For near forty years now, Robin Williams has been splitting sides and busting guts with his wild funny drink-spilling blend of humour. From attempting to get Pam Dawber’s face to morph from straight to sunny on TV’s “Mork & Mindy” (the character of Mork from Ork, of course, originating on an episode of “Happy Days”) and later entertaining audiences with his wildman behaviour in the likes of “The World According to Garp”, “Good Morning Vietnam”, “Mrs Doubtfire”, “The Birdcage” and “Night at the Museum” the comedian, now 60, has been going full-throttle pretty much since graduating from Julliard. As the amiable actor tells CLINT MORRIS Williams has been forced to rest and take it a bit easier in recent years, due to heart surgery, but he did get back on his ‘Happy Feet’ for friend and filmmaker George Miller.
In “Happy Feet 2”, Williams lends his lungs to two outlandish penguins, Ramon and Lovelace and says both took direction well.
I’ve heard you’re not too keen on sequels but here you are giving us more talking, singing penguins. Why ”Happy Feet Two” and why not ”Mrs Doubtfire 2”?
They never can write it.
What, the sequel?
Yes. They [Bonnie Hunt was on writing duties] keep trying and it doesn’t work, ’cause at the end of the first one they revealed who she was – to the world. But also, how do you top the first one ? I’d come back and be Mrs Doubtfire for five minutes and then I’d end up transitioning into some Russian au pair. ”Come ze children”. So far they can’t crack it.
Whereas George Miller had cracked the story for ”Happy Feet Two”?
Easy decision. I read it and I was like ‘this is great’ and then it’s the same people again and then you add to that Hank Azaria, and Sofia Vergara and go ‘okay, not a bad day, my friend’.
So you’re back voicing two characters in ”Happy Feet Two”?
Yep, and in the first movie there was initially supposed to be the older Scottish penguin, too. And then it sounded too much like Mrs. Doubtfire on steroids. So they went ‘lose that and just stick with two’. So it’s been fun to do the two of them. It’s a blast to have this little machito penguin and then have the Barry White penguin. Which is always fun to get into that mode.
You’re a man of a million voices. Do you remember your own voice?
I do remember it, yes. [Laughs] Comes back to me. I’m on right now, it’s coming back now. This is my… ”This is your what”? Stop it. Stop it. ”Tell them who you are”. ”Tell me precious”.
You’re scaring me, Robin..
I can talk like… this is me. This voice is me. I think.
So I’m going to go out on a limb and say the ”Good Will Hunting” character you play, that soft-spoken psychiatrist, is the real Robin. Is that fair to say?
Yeah. That’s very close to the real me.
And speaking of ”Good Will Hunting”, Matt Damon does a voice in ”Happy Feet Two”. Now, I imagine you and Matt didn’t actually work together in the same studio? So no big reunion hugs or anything?
We couldn’t because the krill ID’d him. [laughter] It’d be over quick. [laughter]
Tell me, do you take direction or five it?
I take it.
And George Miller as a director?
It’s wonderful because he’s like a great coach. He just gives you little things. It’s like in the beginning of the first hour or two, I struggled to get the voice back, so I had to find it again. But then, the great news is George will let you riff and then pick the best stuff. You know when he’s going to do that, so it’s… You don’t feel afraid to try stuff, which is wonderful.
George is best known for the ”Mad Max” movies. He’s about to shoot ”Mad Max 4 Fury Road”. You’d make a good villain, I’m just putting it out there. You were so good in ”Insomnia”!
He has Tom Hardy as Max. Brilliant. His movie Bronson, have you seen?. What a movie. He’s something. But thank you, sir. It’s so much fun to play a character like that, to explore behaviour you’d do prison time for. [Insomnia] and also One Hour Photo are probably the things that creeped the people the most. It’s great to do those characters.
Do you pick all your projects by following the same bullet point criteria you measured “Happy Feet 2” against?
Yeah, just you’re looking for interesting people and interesting projects and to try and find those combinations. And even like working with a friend like Bobcat Goldthwait on World’s Greatest Dad.
Which is a terrific film.
I’m just looking for interesting stuff. Kind of taking my time, not rushing. That’s been more important now after the heart surgery and everything.
There’s a couple of things that I’m just looking at, but I have to see if they happen, you know, sometimes you don’t want to talk about them in case like… If it doesn’t happen… ”So what happened? What happened?”
You jinxed me journo bastard!
You talked about it, you bastard! [Laughs]
Was this just a daydream I had as a youth or was there a ”Good Morning Vietnam” sequel in the works at one point? And was it called… ”Good Morning Chicago”?
Oh yeah, they were trying to write it.
They were? So, your character at age 8 taking pot shots about Elliot Ness in the prohibition area on a ham radio?
… That was actually real. It was based around the democratic convention in Chicago. And part of it worked and part of it didn’t work. It’s always odd, because it would be him, you know, doing this thing, and then it’s dealing with kind of the politics of revolt in Chicago at the time. So they wrote it but it didn’t all work. And it was also finding someone to, say ‘okay, back it’. But it was almost there. Great idea. Thanks for reminding me. That was like, wow! I remember that. It’s the same thing with Birdcage, they’re trying to figure the right one to talk about that. We’ll see what happens.
I overheard you talking about your phone before, what do you think of the technology used in ”Happy Feet Two”? the 3D? Animation and 3D movies combined look beautiful in my opinion.
That it does. But you really do have to make it to a point where it doesn’t give people, like, vertigo. It’s crazy.
Speaking of…you said at the premiere some of the kids in the audience were probably sitting there thinking “Who IS that crazy guy!?” My daughter asked after you’d left…
“Who’s that? He’s awfully hairy!” [Laughs]
Exactly! “Who is that that loud guy, Dad!?”.
“Who is that Loud guy!? Why is he so loud? He’s frightening me!”
I had to remind her of your fine work in the beloved ode to the afterlife ”What Dreams May Come”. She’s familiar now.
Oh, God, you didn’t show her that! [Laughs] Sleep well, children!
No. I stopped her at ”Night Listener”. Thanks for chatting to us. It really is a great movie “Happy Feet Two” – the little one and I both enjoyed it. If you can get a 4-year-old, it’s a winner.
That’s it! That’s true! Thank you Clint. It was real nice to meet you, sir!
“Happy Feet Two” is in cinemas Boxing Day