Robin Williams is an institution.
I’m sure that’s not something an actor wants to hear, particularly one who still pushes himself out of his comfort zone so regularly this far into a career, but it’s true. He really is a living legend, and the pleasure at this point comes from watching the choices he makes.
In “Happy Feet Two,” he once again plays two roles, and they’re very different in attitude. He’s Ramon, the lovesick penguin who is still on the hunt for a mate, and he also plays Loveless, who appears this time as the most ardent cheerleader for Sven, a false prophet who shows up promising to save the penguins and teach them to fly.
It’s hard to believe, but this may be the first formal interview I’ve done with Williams. I’ve met him before, and we had a great and funny encounter a few years back when we ran into each other at Meltdown Comics, which Williams told me is one of his favorite places anywhere. He’s always been very genuine when I’ve run into him, and in this case, I was showing up about halfway through his second day of press for the film, and everyone I talked to was raving about how he was so on fire in their interview, doing impressions and voices and jokes.
I wanted to actually talk to him, though, not just drop quarters in like he’s a jukebox. I think Williams is a great actor who directors frequently lean on in the wrong ways. Sure, he’s a guy who can summon a great deal of manic energy when he wants to, and he’s very inventive and funny, but he’s got more to offer than that, and I was curious to talk to him about process and about working with George Miller, who I think is one of our great interesting filmmakers.
As a result, I think it’s a more genuine and gentle conversation than you’ll see in some of his “Happy Feet Two” interviews. Someday, I’d love to sit down for a solid hour with him and really dig into some of my favorite performances of his from over the years, but for now, this was an engaging first formal interview with a guy who has been part of my pop culture life since I was seven years old.
“Happy Feet Two” opens everywhere this Friday.