Mrs. Doubtfire Director Has 2 MILLION Feet of Unseen Footage of Robin Williams and the Reason Behind It Is Brilliant

3 months ago

In cinematic history, few films have left as lasting a mark on audiences as the 1993 classic Mrs. Doubtfire. Recently, the director Chris Columbus shared some behind-the-scene secrets that made us miss Robin Williams even more.

Robin Williams brought so much improvisation to the set of Mrs. Doubtfire that an extensive 2 million feet of film was necessary to capture his spontaneous brilliance. Based on the novel Madame Doubtfire, the 1993 film follows Robin as Daniel, a struggling voice actor who undergoes divorce and loses custody of his children.

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the movie’s release, director Chris Columbus fondly recounted in a recent interview how he managed to keep up with Robin’s whirlwind creativity. Columbus revealed that he continuously had four cameras rolling to document Williams’ unrestrained improvisation. Even today, the director possesses “972 boxes of footage” from Mrs. Doubtfire and envisions incorporating some of it into a documentary.

Columbus reminisced about Robin’s infectious inventiveness onscreen. Early in the process, Williams proposed a unique working style, suggesting, “I’ll give you three or four scripted takes, and then let’s play.” This translated to an improvisational approach, reshaping every scene with spontaneity after capturing the scripted version.

Columbus acknowledged the challenges faced by the script supervisor, Margaret de Jesus, during this era of handwritten notes. Williams’ tendency to change dialogue with each take meant the team often dealt with entirely different versions than the originally scripted lines. The limitations of film, unlike today’s endless digital recording, compelled them to ration takes based on available film stock.

The director disclosed that managing Williams’ unpredictable creativity required shooting the entire movie with four cameras. The unpredictability extended to the co-stars, with Pierce Brosnan and Sally Field finding it challenging not to break character due to Williams’ impromptu antics.

Chris Columbus also lifted the curtain on two iconic scenes born out of Williams’ improvisation. The memorable restaurant sequence, where Mrs. Doubtfire loses her teeth in a drink, showcased Williams’ sheer delight in creating spontaneous moments. Another standout was the pie-in-the-face sequence, where Williams, as Mrs. Doubtfire, navigates the complexities of a dual identity.

Looking ahead, Columbus expressed his desire to delve into the extensive footage for a documentary on Robin’s creative process. With nearly a thousand boxes of material, including outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage, Columbus aims to showcase the magic of Williams’ unique approach to his craft.


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