Robin Williams ‘magical’ in ‘Mrs. Doubtfire,’ director says



Robin Williams — with a face full of whipped cream, aging prosthetics and a sing-song voice — charmed audiences with “Mrs. Doubtfire” in 1993. Thirty years after the movie’s release, director Chris Columbus said there’s much more to see of the late actor’s work.

Columbus has 972 boxes of footage — or “2 million feet of film” — from Williams’ time on “Mrs. Doubtfire,” he told Business Insider. The footage, which documented Williams’ improvisational chops, is being considered as documentary material.

“Yeah, we are talking about [a documentary] and trying to get it done,” Columbus said. “We want to show Robin’s process. There is something special and magical about how he went about his work and I think it would be fun to delve into it.”

“Mrs. Doubtfire” starred Williams as Daniel Hillard, a divorced and unemployed father desperate to spend more time with his three children. After seeing his ex-wife Miranda’s (Sally Field) listing for a housekeeper, Daniel enlists the help of his brother to transform into Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, a prim and proper, nearly perfect British nanny.

Columbus reflected on his time working with Williams, who died at age 63 in 2014. A master of improv and comedic timing, Williams was always trying something new in his “Mrs. Doubtfire” scenes, Columbus said. The takes didn’t end until the film ran out.

“It got to the point that I had to shoot the entire movie with four cameras to keep up with him,” Columbus added. “None of us knew what he was going to say when he got going and so I wanted a camera on the other actors to get their reactions.”

“Bicentennial Man” director Columbus told Entertainment Weekly in 2021 about how Williams’ improvised scenes yielded new versions of lines that would be inappropriate for a PG-13 movie, but were “certainly appropriate and hilariously funny for an R-rated film.”

Even as the rolls of film stacked up, Columbus said the “Mrs. Doubtfire” team didn’t get any pushback from 20th Century Fox, now 20th Century Studios. “They were loving what they were seeing,” he said.

“Mrs. Doubtfire” was more than just an opportunity for Columbus to capture hours and hours of Williams’ process. It was also a hit in the awards circuit. At the 1994 Academy Awards, “Mrs. Doubtfire” won the makeup Oscar. That same year, Williams won the Golden Globe for performance by an actor in a comedy or musical motion picture. “Mrs. Doubtfire” also won the Golden Globe for best comedy or musical motion picture.

Despite the awards, Columbus and Williams didn’t speak about a “Mrs. Doubtfire” sequel until 2014, the year the actor died. The director said his final conversation with Williams was about the “really strong” sequel script.





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