Considered one of our most gifted comedians, Robin Williams splits his career between doing stand up, comedies such as Mrs Doubtfire, The Birdcage, Good Morning Vietnam and Night at the Museum, and dramatic classics including Dead Poet’s Society, The Fisher King, Awakenings and Good Will Hunting, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
In his new black comedy, written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, Williams portrays Lance Clayton, a poetry teacher and single parent who is struggling with his insufferable jackass son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara), who won’t give him the time of day. In the wake of a freak accident Lance begins to tell a lie that grows out of control.
You’ve vacillated between serious roles and comedy roles. Has that created a problem for casting directors?
In the amount of work that I’m getting, that explains why I’m going back out on the road! It’s been interesting to do both. I’ve also done dark movies like One Hour Photo, but to do a dark comedy like this, we’ll see how it affects work. I’ve obviously done studio movies, but I did this movie because I read it and thought that it was really interesting. I wasn’t doing it as a mercy film for Bob, like, ‘Lets help little Bob out.’ I thought, ‘This is really good.’ With this one I’m going, ‘I know that Bob can handle something really bizarre upfront and then get down to some really interesting humanity.’ That’s why I did this movie.
Can you talk a little about Daryl’s performance?
The fearlessness of Daryl’s performance [as Kyle] to be that nasty justifies everything I do. The motivation for my character immediately when he finds him that way is that I don’t want him to be remembered like this, that’s why Lance writes the suicide note. It isn’t like he’s going, ‘Oh, this is a chance for me to be a great writer.’ I mean, it’s justified but then also when you start to deify Kyle and turn him into this amazingly sensitive kid where people are all going, ‘No, he wasn’t.’ The one friend says, ‘He was never like that.’
The most painful line for me in the movie is where Lance says, ‘It’s one thing to be alone. It’s another thing to be around people who make you feel alone.’ Most people self-impose that. Life is short and if you find people and connect with them, it’s kind of amazing.
At the end of the movie you have a nude scene in the school’s swimming pool. Was that your first?
No. It’s actually my second one. My first one was in Fisher King where I was nude in Central Park, but it was a cold night then so that’s my excuse. ‘Oh look, it’s small but fierce!’ It was weird, the whole idea of being nude in that scene. I said to Bobcat, ‘Listen, at the end he’s kind of shedding everything. Maybe I should go full.’ He went, ‘Okay.’ That’s kind of how we work. It wasn’t done for like, ‘Oh, let’s go for a laugh here,’ it’s more of an emotional thing. It’s cathartic at that point. You’re going full tilt breakdown.
You keep the socks on though.
Yeah, that’s what most guys would do. I love it. Most of the guys are going, ‘Yeah, I have done that.’ I’m leaving my socks on girl. If I take my socks off that means we’re in love.
Being a father, was the scene where you find Kyle the most difficult to do?
Yeah. The most difficult scene of all is to think of losing my son. I mean, I think of it now and I can’t imagine that. I can’t imagine losing him or my daughter. It’s this weird thing where Bob said, ‘Can you do this?’ I said, ‘Oh, yeah.’ It wasn’t hard to all of a sudden think about what it would be like. It would be that your world falls apart. You’re devastated. It doesn’t matter how old you are. I’ve talked to people who were in their eighties and nineties when their son died and they’re going, ‘I thought I’d always go before him.’ It’s a devastating thing.