Saturday, August 16, 2014

My hero / Robin Williams by Anne Fine

My hero: 

Robin Williams by Anne Fine

The author of Madame Doubtfire remembers 'a hypnotising whirlwind of manic energy'

Anne Finne
16 August 2014

uthors so often find films of their books a mixed blessing. My novel Madame Doubtfire had been under option for more than 10 years when Robin Williams finally closed the deal. I heard on the grapevine that a child's easy access to the noncustodial parent was an issue close to his heart. He certainly put a vast amount of feeling and energy into the film.

Children of separation and divorce find it easy to identify with the three youngsters on screen. My guess is that that's a large part of why the film became such a family favourite. So often over the last 20 years I've been told that Mrs Doubtfire is the film someone watched a thousand times for comfort throughout childhood.
Williams's performance is a hypnotising whirlwind of manic energy. But that was the man. Once I was asked to join him on Michael Parkinson's chatshow. I did explain, with some relief, that I'd been booked for almost a year to give a talk that night to 200 librarians, so couldn't go. But I reached home in time to watch the programme. There Williams sat, so wired with energy he'd almost levitated from the sofa. He talked in such a blue streak that Parkinson could scarcely get a word in. If I'd been there, I would have sat like a stuffed pudding, saying nothing, idiotic with laughter. I was glad to be so far from all the hype and fuss.

I owe the man the most tremendous debt. Because of Mrs Doubtfire's success, my novel – and plenty of others I've written – can now be read in more than 40 languages. The film paid off my mortgage, and gave me the freedom to write what I want at my own speed. But I still avoid watching Mrs Doubtfire. Too much of what I put such effort into writing was junked or twisted round to make it work on screen. But everyone knows that the author is the last person who should be asked to judge an adaptation.
It's such a tragedy that someone who lifted other people's spirits so successfully, and gave so much pleasure, should lose his own hopes in the way Williams clearly did.


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