Robin Williams’ most heartbreaking performance in The Fisher King was shared by the movie’s producer, Terry Gilliam, following Robin’s passing.
In this film Robin Williams played a homeless man whose life as an academic was destroyed when his mind snapped after witnessing the brutal murder of his wife. After becoming a mentally ill homeless man, he fancied himself a modern-day knight searching for the Holy Grail.
Gilliam said “I think his character in ‘The Fisher King’ is in many ways the closest one to Robin, just that range — the madness, the damage, the pain, the sweetness, the outrageousness. That was the role I think that stretched him to the limits.”
Gilliam singled out a scene as being particularly painful to remember in the wake of the actor’s passing. Robin moved from a romantic, blissful state into this more timid, frightened character as he got closer to his dream while fighting off the demon’s of his past.
From a director’s point of view it wasn’t a hard scene to shoot, but it was very hard from an acting point of view. Gilliam reminisced “Robin was tearing his guts out emotionally. The interesting thing about Robin in all of those scenes was that he always wanted to do another take. He felt he had even more anguish and pain to spill out of the character.”
Terry Gilliam had to stop him and say, “Robin, you’ve reached a point here, way beyond what we expected. We’ve got what we needed. Now you’re just hurting yourself.”
Gilliam said “That happened a couple of times while we were shooting this scene. The most worrisome moment for me was after he’s been chased by the Red Knight, when he’s running through the streets, and then he comes to the river, where the teenage punks arrive and knife him. We had to do other things on that night shoot, too, and things were going very slowly. Suddenly, we realized that we had like an hour until the dawn would arrive.”
“The last shot we had to do was Robin running at the end of this scene, in this hysterical state.” Gilliam reminisced “You can even see the light ever so slightly beginning to come on the river in the background.”
Robin was so angry because it was such a crucial moment, and he felt he’d been cheated of his ability to really give this moment his all. Robin was an incredibly strong guy. When he’d worked himself into this state of madness for the part, nobody could approach him. The first assistant, the stunt guy … nobody wanted to get near him. They were terrified.”
So Gilliam said “Robin, what we have here is very good. And if we look at the rushes and it isn’t, I promise you, I will reshoot it.” And Gilliam had to hug him and hold him. He could feel these muscles that were so tense and so strong. “They felt like they could easily rip my head off.”
Here is the very scene that Terry Gilliam is referring to.
The symbolic importance of that scene is WAY BEYOND comprehension for some… but those who get it, REALLY GET IT.
Robin cared deeply for the homeless and vulnerable. As the curator of this website I cannot withhold the anguish I feel for not being able to go back in time to let Robin know how deeply I care for his dear soul and appreciate the feelings he had at that time.
This was a post Terry shared with friends after his passing:
PLEASE see this video tribute (HERE). I created it. The focal point of the tribute is around this specific scene that Gilliam mentioned.
You can learn more about the film in the links below:
- Trailer and Insight into The Fisher King Film (Background for this film)
- The Fisher King Video Tribute (Stunning! Must see.)
- The Story of the Fisher King (As told by Robin)
- Precious Insight From Terry Gilliam on Robin Williams’ Heart
- Robin’s Legacy and Testimony to Congress
- Robin Talking to Oprah about The Fisher King