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Is Williams going from beloved to villian?

by Archives April 3, 2002

With the release of Danny De Vito’s newest directing effort Death to Smoochy last Friday. I had the chance to converse with Mr. De Vito and the film’s star Robin Williams prior to the film’s release. Both stars had plenty to say about their collaboration and their unanimous respect for one another in what proves to be a step downward in the morality ladder for the characters Williams usually portrays.
Death to Smoochy is a dark and cynical tale about a children’s television show host who seeks retribution towards his successful replacement played by Edward Norton.
Via a telephone interview, Williams said that he enjoyed ‘letting loose’ and not being restricted in terms of physical comedy, as his future roles will demonstrate. Williams gave much insight into his upcoming trilogy of films that showcases an atypical Williams.
He mentions Death to Smoochy as the least restrictive of the three upcoming films in which, while this is indeed a comedy, his next two films are very annihalistic roles that Williams enjoyed playing tremendously.
Williams quite clearly conveyed that playing these diverse roles allowed him the opportunity to work with others in the industry that he would usually not be able to work with. Such is the case with his next two twisted films. He teams up with Al Pacino in ‘Insomnia’ in which he plays a sadistic, blackmailing killer in a film directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento).
Furthermore, he contrasted the physicality of his roles in relation to the last of his dark trilogy of films in ‘One Hour Photo’. Williams plays an obsessive photo shop employee who stalks the people in the photos of those whom he develops in a maniacal manner.
Maniacal would be a good adjective to describe Williams’ energy on television and on screen. And even through a telephone interview he exudes his energy and exuberance with his constant kidding and insight into his life.
At the present moment he will be returning to the Stand-Up Comedy Circuit across the United States and refers to stand up as a ‘liberating process’. He thoroughly enjoys the stand up routine and states that his character’s vulgar tone in Death to Smoochy is quite similar to the Robin Williams we can see on stage.
He looks forward to broadening his body of work with such diverse roles and had no reluctance at crediting Danny De Vito with a sharp eye of direction.
Danny De Vito as mild mannered and small in stature as he is, allows his words to speak for him. He is an articulate and passionate filmmaker who stressed that the cinematic medium is a collaborative process. He and I shared a healthy rally of Q & A concerning his stylistic and visceral vision within Death to Smoochy. The main question related to how he and his director of photography strategized the film’s audacious look.
DeVito credited Anastos Michos, the film’s DP, with a profound sense of understanding what DeVito wanted in his latest film. They are now together again, collaborating on DeVito’s newest feature ‘Duplex’ starring Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore. Similar to DeVito’s dark themes, he explores how a couple will stop at nothing to obtain the perfect apartment.
The element which I retained the most from the interview was DeVito’s appreciation for the craft and his love for his wife and his children. He seems grounded in his family life all the while exposed to many influential Hollywood qualities that could have veered him off his path. In regards to family, he said he was very proud about ‘Matilda’. He directed this children’s film that successfully appealed to both children and adults and was a commercially viable film.
Williams stated that Devito as an artist pushed the envelope in terms of the film’s edginess and Williams respected that trait. Both these men respect each other and their collaborative creation, which will surprise many by its raw energy, seen in Death to Smoochy.

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