth calls Tommy and finally gives him the bad news about his father. Meanwhile, Sharon is still wandering the streets looking for Henry, and has a flashback to a night she spent with Dr. Fielding. The two made love in an empty hospital room, at which point he asks Sharon if she could cover his shift while he spends Thanksgiving with his wife’s family. Sharon is ashamed of this memory, but distracted when she hears Henry’s voice – the groups of alley bums are watching the video he recorded. They tell Sharon that he headed towards the Brooklyn Bridge.
If the story sounds familiar it’s because it’s an English-language adaptation of a very funny, but also sweet Israeli film called “Mar Baum” by writer-director Assi Dayan.
Williams in a film that’s both sweet and silly without making one want to noose themselves by the end of the night? Perfect. In fact, I think it’s a terrific character and picture for the amiable actor.
Meanwhile Williams has the supporting role of a priest in the new Robert De Niro/Katherine Heigl comedy “The Wedding”.