Friday, February 21

When Robin Williams attacks


The comic actor explores his inner maniac for a new, dark role

  Warner Bros. Robin Williams stars as
Randolph Smiley, an ex-character on a children’s television show,
who is out to annihilate Smoochy, played by Edward Norton, in
"Death to Smoochy."

By Beverly Braga
Daily Bruin Contributor

Robin Williams does not strike fear into the hearts of men. His
every pore oozes cuddly warmth. Essentially, he is like a human
teddy bear that is thought of with a wink and a smile.

That is, until he starts playing psychos.

Williams started out in Hollywood portraying the otherworldly
Mork from Ork in the television series “Mork &
Mindy.” Eventually moving on to film, the roles that have
made him famous tend to be safe family fare such as “Mrs.
Doubtfire” and “Patch Adams.” Yet regardless of a
role’s demands, Williams seems to act with a never-ending
sugar rush.

Most of his comedies have been box office hits, though Williams
has proven he can do non-fluffy dramatic pieces as well. His role
of Dr. Sean McGuire in 1997’s “Good Will Hunting”
garnered him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Yet in “Death to Smoochy,” Williams veers far from
his usual friendly roles to play the corrupt Randolph Smiley, the
star of “Rainbow Randolph,” a highly-rated
children’s TV show.

While the character of Smoochy is loosely based on puffy
costumed PBS icons like Barney and the Teletubbies, Williams’
Rainbow Randolph was without a similar real-life counterpart. So
Williams improvised.

“I based (him) on Liberace. And he’s a little bit of
Michael Flatley. It’s always great to dance for no
reason,” Williams said, referring to the song and dance
sequences in the film, with an impromptu Irish accent.

After all, what non-animated children’s show does not
involve some kind of musical number?

  Warner Bros. Robin Williams loses his
sanity and his job in “Death to Smoochy,” which opened
last Friday.

Smiley is a twisted figure. His personality is the opposite of
his colorfully dressed on-screen persona. Behind the scenes he
indulges in hard liquor and a high-class lifestyle, and harvests
bribes from parents who are willing to pay anything to ensure their
child appears in front of a “Rainbow Randolph”
camera.

But he is unable to keep his shady dealings under the table
forever. The authorities catch up to him and Smiley is completely
disgraced in a world he once ruled. His Randolph image is
ultimately replaced by Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton) and his
folk-singing, fuchsia alter-ego known as Smoochy.

Smiley is not too keen on Smoochy’s squeaky-clean appeal.
Homeless, jobless and bitter, he sets out to assassinate
Smoochy.

The homicidal Smiley is definitely a stretch from
Williams’ days as a grown-up Peter Pan. He is more than
simply harmonies and hip shaking.

“It’s just that nasty, standard kind of bitterness
that everyone has sort of way in the back but doesn’t admit
to,” Williams said. “But I acknowledge it
now.”

Smiley is only one in a recent string of darker roles that
Williams has played. In two yet-to-be-released dramas, he sheds his
benevolent cloak completely. In “One Hour Photo,” he
plays a stalker, while in “Insomnia,” he is a
blackmailing murderer. As for “Death to
Smoochy’s” Smiley, he is so potty-mouthed and neurotic,
one would wonder how he became such a lovable children’s
icon.

  Warner Bros. Robin Williams, donning
part of his Rainbow Randolph gear, goes maniacal in "Death to
Smoochy."

But why the villains? Is being nice really such a terrible
thing?

“It’s been good playing dark characters,”
Williams said. “The one thing in common is that these
characters are not bound by the same rules as the nicer people.
They’ve gone beyond either because of the medication or
alcohol or whatever else.”

In a twisted, vengeful way, Smiley’s true motivation for
wanting to annihilate Smoochy is not drug-induced, but rather
love-induced. As maniacal as his actions are, all Smiley really
needs is a nice, warm hug to soothe his empty soul.

After sitting atop the highest peak in the children’s
programming world, his fall from grace can be nothing but long and
agonizing. When Smiley finally hits bottom, it is an impact heard
around the world. To emote that sort of angst, Williams considered
his own personal experience with fame.

“When you’re famous and it all goes away ““
like after “˜Mork & Mindy’ ““ then you find
yourself being angry at other people,” Williams said.
“I thought, “˜What are you angry about? It’s you.
You have to deal with it.’ You have to explore that kind of
anger. But then it’s also comedic so you get to make fun of
it and be out of control.”

Truly evil characters are still a fairly new and unmapped
territory for Williams. Even so, he claims the preparation was not
too overwhelming. All he had to do was tap into his inner
psychotic.

“You find out everyone’s got it,” Williams
said. “Everyone has it subconsciously. It’s a question
of rage, that stuff that you know you’ll find. You
can’t explore the real thing. That’s the horrible thing
that you know you’ll never (do).”

Locating one’s inner maniac is one thing. Getting people
to laugh because of it is another. But that is why the job belongs
to Williams.

“It’s always the idea of different things for
different films,” Williams said. “You can take an
alcoholic or an out-of-control drunk and do one thing and be funny.
And then you go one step further and it’s pathetic. And you
go one step further and you go into psychosis. That thing where
(madmen) cross the line, when they kill somebody, then you’re
somebody else. That’s the most interesting thing.”


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