Robin Williams

The story of how Robin Williams approached working with Al Pacino

Sorely missed eight years after his passing, Robin Williams was the pinnacle of charisma and star power. His untouchable improvisation and stage presence in both stand-up and films has earned him the title of one of the greatest comedians of all time. With his comedy career spanning five decades, Williams began as a stand-up in San Francisco during the 1970s and eventually graduated to film.

Williams is thought of as a favourite uncle figure through his comedic performances. His most beloved roles include the eccentric Genie in Aladdin, a committed father in Mrs Doubtfire, and a grown-up Peter Pan in Hook. He also showed skill in easily transitioning to more dramatic roles, such as a stalker in One Hour Photo and a therapist in Good Will Hunting. Famously, his performance as John Keating in Dead Poets Society gave film culture one of its most powerful emotional scenes in “O captain, my captain”.

There are numerous stories of Williams’ unique humour and compassion during his eventful life and career. There’s the time he cheered up Christopher Reeves following his accident by dressing up as a doctor. There’s also the time he spoke to a child fan who was too shy to approach him through a hand-made puppet at a cafe. Notably, even Spielberg would call him during filming breaks of Schindler’s List to cheer the cast up.

Actors and directors the Good Morning Vietnam star worked alongside have shared heartwarming or hilarious stories about their time with Williams. His respective shift from comedy to drama and back allowed him to work with various genre-specific actors — and of them the great Al Pacino, known for his terrific performances in intense crime features, who starred alongside Williams in Insomnia.

Insomnia, released in 2002 and directed by Christopher Nolan, offered an excellent example of Nolan’s love for psychological and epistemological stories, and the film is rooted in studies of the human mind and criminal acts. Two Los Angeles homicide detectives are dispatched to a northern town where the sun doesn’t set to investigate the methodical murder of a local teen.

Despite the film’s content and Pacino’s serious film persona, Williams was unapologetically himself. The actor shared how he brought his magnetic and on-the-spot energy behind the scenes, referencing Pacino specifically on how their first day went. “My first day working with Al… he does this Method thing where before every take he would roar like a lion,” he shared.

The comedian’s response to this was bizarre yet hilarious: “so my first day working with him, I bleated like a goat”. This caused Pacino to look around, confused, asking, “what was that?!”. Williams cheerily replied: “It’s me, Al. It’s Robin. I was just kidding”.

This testifies to both actors’ personalities and work. The image of the two as separate extremes coming together makes for some timeless comedy. Williams summarises the comical interaction: “It was kind of nice to just go ‘I’m here. I understand. I’m just playing’”.

Robin Williams Kicks Off the AFI Life Achievement Award For Al Pacino

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button