Robin Williams

The one movie role Robin Williams regretted: “I sounded like a killer whale farting in a wind tunnel”

There are a few actors over the years who have elevated themselves above the Hollywood humdrum to access a level of fame and adoration that simply cannot be compared. The likes of Nicolas Cage, Tom Hanks, Keanu Reeves and Robin Williams each climbed to fame in the late 20th century, partly thanks to a carefully curated persona that radiated kindness and humour.

Tragically passing away in 2014, Williams was a favourite of the silver screen for a number of years, shining in such movies as Disney’s Aladdin, the Oscar-winner Mrs. Doubtfire and the franchise-spinner Jumanji in the 1990s. Earning three Academy Award nominations in the same decade, Williams won his first and only Oscar in 1998 for the Gus Van Sant indie flick Good Will Hunting.

Back in 1980, however, when Williams was still trying to make his way in the industry, he made his debut starring role in the curious Robert Altman film Popeye. An adaptation of the cartoon of the same name, Popeye starred Williams as the title character, a spinach-chewing sailor and strongman who gets up to all sorts of hijinx in the seaside town of Sweethaven.

Speaking about the role in a former interview, Williams complained about how his character sounded, stating: “I had to dub that movie over twice…because people couldn’t understand what I was saying. I sounded like a killer whale farting in a wind tunnel”.

Starring beside Shelley Duvall and Donald Moffat, Williams’ role in the movie was highly criticised, and Popeye remains one of Altman’s worst-rated films, but this was in spite of its excellent set design, which remarkably remains standing to this very day in Malta. Jokingly, Williams nicknamed the set ‘Stalag Altman’ at the time, thanks to the elaborate and complex set taking a considerable time to construct.

Williams further elaborated on his time in the film in an interview in the book Robin by Dave Itzkoff, stating: “I also had that dream of getting up to thank the Academy. I thought, this is it, this is my ‘Superman,’ and it’s gonna go through the f*****’ roof! After the first day on Popeye, I thought, ‘Well, maybe this isn’t it,’ and I finally wound up going, ‘Oh, God, when is it going to be over?’”.

Take a look at the trailer for the movie below, experience one of Williams’s worst films, and consume a glimpse into the most bizarre releases of Altman’s career.

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