Williams has been working in film and TV since 1977 and in those four decades has been nominated for three Academy Awards (winning one), as well as two Emmys and four Golden Globes. Awards aside, there has been one achievement that has eluded Williams for some 25 years — Batman. Specifically, playing a part in a Batman movie. I actually feel a bit sorry for the guy; he’s a huge fan of the comic books and has been shafted by three different directors. Ouch.
With today being Williams’ 62nd birthday, let’s explore 10 roles the actor lost out on, four of them being Batman-related.
1. ¡Three Amigos! (1986) — There were actually a number of different amigo combinations in play before it was whittled down to Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and Martin Short. Originally, it was Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd, and John Belushi. Then Belushi croaked and the project shifted to Steven Spielberg, who favored Steve Martin, Bill Murray, and Robin Williams (in the role of Ned Nerdlander). Spielberg didn’t stay on the movie for long, moving over to E.T. before production began. John Landis picked up the directorial duties and replaced Williams with Short.
2. Big (1988) — Tom Hanks was always the first choice to play the lead role of a boy who wakes up in the body of a man. But when scheduling issues with Dragnet and Punchline came up, other actors’ names were thrown on the table. Among those actors were John Travolta, Robert De Niro, and Robin Williams. De Niro’s asking price of $6 million was too high and John Travolta was viewed as “box office poison” by the studio at the time. Before Williams could sign on for the project, Tom Hanks cleared room in his schedule wand swooped back in to secure the part.
3. Batman (1989) — Tim Burton’s take on Batman marked the beginning of Robin Williams unfruitful quest to battle the caped crusader. As noted in our facts piece on Batman, Warner Bros. always wanted Jack Nicholson for the Joker role, but when he hesitated to sign on for the part the studio began looking into Robin Williams. Who knows how serious they really were about bringing on Williams for the film, but the rumor was enough to convince Nicholson to play the iconic villain.
4. JFK (1991) — Robin Williams was one of many actors considered for the lead role of New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison in Oliver Stone’s 1991 thriller, JFK. Before Hollywood’s then-prince Kevin Costner was locked in for the role, Williams, Jeff Bridges, Harrison Ford, and Mel Gibson were also being looked at for the part. After Costner’s Dances With Wolves cleaned up in Oscar nominations, the studio dumped every other actor in an effort to capitalize on Costner’s heat.
5. Philadelphia (1993) — This one probably stands out as the strangest lost role Robin Williams nearly had. Director Johnathon Demme was concerned that the story of a lawyer with AIDS was just too damn sad and could benefit from some comic relief. Demme was looking into casting Bill Murray or Robin Williams to play the role of lawyer Joe Miller, but dismissed the idea of bringing on a comedic actor when Denzel Washington expressed interest in the role.