According to director Chris Columbus, Robin Williams’ spontaneous and boundless improvisation during the making of the popular comedy Mrs. Doubtfire resulted in the filming of an immense amount of footage, totaling “two million feet.”
Columbus recently spoke to Business Insider to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the film’s initial release in 1993. He revealed that there are over 900 boxes of footage from the film in storage, which could potentially be used in a documentary about Robin Williams’s creative process. Columbus expressed interest in hiring an editor to sift through the footage, including outtakes and behind-the-scenes clips, as he believes there is something unique and enchanting about Williams’s approach to his work.
The film “Mrs. Doubtfire” follows a divorced man who pretends to be an older nanny in order to bond with his kids. Directed by Columbus, the movie features Sally Field and Pierce Brosnan, alongside Williams. It is based on the novel “Madame Doubtfire” by Anne Fine and was one of the top-grossing films of 1993.
During the interview, Columbus shared how they organized the production to fit Williams’s unique skills. “At the beginning, he came to me and said, ‘Hey boss, the way I prefer to work is to give you three or four scripted takes and then improvise,'” Columbus said.
What he was trying to convey was his desire to be spontaneous. That’s how we filmed every scene – sticking to the script, but then Robin would improvise and it was truly remarkable.
“It reached a stage where I had to film the entire movie using four cameras in order to keep up with him. None of us were aware of what he would say once he got started, so I made sure to have a camera on the other actors to capture their reactions.”
Director Columbus mentioned discussing the potential for a sequel of “Mrs. Doubtfire” with Williams before the actor’s passing in 2014. Williams seemed open to the idea, but expressed hesitation about the extensive makeup and prosthetics required. Columbus recalled the last time he saw Williams, when they discussed the strong script for the sequel at Williams’ house. Williams only had one concern, asking if he would have to wear the suit as much as he did in the first film. The physical demands of the role were like running a marathon every day for Williams.
I believe he was anticipating a reduction in the involvement of the Doubtfire character in the revised version. However, with the passing of Robin, there will never be a follow-up film.