Robin Williams could have had a huge ego, but he didn't
Robin Williams appreciation by Terry Jones: 'He could have had a huge ego, but he didn't'
Monty Python's Terry Jones tells how the comedy perfectionist finally nailed the part of a talking dog in Jones's new film
By Terry Jones The Observer, Sunday 17 August 2014
'Humility': Robin Williams in 2011. Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/EPA/Corbis
It was 2010 and Bill (my son) and Ben Timlett had just been nominated for an Emmy, for directing (along with Alan G Parker) Monty Python: Almost the Truth – The Lawyer's Cut. I was supposed to go with them and introduce them on stage. I arrived at the hall, and who should be sitting in the front row but Robin Williams. I had met him a couple of times, and went up to him and re-introduced myself. And asked him if he'd like to voice Dennis the Dog for Absolutely Anything[Jones's forthcoming film]. He agreed at once. I later sent him the script, and he emailed me back: "Let's get this film made now!"
Alas! Four years later we finally got the money to make the film. We had Mojo the Dog playing Dennis, and doing it brilliantly. If only Robin Williams could do the voice we'd be over the moon. I emailed him with a sinking heart, fearing that so much time had elapsed and he may not want to voice Dennis. But I need not have feared. He wrote back that he was up for voicing the dog.
And here's the story: Robin was a perfectionist. The first time we tried to voice Dennis it was a Skype call with an interminable delay. Robin was not satisfied with the result. He kept on saying: "I don't mind if you get someone else to voice it." But we couldn't do that. Eventually Bill (who with Ben was producingAbsolutely Anything) and I went over to San Francisco to re-record Robin. And he still wasn't satisfied. A couple of hours after the recording, he rang me on my mobile and said: "I just had an inspiration! Dennis is a 16-year-old boy!"
So for third time, back in London, we recorded Robin Williams voicing Dennis the Dog. And it worked! It was an inspiration.
Above all, what I remember about Robin was his humility. He could be funny as no one else could be funny – like he had another monumental voice telling him to be funny – let it rip!