The partnership between writer and actor is like no other relationship in the arts. Writers craft words on the page, and actors bring those words forth into the real world, embedding them in our memory. Writers give actors the raw material for performance, and actors bring their interpretations and experience to those words in ways their writers may never have expected. From time to time on this blog, we’ll honor those actors, our partners in artistic endeavor, with collections of the words and pages that they helped make famous.
We lost Robin Williams this week, and it was especially painful because of how it happened. Depression – and depression-related suicide – have a pretty broad spectrum of causes, and there’s still quite a bit about it we don’t know. But there’s no shortage of creative people and funny people who suffer from it – tuned in, as they are, to the weird and barely-manageable vagaries of the human condition and hyper-aware of the frustrations and insecurities that we all face. Having your work held up for scrutiny by countless critics – of both the professional and armchair varieties – doesn’t always help, either.
But through his entire career, Robin Williams paired a powerful, inspirational style with the work of some truly talented writers, imbuing his characters with a warmth so characteristic that branding his films must have been a breeze. Let’s take a look at some of the words Robin helped make famous.
(Note – we’re saving our copy of DEAD POETS SOCIETY for a special post, coming next week.)
This scene from MRS. DOUBTFIRE (Screenplay By Randy Mayem Singer and Leslie Dixon, based on the novel ALIAS MADAME DOUBTFIRE by Anne Fine) is different from the final version:
Here, in GOOD MORNING VIETNAM (Written By Mitch Markowitz, 1987 revised final draft), we see the first appearance of the iconic delivery of the film’s title. An article on director Barry Levinson’s website claims that Williams improvised much of his dialogue – but this early draft matches his comedy style perfectly.
Finally, we have three drafts of GOOD WILL HUNTING, two of which we’ve posted here (Written by Matt Damon & Ben Affleck, 1994 first draft and a later undated draft, respectively). Note in the early draft, Williams’ character, Sean, actually quotes from Will’s file. In the later draft, there’s no such direct exposition. Both drafts feature the “it’s not your fault” dialogue, which both Williams and Damon deliver perfectly.