Robin Williams Interview – LICENSE TO WED

     July 2, 2007

Going to a Robin Williams press conference is sort of like going to a stand up show – you can easily make yourself a target if you ask the wrong thing. Actually, you don’t even have to ask anything as Robin would make comments if you wore a funny shirt or had an unusual tape recorder. He pretty much used his time to demonstrate just how funny he is… and if you listen to the interview, you’ll hear how often he had us laughing.

So you may be asking what he was promoting?

Robin’s in the new Mandy Moore/John Krasinski romantic comedy that arrives in a few days and he plays the family Reverend. In the movie, John and Mandy decide to enroll in his marriage prep course as that’s the only way he’ll bless their union. Obviously it’s not a simple thing and comedy ensues.

While most of the time reading the transcript is the way to go… I definitely recommend listening to this as he’s way too funny to just read. So if you’d like to listen click here. Otherwise the transcript’s below.

“License to Wed” opens on July 4th.

Question: I wanted to ask you about finding your inner reverend.

Robin Williams: Having been a choirboy, and I’m not Catholic, so that welcomes a certain amount of questions. Just going back to the old days when I was into going to church and remembering, as a Protestant, which is Catholic light, once again, the idea of somebody that could really advise and has something offer. Wait a minute, thank you. So small, but yet it’s also a lip gloss. I think for that it was just remembering those guys that I grew up with in the Episcopal church, which is there is no purgatory, just spiritual escrow. That was beginning of that. Remembering that there were, oops, you okay? You dropped your notes. It’s that exciting. And then the idea that he’s pretty much hands on as much as you can be without being a priest.

Was there a particular religious person?

Billy Graham. No, Reverend Ernest Aingley, but then he had to go away for going to recreational bars. Reverend Swaggart. No. No religious people. I vaguely remember that there was one reverend who was actually very funny and that may be the model. But there was no one specific. Reverend Haggard. No. Where do you for gay rehab? That’s what I just want to know. Cock Enders. Okay.

How hard is it for you to find scripts that accommodate your unique brand of humor?

Very hard. It’s usually like a tissue rejection. Oh, they’re making you hand off the microphone now. It’s interesting. They’re actually policing the microphone. They’re not going to steal them, look at the quality of this piece of. It is hard to find something where you can go off as much as I do in standup, but I think standup allows me that freedom. Where you can really go off and have a good time. But within the character there’s enough room to play and when you have someone like Jon Krasinski and Mandy, people who will play opposite you and keep going. You guys can’t find a seat? Dude, it’s okay. Are you counting who you’re missing? It’s not the Hollywood Foreign Press, there’s not an open buffet. You’ll be there later. There’s one guy going, don’t say that. We do find places to eat other times. What a nice piece of fish. Hello, Robin.

Do you remember your first crush on a girl?

Yes, I do actually. It was in Detroit, which was later. The moment you ask the question. This is amazing. Get the mike away from her. And the first kiss was pretty amazing. I went to all boys’ school, so it was a wrestling match. And I won that match just because I creeped him out so much. But it was pretty sweet. I remember this girl. They would have dances and they’d bring girls in and it was the slow dances with the, you’re hurting me. And you felt like Quasimodo, ‘I mean you no harm. You’re very pretty, don’t go away I mean you no harm.’ But when I came out to California it was beyond a first kiss. It was like, ‘you’ve seen these.’ Wow. That was one of my teachers. But I remember it being as good as they said. Be careful. Hold onto that mic.

Did you have any concern about having a 10-year old as a sidekick?

That’s why he’s a Protestant. If you had a Catholic priest with a small boy they’re already going, ‘what’s up?’ It’s a boy for the weekends. It’s been a difficult thing for the Catholic Church to deal with after all these years when they have the Divine Witness Protection program. It’s like three card, ‘find a priest, find a pedophile, find a priest. Here we go. Where is he? There he is. Whoa, found him. Move him over to another parish. Okay, find him.’ Hence, a lot of parishes don’t have Little League programs anymore. That’s why they went with a Protestant right away. I mean, it be something for the Catholic Church to look at, maybe losing the whole celibacy thing. And then saying, it’s a difficult thing when you realize that, first of all, you have to give up sex and then say, okay, we’re going to put you in a small box and every week people are going to come and go ‘bless me father, for I have sinned. What have done, my son? Last night I was with two Philippine twins and a Slip n’ Slide. Oh, really? Keep going.’ And then they’re going take you from that and put you next to pubescent kids. It’s like getting out of Jenny Craig and saying ‘where are you going work? Haagen Dazs!’ In the big picture, that’s why he’s a Protestant and has been married and has some perspective on sexuality. Because it must be very difficult being a priest and having to talk about sex. Kind of like Quasimodo as a chiropractor, I guess it works.

What about the reverend and the little boy out in the van at 11 at night?

Listening. The kid’s bright. What is he doing? Do you have hours for kids? Listen, I’m not going to take him to porn movie. ‘Have you seen this, Timmy? Do you like gladiator movies?’ He’s an assistant and he’s helping him. I think if you look at it that way. ‘what’s he doing with a boy?’ I think the kid helps him. Why is the kid breaking into houses? And putting in listening devices. It’s all part of the comedy. But if you look at it very deeply you could get very bothered.

What do you think are the keys to having a lasting relationship?

I think it’s just honesty. Marriage is the long program versus the short program. And having been married twice it’s a bit like that line in ‘Knocked Up’ where, ‘I’ve been divorced 3 times, why are you asking me?’ I think what’s working is the idea of being able to talk with someone and you realize is this someone, part of the stuff he teaches is valuable. The ability to be honest, the ability to talk, the ability to deal with in-laws, the ability to fight and get over it, get through it because like he says, intimacy and the initial lust, which is great at the beginning, it doesn’t fade as so much go in wave motions. It comes back and it’s like the old joke about same sex marriages, it’s always the same sex, shut up. But it’s the idea of what are the things that’ll help you get through the long run. And that’s the program that he’s teaching and using comedic devices, but I think there’s some useful skills there.

Have you done counseling?

In rehab you go through a lot of that.

Some lesson from that?

You find that, I mean you really do find out that that’s one of the primary salvation, when you go through rehab that you come out of the other side knowing you’re not alone and it give you a very personal view of God. And many people would say, the higher power or just the idea of a very deeply, once you come through that process you come out of it very much aware of there but for the grace of.

Have you had any feedback from religious people?

Yeah, you always do because you can’t poke fun at certain religions. Hence, right if I was to dress you in a full burka someone would go ‘what are you doing?’ It’s difficult because you have to realize that we just made major fun of the Catholic Church, but hey, they don’t blow you up. I haven’t gotten a lot of communication from. It was interesting that they went with a German pope, which is great for the Swiss Guard to have artillery.

If you had to create a test for couples to go through what would it be like?

It’d be like ‘Survivor’ but without a lot of food. I think it’d be the idea of how you really get together to solve problems. I think it would the interesting idea of simple problems. You know, living together is a really interesting thing. A lot of couples do it now before marriage and by the time they get married they’re going ‘hey, we know the drill.’ I think the simplest test would be what do you know about him and what do you know about her. Other than position 4. What do you like? What do you not like? Even the things you don’t like, but you kind of do like. What are the things that drive you nuts. I remember in ‘Good Will Hunting’ talking about all the things that drive you crazy, but at the same time you really love about a person. Because when you really hang out with a person for a long enough time you really find out. The great thing about marriage is the idea of really getting to know someone. And really getting to know a woman is a lifelong task. I can’t imagine polygamy. To have two or three women pissed at me would be, and if they’re all going through their period at the same time. ‘You have to sleep sometime you asshole.’ If you’re a Zamburu tribesman, as many wives as you have goat and sheep. And they live in different house. And if you’re a Mormon you just find a certain town in Utah and the kids all look the same. But the idea of getting to know someone. It really is interesting. And someone who loves you, or me, warts and all. That’s a kind of gift.

How long have you been married?

What day is it? I’ve been married 18 years. This marriage. Thank you, thank you very much.

Did you give your son any advice on his acting career?

None. No advice. I can’t give him advice. Once again, it’s like a leper giving a facial. All he has to say is ‘what is it about ‘Popeye’ that you wanted?’ He’s doing a series where he’s really funny. He’s got great chops, plus he’s also directed his own movie. The dude is so far ahead of me in terms of what he’s done even now. So there’s no advice I could give him, just learn from him. He’s got great physical timing and great physical comedy combined with a really wonderful mind. I think with him I just had a good time. You see him on the series and it’s a lot playing reactions. He gets most of his laughs on the series from reactions, which is a great thing. It’s not like I’m going, ‘sheesh, what’s this thing going to be like?’ He’s got the chops. Nothing I could say to him, like, ;it’d be better if you wait a moment.’ I suddenly become like the old Borscht Belt comics, ‘you should go z’s and q’s. Hold on, wait a moment, look away.’ Or be like Michael Caine, ‘never give the camera both eyes. Always look with one eye and let the camera try and find the other one. And when you’re doing nude scenes, never let them see everything. There’s more mystery. I like mine to be small, but fierce.’

How was it working with Mandy Moore?

She’s very sweet and really funny in her own way because she look wholesome, but she’s got other things. Mandy isn’t making the papers as much because she’s not playing bumper cars with her Bentley. She’s got all the same chops, she’s doing all the same stuff, she’s just living the life quietly and happily and seems to be doing well. I don’t who’s she’s with today, but I imagine they’re happy. And I had a good time working with her because she’s funny. Plus, she’s also got this, Pam Dawber had it, this kind of wholesome sensuality where a lot of guys come up and say’ did you ever do Mindy?’ It’s like the Amish girl who knows. She’s got a lot going on and I had a great time just being around here and working with her. She and John, they had most of their scenes together, so they have a dynamic that’s believable as a young couple in love, having sex, and yet still being denied sex and yet still going okay, let’s get married and building love, which is kind of cool. I think for me it was fun to watch their scenes because I wasn’t in them. I know that’s a weird thing to day. We’ll talk about that in therapy.

What do you learn about relationships after being married 18 years?

Be careful. It’s like Custer, never assume. ‘It is safe up in that valley. Don’t go up there.’ What I’ve learned is that I’ve got more to learn. I think that’s sort of exciting. Is that there’s so much I need to learn as I continue. Because you go through phase and you think, I know it all. And then you go, no. Especially as my children get older. I’ve got a son who’s 24 and another who’s 15 a daughter who’s 17 going on 18 going on 30. All these things hit you very hard, but at the same time they’re great gifts. It’s pretty wonderful. My 15-year-old, right now it’s like living with Mensa. And he has these debates about totally ridiculous subjects. He brought home a couch that he found on the street and we said you can’t, and he said it’ll be great, it’s be great when all the creatures come out. It’ll be like planet Earth, but in you bedroom. And the new said we’ll have to fumigate it, like put it in a bag and just dust the thing with chemical that could kill things for the rest of the year. And it was interesting to have this debate. And he was just debating because he could. Just to piss me off. But that’s his job. And my daughter, she’s acting now and she’s really good. Very natural. And my other son is studying acting. And I thought, ‘you have a degree in linguistics, why do you want to do that?’ Because he can. He found that he wanted to do it and I went, okay. All these things are really interesting at this point in my life. And for me, it’s much more expensive than Sea Monkeys, but you get to see amazing progress and to see them grow. And that for me is astonishing. And to see them doing things that you’re like, good luck, and I try and tell them the traps, but they’ll learn them on their own.

What was it about this particular script that made you want to do it? And can you talk about the upcoming projects that you have?

What do I have coming up? I wanted to do it because I read it and thought it was funny and when I saw Jon’s work and Mandy’s work, I thought it would be great to work with them. I thought the chemistry would be fun. Especially working with Jon because we have most of our scenes [together] and it would be a nice, combative relationship. Upcoming projects, there’s this movie ‘August Rush’ with Freddie Highmore. Basically about a child prodigy trying to reconnect with his parents through music. An interesting piece. Kind of ‘Amadeus’-like. I think the idea is what’s it like for him to actually create, which is fascinating. And Freddie’s an extraordinary kid. Just truly brilliant as a child. When you’re around that, it’s not the idea of working with children and animals, but be careful working with really brilliant kids. He’s intuitive, plus a brain to back it up. And that makes work very interesting. Other than that, I’m doing a movie with John Travolta in Connecticut called ‘Old Dogs.’

Is that a sequel to Wild Dogs?

‘Wild Dogs?’ That’s the porn version. ‘Hot Bitches on a Leash.’ That’s the porn movie that comes out with ‘Good Will Humping.’ ‘Snatch Adams’, all the other ones. What’s it about? A clown with a dream. Big shoes, big feet, you know. ‘Hey, come over here. Whoa! Hi boys and girls, look what I made for you. It’s not balloon. It’s a giraffe, kind of.’ It’s about two old guys forced to deal with being in their 50’s and all of sudden going ‘what do you want to do now?’ One kinds of hunts cougars, if you catch my drift. No one knows what those are? Some of the women are going ‘I know, I know. What’s a cougar? A single woman. Okay, cool.’ And basically, one finds out that he had children and the other one wants to help him with that. But also use the kids as bait for cougars.

Was the director open to you improvising with the script?

He was very close to that. And I found that to be. He was open more to me physically improvising with him. He would have these rehearsals and I would go, ‘what’s this about?’ and he went ‘put on this thong.’ And I’d go, ‘but these are scenes from ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ And he said, ‘it’s just part of the preparation.’ ‘Why are we in a tent? Why are you spitting on your hand?’ And he went, ‘it’s just a prep.’ It’s kind of like the scene they cut from ‘Knocked Up’, what about that? He was open to pretty much anything, improvising, trying stuff physical, anything. Because he’s worked with Jon, he’s done the series he does the American series of ‘The Office’ so he’s open for it. I trusted him because he cast a lot great people in the smallest parts.

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What’s your take on immigration?

Immigration? For me it was always weird when Arnold was initially talking about dealing with immigration by building a wall. And even the Chinese go, ‘that will not work. Because who will build you wall? The people you’re trying to keep out?’ It’s very weird when they try and close the borders in America, you realize, every one of us, unless you’re a full-blooded Sioux, is an immigrant. And there was that one candidate that they got pissed at for actually put flyers out in Spanish. Ask the Canadians. If you go to Canada, they only have one province where all the French are, which is a great idea. That way they can all go, ‘I hate being here. It’s crazy, fuck you, I don’t want to be here. I want to break away from country, but somehow I want to keep the cash. Much like a college student being like I don’t want to be with your family, but please keep sending us money.’ There’s sings all over Canada in French. In California, the state is 60 percent if not more Hispanic. And we have an Austrian governer. He was essentially elected because, ‘I see his movies.’ With immigration I think there is this idea of how do you have some control legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, or the idea of incorporating, which is even what Bush is taking a lot of shit for. Oh, can we say Bush? And we mean it in the old sense. That the idea of incorporating or a program of assimilation, but I think this country lives off of assimilating new energies. It’s like we get this chance to have this injection with waves of immigrants in the 70s there were a lot of Russian immigrants, Russian-Jewish immigrants, African immigrants, all of us have come here. And the idea of shutting the borders I think it quite frightening. Does it create labor problems? Will Durst, who’s a comic, said, ‘If you’re really worried that guy’s going to take your job selling fruit on the highway.’ Here’s the other thing, if you really close off the borders you better invent some self-picking fruit. At the same time you say if all these people are working for sub-standard wages you have to find a way of dealing with that, too. Hence, the years ago Cesar Chavez going, ‘you have to take care of this idea.’ I know a lot of people go, ‘we shouldn’t have controls.’ Why? Because you get a total, a labor pool that you can pay substandard. But at the same time, we’re outsourcing. This is an interesting thing while we’r doing a comedy. We’re outsourcing most of the work for a lot of places where they’re going ‘there are a lot of people that could be doing this work’ but a lot of companies outsource. There’s a lot to discuss but it should be discussed openly. But it’s very hard because a lot of people go, ‘I’ve lived here come on now.’ But your dad didn’t. Or your grandfather didn’t. And they came here a long time ago.

Did you do another take on the Gloria Diaz wedding?

Did I do another take? I don’t know. I think they kept it the same. Pretty much about getting her citizenship and the idea. Which has been a standard thing for a lot of people to marry someone to stay. Especially for political asylum. There’s a lot people being sent back to dangerous places and claiming amnesty. ‘Please, we came here for that, we’re hoping for that.’ And that’s another difficult issue, but in the midst of a comedy we should talk about that.

Have you decided which candidate you’re going to support in 2008?

Which candidate? No, I think you’ve got to let it play out. Right now, if you’re in the South and you’re realizing as a Democrat your choices are black man or a woman, they’re going ‘I’m going to have a beer.’ I think it’s time to get some interesting candidates going. Everyone says that if Al Gore loses weight he’s going to run. I just want someone to run who can actually, number 1, speak in complete sentences, deal with issues honestly, directly. I mean even the Republican party, I think they should take their own party back. I think that they’ve even felt that they’ve been hijacked. I mean, I can’t look at everything and say ‘things are going great.’ It’s pretty wild how things are and I think there’s a great dissatisfaction. As an alcoholic, when I was drinking, there’s something called a blackout, which is more like sleepwalking with activities. I feel like, as a country, we’ve been through 6 years of a blackout where you kind of woke up and go ‘what did we do?’ What have we allowed to happen? And people are coming back going, ‘how do we deal with this?’ Right now, in the Middle East if you’re in Palestine, it’s hit the fan. And every day in Iraq, it’s just insane. And yet you have to find some solution whether than just going ‘what did you say?’ Politically, I don’t care what party you’re from offer a point of view and let’s see what happens. And really debate the issues instead of personal attacks. Really talk about it. Talk about immigration. Talk about education. Talk about pollution. Try to go in the ocean right now without getting fecal express. There’s a lot of signs out there and there are only two Germans in the water going ‘what’s wrong? This water smells to different. It’s wild how the fist are just brown.’ We’re going to have an issue soon, screw gas, water’s going to really important. In Northern California they get 20 percent snowfall compared to, it’s going to come down to, ‘what are you going to drink, smart boy?’ You didn’t used to have to pay for it, but hey. Yeah, there’s a lot going on. And the candidates, I don’t see, they’re starting to pan out. But it’s weird that this whole process causes you to have so much, you go after each other so much that by the end it’s literally, who’s got the cash? And who can do the long game and who can spend out the other one. And if you’re a Mormon you could tithe.

What are the films and people that make you laugh? And can you watch your own films?

You know it’s weird, I went to see a movie and one of trailers for this and I was ‘how’s it doing?’ And it played okay. It was fun. It’s weird if you see a trailer and people go ‘hiss’ or people talk shit to your movie. ‘Uh-uh.’ It’s rough. Once I was a movie and there was a trailer for a movie about a seal and I was in San Francisco and people started to do the ‘hiss’ And I’m like, ‘what pissed you off?’ ‘It’s about a seal, it’s ugly. Aren’t you wearing a seal skin coat? Yes.’ What makes me laugh? A lot of stuff. ‘Knocked Up’ made me laugh. I went to see a great Japanese cartoon called ‘Paprika.’ ‘Away from Her’ it didn’t make me laugh it just blew me away. Getting older and when I start to go ‘one down.’ And a lot of things, a lot of comics. I saw a great young guy last night named Dave Hill. Who’s really funny. He’s got a site on You Tube. And there’s a lot of good stuff and I have a good time just going and seeing films. It’s fun for me to go just to see a lot of different stuff. It’s weird as the theaters get smaller and smaller it’s like the Cineplex. The sad thing for me in San Francisco a lot of the big theaters are gone. They’re turned into gyms. It’s weird, ‘isn’t this? Why are we working on slant.’ And then you go to the cineplexes, which have the great seats, but they’re still cineplexes. And you end up looking at a screen going ‘this is about as big as my TV.’ I’ve been having fun seeing those. What makes me laugh? Pretty much everything right now. Any press conference. Especially if W speaks for more than a minute. He says great things like ‘a lot of our imports come from other countries.’ And the question that is never asked, ‘is our children learning?’ At that point you just go, thank you lord. And the fact that Mel got busted by the only Jewish highway patrolman. I think you have to know there is a God. I saw ‘The Passion’ here’s a little irony.

Do I have to choose whether to do comedy or drama?

You have to. It’s like ‘Sophie’s Choice.’ Pick a baby. You can do the dramatic comedies, you can do, go into standup, you’ll have a good time.

What do you choose?

What do I choose? The difference? I like doing all of it. I like having the idea of doing a movie like this, a comedy with really fun people. I like doing standup. For me, it’s like with all the things going on to trying and find some perspective on it. And just to find a way that addresses the full gamut of the craziness from both sides. I like both. The dramas for me allow me to explore more behavioral, deeper psychological things. But the comedies allow me to explore the idea of working off other people. I’m having more fun doing that now. And at the age of 55 I’m a character actor, you know? The idea of an older, furry love interest, unless you’re doing Gorillas in the Mist: The Musical.’ This year we have ‘Transformers’ the movie and then there’s ‘Lego: The Musical.’ But I think it’ll be like, I just want to keep working and all of them are fun for me. Fun, even doing hardcore dramas, are fun because you really get to explore something like ‘One Hour Photo’ where I get to explore behavior that normally would get me put in jail. But you get to be slightly sociopathic. Or psychopathic on weekends.

Is there anything else you want to do?

I want to dance on ice. After seeing ‘Blades of Glory’, I believe that I could do…


Artistically? Sculpture. As an actor what do I want to do? I think just…


Musical? Oh, I’ve done those in cartoons. I could do a musical that would be fun. A musical of Freud’s life called, ‘It’s Your Mother.’ Line two. ‘Jung At Heart.’ You could do musicals pretty much based on anything. Pick a subject you could do a musical on it. ‘Gandhi: The Musical.’ That’d be fun. The Gandhi man can.

Do you sing in August Rush?

No, I don’t I’m actually an old rock and roll, kind of strange like a former rock and roller who has these kids. It’s like Fagin meets Ted Nugent, but without the bow and arrow.

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