Sydney Unleashed

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My Experience with Robin Williams

My first interaction with the late Robin Williams was in 1999 when he was visiting Australia to promote ‘Bicentennial Man’, unfortunately not a great movie at all. Be that as it may, I watched in delight as he played up to the adoring fans.

At the time I was working at as a tour guide, guest host at Fox Studios and the red carpet was rolled out at the onsite Hoyts Cinemas. The crowd gathered early and when he arrived later that sunny afternoon, the cheers were loud. He literally hopped, skipped and jumped around signing autographs and posing for photos.

One particular lady made him speechless holding up a vinyl LP record album, ‘Oh my that’s a rarity, look at the hair’, he said almost sheepishly to the lady eager for him to sign it. Waving his arms about when he finally made it inside the auditorium, I was simply a wide-eyed observer but for some reason, I caught his eye. Maybe it was the extremely bright yellow Ken Done tie I was sporting, he gave me a nod and a wink as he walked past into the cinema to introduce the movie to the awaiting audience inside the auditorium. He was a bundle of energy, running in circles.

Jump to 2012, now a film critic journalist, I had the chance to interview and meet Robin on a professional basis back at Fox Studios. I walked briefly behind the back-lot watching him sip tea, his publicists not far away, we shook hands and I asked him a little about ‘Happy Feet 2’ which was the film, mostly made in Australia, that he was there to talk up. We were outside sitting at a cafe style table. Rain suddenly ended the interview early but the best was yet to come. The scene of many premieres, the decor retro surrounds of Hoyts Fox Studios was hosting ‘Happy Feet 2’ and I had a spot on the carpet to chat to any VIP guests with possibly another chat to Robin. Fake snow machines covered us journos at the ready – white was everywhere on a balmy summer evening. As Robin arrived, the buzz was huge and once again I watched in amazement as he leaped from the chauffer driven hire car and danced around the crowd.

My place up the carpet was around half way, standing next to celebrity reporter Charli Robinson. She is so naturally gorgeous, I thought I would have little luck gaining his attention. Funnily enough, he arrived in front of Charli answering her first question then I must have caught his eye (just like in 1999, minus the Ken Done tie). He smiled and kind of edged towards me. I guess he remembered me as he put out his hand and shook it, then looked down at the ‘Patch Adams’ DVD cover I was holding. Straight away he took it, signed it and gave me a massive smile. ‘Patch Adams’ was a flop, but a personal movie for Robin and I knew it, drama to him was important to his career but many critics did not recognise it. He did win an Oscar for ‘Good Will Hunting’ and was nominated for ‘Dead Poets Society’, both dramas and both brilliant. ‘Fisher King’ and ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ were others the Academy noticed, a sequel was in the works too with Robin’s approval also.

Best known for outrageous comedies such as ‘Flubber’, both ‘One Hour Photo’ and ‘Insomnia’ were further proof of against type underrated dramatic efforts I enjoyed. As I did my rapid red carpet interview, he grabbed me randomly and draped his arm over my shoulder then faced the camera bay. Photographers went nuts, bulbs flashed, I smiled not knowing what was going on with people looking on as if to say, who is this guy Robin is choking. I never did get a copy but it was a great moment for me. His publicist had to move him onto the next journalist in line, he kept wanting to talk to me. I like to ask different questions and I know everything about movies so that comes across I guess.

One of the final questions I asked him was about his choosing of roles, he told me if he has a hunch, he’ll accept it…or if it’s something the world would enjoy. His words.  Now all of a sudden I am looking forward to ‘Night at the Museum 3’ on Boxing Day, one of his final performances.


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Shane A. Bassett

Sydney Unleashed is one of Australia’s premier entertainment publications exploring the latest in lifestyle trends. From Sydney’s finest restaurants, cafes and bars to the hottest in gadgets, products, and home entertainment, Sydney Unleashed is your one-stop lifestyle platform.