Robin Williams


  1. Larry Wilcox, CHiPS, TV, 1977-1982.   When Robin first hit LA in 1976, he got  through three different managers in a fortnight. One had him audition for a new NBC cop-show about the California Highway Police. “They wanted a strapping six-footer who could ride a Harley Davidson.  I’d never ridden a motor-cycle and I stood five-eight, maybe 135 pounds…  I realised: This is not good. This man is not for me.”  Eventually he was repped by Rollins, Joffee, Morra & Brezner – who managed Woody Allen, Dick Cavett, Billy Crystal, David Letterman, Mike Nichols.  Fame! As Stu Smiley said about Williams: “He ws so fearless, youwere afraid.” Next stop: Mork & Mindy. And the rest was mercurial brilliance…here and there, among the  empty and maudlin  crap. He as Mork on TV. too too often  mawk in movies.
  2. Jack Nicholson, The Shining, 1979.  Judging them on Taxi Driver and Mork & Mindy., Stanley Kubrick said Robert De Niro was not psychotic enough while Robin Williams was  too much so!  He was the Sammy Davis Jf of comics. Never knew when to stop.
  3. Dudley Moore, Arthur, 1980.     The suits wanted a US star. Brand new auteur Steve Gordon wanted Dud. Gordon won, made a big hit, but never a second film – he died at 44 in 1982. John Belushi had passed, scared of being typed as a drunk (surely the least of his troubles!). Orion Pictures’ other choices for the titular rich man-child were: Williams, Jeff Bridges, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Bill Murray… and quite ridiculously, James Caan, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino (that would have been tough going!), Robert Redford, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta. Enough for an Arthur XI soccer squad – and one reserve.
  4. Tom Hanks, Splash, 1983. Producer Brian Grazer always said he got the idea when driving along  the Pacific Coast Highway and musing on mermaids. Or on AIP’s 1964 Beach Blanket Bingo which had Jody McCrea falling  (off his surfboard) for mermaid Jody Kristen…  Hanks always claimed he was director Ron Howard’s 11th choice for Allen Bauer in his breakthrough (mermaid) movie.  Sorry, Tom – 15th!  And here they be: Jeff Bridges, Chevy Chase, Richard Gere, Steve Guttenberg, John Heard, Michael Keaton (he also refused Alan’s brother, Freddie), stand-up Robert Klein, Kevin Kline, Dudley Moore, David Morse, Bill Murray (PJ Soles was to be his mermaid), Christopher Reeve, Burt Reynolds, John Travolta (his agent turned him off it!), and Robin Williams.“Ronnie made me a movie  star,” said Hanks.” That’s what he did.” He also booked Guttenberg for his next gig, Cocoon. (Channjng Tatum was due for a 2016 re-make – but as the mer-person opposite Jillian Bell as his human lady).

  5. Bill Murray, Ghostbusters, 1983.  
    The paranormal was, said Dan Aykord, his family’s business. That and having stayed in a house haunted by Mama Cass Elliott inspired his dark, futuristic update of such 40s’ comedies as Bob Hope’s Ghost Breakers and the Bowery Boys as Ghost Chasers –  penned for John Belushi, Eddie Murphy and himself. Dan was actually writing a line for John when hearing about his shock death. (He said  Slimer was John‘s ghost). Murphy was busy (policing Beverly Hills!).  Frank Price, who famously turned down ET at Columbia, OKed the film after asking  Ivan  Reitman: How much? The director  weighed  the script in his hand. “Feels like a $25m movie to me.”  OK!  He rushed shooting for a summer  release  without every clearing the rights of the title! That belonged to Universal – and  guess who was the the new boss there, agreeing to the title being used. None other than Frank Price!  (He’d been sacked by Columbia in mid-shoot and literally picked up by Universal… to thank him  for passing on ET?)  When Chevy Chase,  Steve Guttenberg, Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton, Robin Williams refused Dr Peter Venkman. “Billy” took over – as long as Columbia backed his Razor‘s Edge re-tread. It did. And it flopped.

  6. Chip Zien, Howard The Duck, 1985.     Everybody wanted to voice Marvel’s Howard T Duck… Williams, John Cusack, Jay Leno, Martin Short. Plus voicing specialists Townsend Colman and Rob Paulsen (more than 500 credits between them). Zien was not a voice-actor. Howard was the big deal production of the year… massive budget… George Lucas, Mr Star Wars, producing… his American Graffiti writers, writing. And. It. Bombed!  Willard Huyck never directed again. And in need of funds to complete his Skywalker Ranch, Lucas sold to Steve Jobs what became… Pixar!
  7. Martin Short, !Three Amigos, 1986. Five years earlier, Steven Spielberg contemplated making the Western comedy.  Obviously he would retained the same Lucky Day – the script’s writer-producer Steve Martin.  Plus Bill Murray as Dusty Bottoms (oh, ho!)… and Williams set to steal  it all as Ned Nederlander.  The John Landis’ version comprised Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short. Oh yes, the film Spielberg made instead was a small, personal project.  ET. 
  8. Martin Short, Innerspace, 1986.  The pitch ?  “Imagine if Dean Martin is  miniaturised and injected into Jerry Leweis’  butt…  Some 21 actresses  were seen for Dennis Quaid’s girl (he wed one of them, Meg Ryan), but just four guys for poor Jack Putter into whose posteriore Quaid is syringed: Short, Mel Gibson, Robin Williams…
  9. Kevin Costner, No Way Out, 1986.  For his excellent thriller – labyrinthine and ingenious, said Roger Ebert – the under-praised Aussie director Roger Donaldson caught Costner on the cusp of susperstardom (betweern The Untouchables and Field of Dreams) after seeing if the hero’s US Navy uniform would suit… Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Jeff Bridges, Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, William Hurt, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Keaton, Michael Nouri, Bill Paxton,  Sean Penn, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell, Patrick Swayze, Bruce Willis. Or even the French Christophe(r) Lambert  or Robin Williams?!
  10. Tom Hanks, Big, 1987.    Steven Spielberg’s sister, Anne, wrote the script. about a teenager wishing himself into an adult’s body.  Josh possibiles included the unlikely Robert De Niro and Harrison Ford, plus Albert Brooks, Steve Guttenberg (shooting 3 Men and a Baby), Michael Keaton, Bill Murray, Judge Reinhold and Robin Williams (who did his own take on the notion in Francis Coppola‘s Jack, 1996, first aimed at to Hanks!). And Fox simply  rejected Gary Busey and… John (Box Office Poison) Travolta.  First choice Hanks had to finish Dragnet and Punchlinebefore he could head up Anne’s third and final filmed script, ninth and last producing gig. She’d also acted – in Escape To Nowherein 1961, when her brother directed. At 13.

  11. Christopher Lloyd, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, 1987.       Now here’s some silly thinking from producer Steven Spielberg and his director protege, Robert Zemeckis. They felt that being an ex-Monty Python, people would not take John Cleese seriously as the wicked ton, Judge Doom. Yet, Robin Williams – yeah, sure, he’d be fine. Also rejected Tim Curry (his audition scared them!), Roddy McDowall and Sting. And Christopher Lee passed. Orginally, Doom was accompanied by seven dwarfs, er, weasals… Greasy, Sleazy, Wheezy, Smartass, Psycho, Stupid, and Slimey.
  12. Charles Grodin, Midnight Run,1987.   With his career swiftly sliding nowhere, Williams found he had to audition  – and more than once  – to, maybe, join Robert De Niro in the great buddy movie (yeah better than the same director Martin Brest’s Beverly Hills Cop).  Also seen for the hysterical embezzler Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas were Albert Brooks, Chevy Chase, Cher (oh yes!), Steve Martin, Bill Murray and Bruce Willis. “It got real close – almost there. Then, they went with somebody else.  In the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself: OK, you’ve got other things.”  Including a much better De Niro film, Awakenings, 1991. Grodin had the charisma of a sandfly. Robin, of course, worked memorably with De Niro in Awakenings for director Penny Marshall, sister of the Mork & Mindy producer, Garry Marshall. “I’ve got other things.”  Including a much better De Niro film, Awakenings, 1991. Grodin had the charisma of a sandfly.
  13. Jack Nicholson, Batman, 1988.
  14. Jim Belushi, Homer and Eddie, 1989.    Robin was keen on the retarded Homer and Russian film-maker Andrei Konchalovsky felt Belushi would bea fine Eddie.  “But we had problems with Robin’s [drug] connections with John Belushi and these memories put Jim off.”  Konchalovsky “fell in love with Jim, a marvellous, interesting, unpredictable actor.” He became Homer and – not for the first time – Whoopi Goldberg took over a male role and became Eddie.
  15. John Heard, Home Alone, 1990.    For the zero roles of Macauley Culkin’s forgetful parents (in a film written for and duly stolen by him), an astonishing 66 stars were considered – including 32 later seen for the hot lovers in Basic Instinct: Kim Basinger, Stockard Channing, Glenn Close, Kevin Costner, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Douglas, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Linda Hamilton, Daryl Hannah, Marilu Henner, Anjelica Huston, Helen Hunt, Holly Hunter, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Christopher Lloyd, Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Annie Potts, Kelly Preston, Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Martin Sheen, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, John Travolta.   Other potential Pops were Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jeff Daniels, Tony Danza, John Goodman, Charles Grodin, Tom Hanks, Robert Hays, Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Bill Murray, Ed O’Neill, John Ritter, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Skerritt, Robin Williams… and the inevitable unknowns: Broadway’s Mark Linn-Baker, Canadian musicians-comics  Alan Thicke (“the affordable William Shatner”) and Dave Thomas.

  16. James Caan, Misery, 1990. 
    “Leading men hate to be passive; hate to be eunuchised by their female co-stars.”  Top scenarist William Goldman on why 22 actors avoided the prospect of being beaten up and beaten to an Oscar by  Kathy Bates as the mad fan of writer Paul Sheldon. Warren Beatty prevaricaJted but never actually said no (nor yes).  Richard Dreyfuss regretted disappointing director Rob Reiner again after refusing When Harry Met Sally, 1988 (they had earlier  made a classic of   King’s novella, The Body, as Stand By Me, 1985).   William Hurt refused – twice. Jack Nicholson didn’t want another King guy so soon after The Shining.  While Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino being up  for the same role was nothing new  – but Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman was  Also fleeing the  32nd of Stephen King’s staggering 313 screen credits were Tim Allen, Jeff Daniels, Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, close pals Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman, Ed Harris, John Heard, Robert Klein, Bill Murray, Ed O’Neill, John Ritter, Denzel Washington, Robin Williams and Bruce Willis… who went on to be Sheldon in Goldman’s  2015 Broadway version.

  17. Billy Crystal, City Slickers, 1990. Facing 40, three Manhattan dudes book into a dude ranch and join a cattle drive and… a perfect comedy!  Robin, Nicolas Cage, Kevin Costner, Michael J. Fox Tom Hanks, Mike Myers, Dennis Quaid were the outsiders for Mitch – won by Crystal, who worked on the script without credit.

  18. Daniel Stern, City Slickers, 1990. Untl Hook-ed by Steven Spielberg, Robin was offered all three dudes , Mitch Robbins,  Phil Berquist…

  19. Bruno Kirby, City Slickers, 1990.  …  and Ed Furillo.   Chicago critic Roger Ebert noted: “So many ways this movie could have gone wrong… that it’s sort of astonishing, how many ways it finds to go right.”

  20. Kevin Costner, JFK, 1991.

  21. Raul Julia, The Addams Family, 1991.   Hotly tipped as Gomez, husband of Anjelica Huston’s immaculate Morticia. He was, however, Hooked up as the all grown-up Peter Pan.  But still preferring stand-up.  “It’s a great survival mechanism.”
  22. Matt Frewer, Star Trek: The Next Generation, TV, 1991.    Mork replaced by Max Headroom..! Inspired by pal Whoopi Goldberg guesting on the series, Robin agreed to cameo as the time traveler Professor Berlinghoff Rasmussen. Until a movie intervened.
  23. Robert Downey, Jr, Chaplin, 1992.    Peter Sellers’ dream role for decades…  The studio wanted to play safe: Billy Crystal or Robin Williams.  UK director Richard Attenborough had even more  bizzare ideas for his biopic: Jeff Bridges, Jim Carrey, John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks, Kevin Kline (he became Douglas Fairbanks Jr). Plus Nick Nolte as the older Charlie. And one Brit only, the West End stage star Anthony Sher. Oh, and inexplicably, Nicolas Cage!!??? Dickie found Downey “funny, touching, hugely entertaining and totally believable, justifying the faith Oona Chaplin had placed in us.”
  24. Sam Neill, Jurassic Park, 1992.  
  25. Michael Douglas, Falling Down, 1992.  “I lost my job. Well, actually I didn’t lose it, it lost me. I am over-educated, under-skilled. Maybe it’s the other way around, I forget. But I’m obsolete. I’m not economically viable.” The guy known only by his car number-plate, D-FENS, is suffering from society and melting down. Dangerously. Perfect, therefore, for Alec Baldwin, Jeff Bridges, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Ed Harris, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Nick Nolte, Al Pacino, Robin Williams – and, indeed, director Joel Schumacher’s choice of his pal, Douglas, in a Spartacus buzz-cut, glasses and, finally, his very own  Cuckoo’s Nest. 
  26. Denzel Washington, Philadelphia, 1993.   Originally, the lawyer helping another  lawyer suing for loss of job because he had AIDS was Italian-American Joe Martino,. That changed to Joe Miller when it was offered to Mel Gibson, Bill Murray and Robin Williams before Denzel showed interest and director Jonathan Demme had longed to work with him – and did so again ten years later in The Manchurian Candidate re-make.
  27. Danny De Vito, Jack The Bear, 1993.    Robin refused all calls from Fox production chief Joe Roth for six months after Joe “forgot” their agreement and gave the film to De Vito. In the same year, Roth greenlighted Williams’ biggest hit, Mrs Doubtfire.
  28. Michael Keaton, The Paper, 1993.    For another of his tepid movies, director Ron Howard mused over Williams, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kurt Russell and John Travolta forHenry Hackett, the New York Sun‘s metro editor… who tells his editor-in-chief (a superb Robert Duvall – is there any other kind?): “Every day I’m behind from the minute I get up.“
  29. Tim Allen, The Santa Clause, 1994.   The guy who accidentally kills Santa (it was shooting him, but Disney wasn’t having that) and take over his duties was penned for for Bill Murray. “Not my kind of humour,” he retorted.  Next in line: Allen, Williuams, Rowan Atkinson, Jim Carrey, Richard Gere, Steve Guttenberg, Tom Hanks, Robin Williams.  Plus eight  Batman candidates: Alec Baldwin, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Michael J Fox, Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell, Patrick Swayze and the winning Michael  Keaton.
  30. John Goodman, The Flintstones, 1994.      Yabba dabba don’t!  Early idea of Steven Spielberg for Fred Flintstone – opposite Phil Collins as Barney Rubble.

  31. Anthony Hopkins, The Road To Wellville, 1994.     An Alan Parker idea for Dr John Harvey Kellogg – when the bizarre cereal king ran a health farm.
  32. Jim Carrey, Batman Forever, 1994.
  33. Dan Castellaneta, The Return of Jafar, 1994.     Williams felt betrayed by Disney. Not even an offered Picasso painting mollified him. He had played fair, Disney not. He had saved the Aladdin movie, 1991, with his typical free-range improv as the blue Genie. He had worked for union scale as long as his voice was never used in toys etc, and the blue guy only having 25% of the posters and ads. Disney did the opposite! Williams refused to reprise the Genie in this video (due for cinemas before Williams exited), and…
  34. Dan Castellaneta, Aladdin, TV, 1994.    … idem for this TV show. Castellaneta did his best in both, but he was not the manic Robin. (He was, in fact, Homer Simpson, among some 200 toon and seen voices). The studio had 16 hours of Williams improv from the first film (his George Bush and John Wayne impressions had never been used) but Robin refused any dealings with the Mouse House. A change of hierarchy finally led to public apology to Williams, who then agreed to razzle his dazzle anew for this second video sequel, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, 1996.

  35. Anthony Hopkins, Nixon, 1994.  
    For Tricky Dicky, the disgraced 37th US president (tfirst to resign the post), the JFK director Oliver Stone tried just about everyone. Warren Beatty, Gene Hackman, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, John Malkovich, Jack Nicholson, Gary Oldman.  Warners felt Robin’s salary a tad high – “for a drama”!  (He went on, of course, to win  a support Oscar for a drama – Good Will Hunting, 1997). Next time around, Dan Heyda (Stone’s Trini Cordoza) was Nixon in Dick, 1998.

  36. Nathan Lane, The Birdcage, 1995.    Having directed them in Waiting For Godot on-stage, 1988, Mike Nichols planned Steve Martin and Robin in drag for the Cage aux Folles re-make. Martin pulling out to be Sgt Bilko was all Robin required to say “I’ve done this!” (in Mrs Doubtfire) and vote for the “more challenging” role of the “husband,” with Nathan Lane drafted into drag. As if anyone could better the French original’s Michel Serrault.
  37. Tom Hanks, Forest Gump, 1995.      Too obvious, perhaps, yet he got a script. All Hanks got was the novel.

  38. Dennis Quaid, Dragonheart, 1996.     More keen on voicing the CGI dragon… but Sean Connery had that role. Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Liam Neeson and Patrick Swayze were also short-listed for Bowen.
  39. Gérard Depardieu, Bogus, 1996. Canadian director Norman Jewison’s script, created for Depardieu and no one else, was refused by four studios (including Warners who eventually released it). They all said the same thing: Drop Depardoo! Get Robin!
  40. Tom Cruise, Jerry Maguire, 1996.       After Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt passed. writer-director Cameron Crowe held a cast reading with Robin and Mira Sorvino as his wife and the only one to survive for the movie – Cuba Gooding Jr. Show him the money!

  41. John Goodman, The Borrowers, 1996.    The delicious villain, Ocious P Potter, was not in the 1952 Mary Norton  book that Peter Sellers tried to film in 1964.  So he would have been Pod, the four-inch-high patriarch of the tiny Clock family living  beneath the floorboards of a house owned by ”human beans”.  Three versions had already been hits  when this Anglo–American version was launched. The battle for Ocious was, therefore, UK v US…   Martin Clunes, Bob Hoskins, Griff Rhys Jones, Alan Rickman v Tim Allen, Chevy Chase, Danny DeVito, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Steve Martin, Bill Murray,  Ed O’Neill, Robin Williams. The fact that Pesci was also suggested signaled a ton of Home Alone physical attacks on poor Goodman, which out off both Steven Spielberg and his apprentice, Robert Zemeckis, from directing.  They weren’t required!  Nor were Rowan Atkinson and comic-turned-director Mel Smith – off busily making their own Bean movie for the same UK/US companies.
  42. Greg Kinnear, Dear God, 1997.      Legend has Robin refusing director Garry Marshall’s comedy because it had been offered to Tom Hanks first.
  43. Kelsey Grammer, The Real Howard Spitz, 1998.   Robin was first attached to the family comedy, Writer’s Block, then Michael Keaton – before the curmudgeon role went to TV’s Frasier.  And disappeared without trace.
  44. Robbie Coltrane, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 2000 (etc!).   Robin offered to play Rubeus Hagrid for free. (Likewise, Rosie Donnell for Molly Weasley). Chris Columbus, who directed him as Mrs Doubtfire, had to refuse.  “You’re not a Brit!”  And by “casting” Coltrane, Alan Rickman and Dame Maggie Smith, Harry’s creator, Dame JK Rowling had made it clear that the cast must be 100% British.  Or nearly. Richard Harris and Fiona Shaw were Irish, Zoe Wannamaker was a UK-born British citizen and Verne Troyer hailed from Michigan – ah, but he was dubbed by Warwick Davis!   JKR turned herself down as Lily Potter in the Mirror of Erised scene. Good news for Geraldine Somerville.
  45. Lanny Flaherty, Home Fries, 1998.    Williams quit just days before he was to play Drew Barrymore’s father. Meanwhile, his ’98 release, Good Will Hunting,  caused  his fourth Oscar nomination in a decade and this time he won “the golden dude.” (Where was Jim Carrey’s?) 
  46. Drew Carrey, Geppetto, 1999.     When not only Williams but his pal, Steve Martin, fled from being Pinocchio’s Pop, the Disney suits realised this was no cinema feature and dumped it into The Wonderful World of Disney… as the third season’s 12th episode.  Carrey made a running joke of the film, and his participation, when hosting Whose Line Is It Anyway? 1998-2007.
  47. Gary Cole, One Hour Photo, 2001.     First selected for the SavMart manager, However, on re-studying the script, Williams asked to be  Sy, The Photo Guy…  as soon as Jack Nicholson walked away.  Sy was the ideal employee of every month, secretly obsessed with a young family whose pix he develops and prints in the titular store. Among Williams’ top five roles, worthy of more than horror awards. 
  48. Robbie Coltraine, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, 2001. A Hollywood director was bad enough, but Warner Bros seemed determined to ruin its hoped-for franchise by also considering a US cast: Liam Aiken as Harry, Rose O’Donnell as Ron Weasley’s mother and Williams as the 8ft. Rubeus Hagrid. They were keen, offering to work for free!) Wiser heads prevailed (mainly author JK Rowling’s) and, in fact, Coltrane was the first actor cast for the franchise.  

  49. Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2002.  
    The first one…  Well, the second…    Back in the 90s, Steven Spielberg got his hands on the first script (by Ted Elliott and Terry Rosso) and was dickering between Steve Martin, Bill Murray and Robin Williams for Captain Jack Sparrow.  Whether Spielberg’s Jack would also have had mascara, gold teeth and a Keith Richards’ rock ‘n’ roll shuffle, we’ll never know. Because, believe it or not, Disney refused the very idea of a film based one of their Disneyland rides.  Until, that is, the studio hired Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolport to beef up the  original screenplay. Over the years, seven other  actors in were approached about Sparrow: Jim Carrey, Robert De Niro, Cary Elwes, Michael Keaton, Matthew McConnaughey, Rik Mayall and  Christopher Walken.

  50. Joseph Fiennes, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, 2002.  In the DreamWorks voicing mix for Proteus were Fiennes, David Arquette, Paul Bettany, Keith Carradcine, Jeff Goldblum and  Robin.
  51. Steve Martin, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, 2002.  “A pretty grim experience all around – longest year and a half of my life.”  Director Joe Dante refusing to say anymore about how his planned tribute to his late friend, toon ikon Chuck Jones, ended up a mess. Then again, when the suits approve Martin over Robin, Tim Allen, William Fichtner, James Gandolfini, David Koechner, Seth MacFarland Alan Rickman for Mr Chairman,  you know you’re in trouble.
  52. Eddie Izzard, Five Children and It, 2003.     The kids escape WWI in an eccentric uncle’s mansion and meet a sand fairy who grants their wishes. Yawn? Yes, but Izzard saved It(!) with a cheeky, anarchic, subversisve and largely improvised voice-over. Very much in the Williams’tradition except Robin had made too many family films by now.
  53. Steve Carell , Bewitched, 2004.   For inexplicable reasons, Hollywood kept trying to make a movie out of the 1968-1972 ABC sitcom about a good-looking witch her klutzy hubby. In 1993, Penny Marshall assembled a knockout cast. Meryl Streep as Samantha, Robin Williams as Uncle Arthur, Shelley Winters as Gladys Kravitz. And the Dagwoodish husband being played, alternately, by Seinfeld and Billy Crystal… as a nod to how Dick Sargent replaced  an ailing Dick York  after 170 episodes as the tele-Darrin in 1969.
  54. Peter Stormare, The Brothers Grimm, 2004.      An early announcement for the Napoleonic torturer in Terry Gilliam’s $75m fantasy. Matt Damon and Heath Ledger were excedingly Grimm.
  55. Steve Martin,The Pink Panther, 2004.      First name thrown up (!) when MGM planned a Hollywood version of the old Peter Sellers franchise. “Despite Sean Connery, I was able to accept the other James Bonds,” wrote Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert, “just as I understand that different actors might play Hamlet.  But there is only one Clouseau, and zat ees zat.” 
  56. Geoffrey Rush, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, 2004.     Well, if not Clouseau, why not Sellers…! Williams said it would have been a great honor to play Sellers, but his schedule wouldn’t allow it.  Fortunately!

  57. Johhny Depp, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, 2004. 
    Rather inevitably part of director Tim Burton’s (30-strong) wish list for the chocolatier Willy Wonka, went from ole Beetlejuice Michael Keaton to… Rowan Atkinson, Dan Aykroyd, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Chevy Chase, Warwick Davis, Robert De Niro, James Gandolfini, Dwayne Johnson, Ian McKellen, Marilyn Manson, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, John Neville, Leslie Nielsen, Brad Pitt, Peter Sallis, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Will Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ben Stiller, Christopher Walken. And the surviving Monty Python crew (also up for the 1970 version): John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin. Among the five exec producers, author Roald Dahl’s widow, Liccy, wanted her husband’s favourite Willy – Dustin Hoffman.   If not possible she voted for UK comics, Eddie Izzard or David Walliams. She was quite happy with Depp… who found Willy’s voice while riffing on a stoned George W Bush!

  58. Steve Carrel, Little Miss Sunshine, 2005.    Bill Murray and Robin Williams were first/second choices for Richard Hoover, trying to teach nine-step programmes when he’s barely at three. And father of little Miss Abigail Breslin, teaching her co-dysfunctionals about life. National Lampoon’s Family Vacation with soul, said Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers. Alec Baldwin, Thomas Hayden Church, David Duchovny, Ray Romano nearly Hoovered.  Michael Ardnt quit his job as Matthew Broderick’s assistant to pen the script – and won the for best original screenplay. His next credits included such pears as Toy Story 3, Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens!  
  59. Steve Carrel, Little Miss Sunshine, 2006. Second choice (after Bill Murray) for the suicidal Frank.   Next? Carrel, then unknown. And thereby,  cheaper. Robin virtually gave up on film. “I didn’t want to make that much money for no reason anymore.”
  60. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight, 2007.

  61. Sean Penn, Milk, 2007.        Director Gus Van Sant had first planned a film in the early 90s about the first openly gay man elected to US public office – and assassinated for it (with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone) in 1978. Van Sant’s main candidates to play  Harvey Milk were  Robin,  Daniel Day-Lewis,  Richard Gere, James Woods.
  62. Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen, 2008.      Not so much “Who watches the watchmen?” as Juvenal asked, but who playeth them? And in the 20 years it took for Alan Moore’s DComic-book to be filmed, directors came and went – Darren Aronofsky, Michael Bay, Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Paul Greengrass. So did their choices for Walter Kovacs aka Rorschach, the masked vigilante: Williams, Daniel Craig, John Hurt, Doug Hutchinson, Simon Pegg, Sean Penn, Robin Williams and the prerequisite outsider, Glen Hansard, more known for music than acting (three credits in 18 years).
  63. Tracy Morgan, Cop Out, 2009.        Warner picked up the script when Gold Circle dropped it in 2008. And turned James Gandolfini and Robin into Willis and Tracy Morgan as (first title) A Couple of Dicks. Director Kevin Smith’s most successful film. (Also the first he didn’t script, you see).  As the director, he did not get on as well with  Willis as he had when they co-starred in Love Free or Die Hard, 2006. “I don’t wish him poorly or anything like that,” he said at  Comic Con 2014, “but I just don’t want to be near him ever again.”
  64. Steve Carrel, Dinner For Schmucks, 2009.      Among the choices for the pathetic loser (due opposite Steve Martin) in the (as always, highly flawed) re-make of the French Diner de cons, 1998, writer-directed by Francis Veber.  If they’d only stopped tampering with his (near) perfection… when Jacques Villeret was the original con.
  65. Sacha Baron Cohen, Les Miserables, 2011.     Rowan Atkinson, Billy Crystal, Ricky Gervais, Steve Martin…  For some reason, it was only comics (oh, and Geoffrey Rush) seen for the despicable Thénardier. Williams would have been  the most insufferably lovable Thénardier in history! 

  66. Michael Douglas, Behind The Candelabra, TV, 2012.    
    Steven Soderbergh’s “final film” has been an earlier project of Philip Kaufman, who recalled Williams’ interest. “We’re working on getting the script right. Robin came into our office recently, saw a picture of Liberace with Carol Channing and proceeded to do a conversation between both of them! [Laugh].  We all fell off our chairs, laughing.  He’d be brilliant as Liberace.  So, we’ll see.” Or not…. Planned for 2008, Soderbergh and co-star Matt Damon never gave up on Douglas, and his “throat” cancer battle – as he reported, all choked up, at his 2013 Cannes press conference.

  67. James Corden, Into The Woods, 2013.
  68. Taron Egerton, Eddie The Eagle, 2015.      Mentioned in 2008, then dropped as  far too old (and American) for UK plasterer Eddie Edwards, more ski-ing chump than champ  (therefore,  a British hero!)  at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. Also too old but, er, local, Steve Coogan said Eddie is “quirky, dysfunctional, slightly nerdy, but his balls must be made of titanium.”  Said Eddie:“I’ve been called worse.” Over the (many) years,  other potential Eddies included Martin Freeman, James McAvoy,  Kris Marshall and (closer to Eddie’s age) Harry Potter pal Rupert Grint. Then, Kingsman was made. And so was Egerton. 
  69. David Tennant, Chew, 2015.       Who better than the ex-Doctor Who and Broadchurch’s troubed cop, Alec Hardy,  to inherit the voicing of Tony Chu,  easily the most bizarre detective in movies. Chu is cibopathic. He gets psychic impressions from what he eats, ie he can nibble on a murdered corpse to find whodunnit…  Robin’s shock suciide was probably not his decision but caused  by being  mistreated for Parkinson’s when actually suffering from DLB, Lewy bodies, a terminal form  of degenerative dementia.
  70. Joaquin Phoenix, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot, 2017.   Twenty years had flown by since Williams suggested filming John Callahan’s book to director Gus Van Sant as they shot Good Will Hunting ver in 1997. The script took forever; two versions by diffrerent writers. The suits didn’t appreciate either.  Nor a film about Callahan (1951-2010),  a drunk at 20, a quadriplegic after a car crash at 21, and a black comedy cartoonist mainly dealing with physical disabilities in Portland’s Willamette Week newspaper. By the time everything was ready, Robin was gone…  Van Sant ahd directed  River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho. 1990, and it was River who told his brother,  rather than persuading  him, to return too acting. R made the 15-year-old watch Raging Bull over and over with him and said: This is what you’re gonna do.  “And I am indebted to him for that, because acting has given me such an incredible life.”
  71. Michael Sheen, Good Omens, TV, 2019.   As per usual, director Terry Gilliam wasted years trying to film the Neil Gaiman-Terry Prichett novel. He got $50m in his kitty, Robin Williams and Depp as the angels, Aziraphale and Crowley. But all Hollywood studios recited the same message:  Nobody wants to see Depp.  His next film? Pirates of the Caribbean. Douglas Mackinnon made the series with Sheen and David Tennant and Sheen as the angels,  one fallen, one diivine  – so good, they didn’t need all the guest stars: Brian Cox (as Death), Jon Hamm, Michael McKean, Frances McDermond  as God.

RIP. Robin shocked the world by hanging himsef on August 10, 2014 – consumed by anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks and insomnia after struggling with memorisng his lines during in his final film earlier that year, Night At The Museum: Secret of the Tomb. “This guy was hurting,” said director Shawn Levy in the 2020 Robin’s Wish documentary, ”and he was going through something that he didn’t have a name for yet.” Robin had no idea why he brain was letting him down.. Nor did anyone else. Finally,  a post-mortem found he had  one of the worst recorded cases of the neurological disease, Lewy body dementia… which can  cause hallucinations, confusion, fatigue, problems with understanding, memory and judgement. There is no cure, and the average survival time after diagnosis is, as per Alzheimer’s,  around six to 12 years.  “It really amazed me that Robin could walk or move at al..” said Dr Bruce Miller, director of the Memory and Aging Centre at the University of California San Francisco“People who have great brains, who are incredibly brilliant, can tolerate degenerative disease better than someone who is average.  Robin Williams was a genius.”


“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most.”   – US President Barack Obama

“Robin was a lightning storm of comic genius and our laughter was the thunder that sustained him. He was a pal and I can’t believe he’s gone.” –  Steven Spielberg

“His was truly one of the most brilliant and singular performances in the history of animation.   For me, it was one of the most breathtaking, pure moments of creativity I think I have ever witnessed. Aladdin would not be the classic movie it is without his brilliance.”   – chief executive of DreamWorks Animation and former chairman of Walt Disney Studios Jeffrey Katzenberg.

“Robin and I were great friends, suffering from the same little-known disease: depression. I never could have expected this ending to his life, and to ours with him. I cannot believe this. I am overwhelmed with grief. What a wonderful man/boy, and what a tremendous talent in the most important art of any time – comedy! I loved him.  – Chevy Chase.

“He reminderd me of Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince: wistfully surveying a world to which he felt he didn’t quite belong.”  – Marttn Short

 “I will never be reconciled to his death, but I will remain forever grateful for his life. He brought me so much joy, so much laughter. For 34 years, he was my pal… I have never seen a funnier man. It’s as if Einstein suddenly decided: “Fuck it, I’ll do stand-up. “ – Eric Idle.










 Birth year: 1951Death year: 2014Other name: Casting Calls:  70