Robin Williams is one of the few actors who consistently get to work in both comedies and dramas. Even in an interview he can switch back and forth. Choosing a drama like The Night Listener is now well within Williams’ opportunities, but it was initially a fight to be taken seriously.
Robin Williams is The Night Listener
“It was probably after Dead Poets that I got the chance to do that, and after Insomnia it opened up a whole other side with the dark kind of stranger roles,” Williams said. “It was like, 'Oh, good.' That was a really sort of wonderful access. Like if you play videogames it's like accessing the next level. 'You are now welcome to the dark parts. Welcome.'”
Of course, Williams had it in him long before the 1989 film. “Oh, I knew that in spades especially during that time with the cancellation of Mork & Mindy and from my drinking years you know that. You find that there is a wonderful side of yourself that stays hidden for witness protection reasons.”
Now, Williams boasts an Oscar win for the drama Good Will Hunting. Whether his best work was in drama or comedy is debatable. “You realize how many great comedies there and how many people are affected by them and comedy is a great art when it works. I've never seen anything funnier than Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor in that scene around the dinner table. That alone would get an award if you're just going for sheer funny. They're always talking about though, 'Well, is it meaningful?' I think that it's meaningful if you had a great laugh and you actually come out of there going, 'I'm a human being. I laugh. I fart. I grab. I do things. I'm awkward. I don't know what I do most of the time. I fall down. It didn't happen to me. I was laughing at him.' It's all part of that and now you have a whole generation of new people coming up. And comedies can be dark like Dr. Strangelove. He didn't get an award that year. John Wayne did.”
Even with all his acclaim, Williams still finds more dramatic opportunities on the independent side of Hollywood. “Obviously a lot of these films are made by the independent wing of the studios. Well, they're not even made by them. They pick them up. They go out looking for them. They don't option them or make them. They go out and find them.”
The Night Listener comes to theatres this Friday, August 4th.