MoviesOnline sat down with Robin Williams and Bobcat Goldthwait to talk about their new movie, “World's Greatest Dad,” a thoughtful but outrageous comedy about a man who learns that the things you want most may not be the things that make you happy, and that being lonely is not necessarily the same as being alone.
Robin Williams stars as Lance Clayton, a man who has learned to settle. He dreamed of being a rich and famous writer, but has only managed to make it as a high school poetry teacher. His only son Kyle (Daryl Sabara) is an insufferable jackass who won’t give his father the time of day. He is dating Claire (Alexie Gilmore), the school’s adorable art teacher, but she doesn’t want to get serious -- or even acknowledge publicly that they are dating.
Then, in the wake of a freak accident, Lance suffers the worst tragedy and greatest opportunity of his life. He is suddenly faced with the possibility of all the fame, fortune and popularity he ever dreamed of, if he can only live with the knowledge of how he got there.
Here’s what Robin Williams and Bobcat Goldthwait had to tell us about their dark new comedy. During our interview, they spoke extensively about a major plot point that some readers may not want to know about before they see the film, so please consider this a SPOILER ALERT!:
Q: How did you guys stay serious while making this movie?
Goldthwait: Yeah, you know what it was, it wasn't just because of Robin, a lot of comedians are in this movie.
Williams: Yeah. Pretty much every other person.
Goldthwait: I knew that me going, 'Hey, guys, come on, we have to get serious –' would be met –
Williams: And he's wearing a coonskin hat, like, 'Thank you, Daniel Boone.'
Goldthwait: They're like, 'You set "The Tonight Show" on fire. We're supposed to wise up around you?' There really would be times where everyone would just go mental for a while and it's kind of like, 'Alright, now it's nap time. Let’s film.’
Williams: 'Meds kicked in. Time to go.'
Q: How long do you guys go back?
Williams: Thirty years, to the dawn of time. When we were performing, there were no microphones, people were just like, 'Pass it on.' These were hip when we were young people. There was no internet when we were growing up. We had tapes and that was it.
Goldthwait: I'm really nervous now. This is paused.
Williams: Oh, no.
Goldthwait: It's just that I'm satanic and I erase [things].
Q: So, Bobcat –
Goldthwait: Yes. Did you get that hat at Target?
Goldthwait: Me, too!
Q: Was that kid character based on personal experience because it kind of hit the nail on the head in some instances?
Goldthwait: No. You know, if it was true, I would lie right now and say no. The kid is based on a kid that I know, but the guy, about a day in Robin goes, 'Oh, I'm playing you.' I went, 'Yeah.' But the child isn't. You said that it reminded you of your high school which I foundâ€¦it's weird. The tragedy that hit the generation above me, they all had a guy they went to high school with that may have died in Vietnam or beyond that, but then anyone below that, that's a really common story that there's some jerk in their school that passes away and everyone reinvents him. I think it's a really immature instinct to make it all about them.
Q: Robin, I heard that it took two women to wax you.
Q: And they had to take a break?
Goldthwait: How did it feel?
Williams: When they took a breakâ€¦ [singing] 'Nobody knowsâ€¦I been workin' on Mr. Williams’ front for two years now.' 'Don't be afraid of him. What we get from you, we'll make into a sweater.' They actually did. There was actually a moment where they went, 'You mind if we take a break?' I felt really bad.
Goldthwait: He said that one of them got carpel tunnel in the middle of it.
Williams: 'Oh, ouch. My hand.'
Q: Did you have to take painkillers or anything?
Williams: No. After a while you get used to it.
Goldthwait: I did, looking at his hog all day.
Williams: My junk. 'No, no more of that. Put it away.'
Q: Is that your first nude scene?
Williams: No. It's actually my second one. My first one was in 'Fisher King' where I was nude in Central Park, but it was a cold night then so that's my excuse. 'Oh, look, it's small but fierce.'
Q: Was the pool cold?
Williams: No. Warm pool.
Goldthwait: No. Trust me. That wasn't a Dirk Diggler special FX. That was the real deal.
Williams: 'Is that boom shadow?' 'No.'
Goldthwait: The whole day we were filming that I was like, 'I have no idea why you're insecure. If I was you, I'd be way more cocky.'
Williams: It was weird though, the whole idea of being nude in that scene. Like I said to him, I said, 'Listen, at the end he's kind of shedding everything. Maybe I should go full.' He went, 'Okay.' That's kind of how we work. It wasn't done for like, 'Oh, let’s go for a laugh here –' really.
Goldthwait: Or a shock.
Williams: It's more of an emotional thing. It's cathartic at that point. You're going full tilt breakdown. What's going on.
Goldthwait: I also thought about it as, like, if every single shot in that series was framed in a way in which his garbage was framed out it would've seemed kind of trite. It would've been kind of saying to the audience, 'You're not grownups. You can't see a penis.'
Williams: 'No. We'll show you tiny vaginas.'
Q: You keep the socks on though, right?
Williams: Yeah, that's what most guys would do. I love it. Most of the guys are going, 'Yeah, I have done that. I'm a leave my socks on girl. I never go full sock. You want full sock? No, girl. If I take my socks off, that means we're in love.'
Goldthwait: The angles are the gateway to the man's soul. I always thought that his character, that was another discussion with our costume designer, Sarah de Sa Rego, who I'm banging – that's my girlfriend – we thought that was where the one remainingâ€¦by the end of the movie Lance has disappeared completely and we felt like that was just the last little bit of him, his humanity, that was the little bit of creativity that was left in him. I also like the idea that when he's wearing those socks a lot of people might think he might slip and break his neck or something. So I like to put that out there, too.
Q: Robin, you've vacillated between serious roles and comedy roles. Has that created a problem for casting?
Williams: In the amount of work that I'm getting, that it explains why I'm going back out on the road? It's been interesting to do both. I've also done dark movies like 'One Hour Photo', but to do a dark comedy like this, we'll see how it affects work. I've obviously done studio movies, but I did this movie because I read it and thought that it was really interesting. I wasn't doing it as a mercy film for Bob, like, 'Let’s help little Bob out.' I thought, 'This is really good.' I saw his other movies like 'Let Sleeping Dogs Lie' and I went, 'He's fearless.' When you have a movie where a girl basically fellates a dog and goes, 'Let’s see what happens –', with this one I'm going, 'I know that he can handle something really bizarre upfront and then get down to some really interesting humanity. That's why I did this movie.
Q: Did the Disney type sound to the title of the film throw you or was that done intentionally?
Williams: I think it's great.
Goldthwait: I was just being snarky when I called it 'World's Greatest Dad'. I really do hope some families show up.
Williams: 'Mom, what's this thing?' 'You know, Timmy. You're Uncle Bob used to do that.'
Williams: At least they won't be like, 'I was into the movie for thirty five minutes.' At least they'll be in like three minutes as they go running out of the theater.
Williams: I love the fact that French distributor said, 'We are just going to call it "Dad".' That's a very French thing, going, 'There's no such thing as World's Greatest. It's just "Dad".'
Goldthwait: The last movie had no problem in France and Spain. They were like, 'Sure. I believe an American blows a dog.'
Williams: 'Who doesn't do this in America? So after she blows the dog, what goes on then, huh?'
[MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!]
Q: The way the kid dies and the way the late David Carradine died is pretty similar. Do you think there will be comparisons?
Goldthwait: Well, his family recently came out and said that they thought it might've been kung fu assassins. I wish I was joking but they really did.
Williams: They went the opposite way. In this movie, he dies –
Goldthwait: I want to clear that up. Daryl's [Sabara] character did not die from kung fu assassins.
Williams: 'We put a rope around Daryl's balls.'
Goldthwait: I would feel bad if it was a punch line the way the kid dies, but it's not a punch line. It's just that I needed a way, because I'm really interested in the lies that we tell about ourselves.
Williams: The motivation for my character immediately when he finds him that way is that I don't want him to be remembered like this.
Goldthwait: And it kind of starts him on his line trajectory in a weird way because when he first starts becoming dirty, there are actually viable and sincere reasons to lying.
Q: His death happens, or feels like it happens, halfway through the film, like it takes a while to get there. In a lot of films, that would be the first to second act change over. Why put it late enough in the film that no one can talk about it? We had a press release saying we can't talk about it and we haven't seen it yet. It was kind of a dick move.
Williams: 'Yeah, and then the Titanic sinks.' 'You, bastard! You fucking told the ending.' That was a great thing, a friend of ours saw the movie last night and said, 'You made this really unrelenting prick of a kid. How are you going to redeem him?' Then he went, 'You didn't. You killed him.' That's what Daryl, the fearlessness of his performance is to be that nasty because it justifies everything. I mean, it's justified but then also when you start to deify him and turn him into this amazingly sensitive kid they're all going, 'No, he wasn't.' The one friend went, 'He never seemed like that. He was never like that.'
Goldthwait: In the movie, there's the scene where he's at the newsstand, Robin, and he falls apart because he sees porn and it reminds him of his son. That's Chris [Lambert] from Nirvana and we were in Seattle and I used to open for Nirvana. So I called Chris up and I said, 'I want you to be in this scene.' He goes, 'Why?' I said, 'Because you're funny.' He goes, 'I am?' I said, 'You are –' because he is funny. We get there and he goes, 'What's going on? What's this about?' I said, 'You know, sometimes when people die, people reinvent them in a way because they want to make it about themselves and they lose sight of who this person really was and that they really were a real person. I don't know if you can relate to that.' Chris just smiled and goes, 'Oh, okay –' like, 'Yeah, I'm in.'
Williams: Do the math.
Goldthwait: When we were filming this scene, it was so sweet, Chris goes, 'I feel so bad. Robin Williams is so sad. I want to cheer him up.' I said, 'No. Don't, don't.'
Williams: It's kind of wonderful when he comes over and is just kind of comforting me and I'm standing next to like 'Ass Lickers' or something and he goes, 'Are you okay, buddy?'
Goldthwait: 'Ass School'. I had to make up fake porn.
Q: I imagine that you've had friends and colleagues in Hollywood that have passed away over the years.
Williams: The most wonderful thing that happened wasâ€¦it isn't the greatest thing. 'Oh, the greatest death.' Bob's brother died and the reverend gave this amazing eulogy where he loved animals. And Bob –
Goldthwait: Yeah, I went up in the church and I said, 'You know, father, I don't want to be rude, but my brother liked to kill animals.' I said, 'There are a lot of deer in the woods right now going "Whew."'
Williams: But in that moment the entire room was like, 'Yeah!' And the people who knew him were like, 'Yeah, man, that's him.' Then that eulogy people get to remember the guy, the real guy and go, 'Yeah, he was crazy.' Then the other thing –
Goldthwait: What other thing. Oh, there was a little person that I wasn't aware of, a pallbearer and I look down and I go –
Williams: Five regular sized guys and a little person.
Goldthwait: I said to my daughter, 'It looks like he's riding a subway.' Then my daughter and I lose it and my daughter goes, 'I think he just got air.'
Williams: And that moment even God is going, 'Don't you just love it. Don't you just get the irony of this whole situation.'
Goldthwait: That's the kind of comedy that I'm most comfortable with. That's the stuff that I'm interested in doing and I know that it seems like it's for shock and I'm sure subconsciously that's what I'm thinking but I don't sit down and write these screenplays going, 'Oh, this ought to blow their asses through their face. This will freak everyone out.' I'm really just writing what interests me and it's very freeing.
Williams: There's that thing, too, of a moment of truth and that you lose friends or whatever, the best honor is just remembering who they were. Then, in that moment, you go, 'Yeah.'
Goldthwait: It's funny. I did like the scene at the newsstand because I felt that your character, I was afraid that he was getting over the events too soon. I remember when my own mom passed away that it was two weeks later when I really broke down. It wasn't immediately. So that's why I put that scene in.
Q: Being a father, Robin, were those the most difficult scenes to do?
Williams: Yeah. The most difficult scene of all is to think of losing my son. I mean, I think of it now and I can't imagine that. I can't imagine losing him or my daughter. It's this weird thing where he said, 'Can you do this?' I said, 'Oh, yeah.' It wasn't hard to all of a sudden think about what it would be like. It would be that your world falls apart. Your everything falls apart. You're devastated. It doesn't matter how old you are. I've talked to people who were in their eighties and nineties when their son died and they're going, 'I thought I'd always go before him.' Isn't even my son or daughter, just thinking of losing a child, it's a devastating thing. Also the idea, my initial motivation, why he writes the note or whatever, 'I don't want him to be remembered like this.' It isn't like he's going, 'Oh, this is a chance to be a great writer.'
Goldthwait: No, because clearly that can't happen to your character at that point.
Williams: Then the weird thing, when you mentioned Carradine, it's that his family went the opposite way. They said, 'He wasn't depressed. He was kinky but he wasn't depressed.' So they went the other way, like, 'This is the honesty of it.'
Goldthwait: It's kind of a weird culture that we live inâ€¦
Williams: 'He wasn't suicidal.' 'Oh.'
Goldthwait: â€¦that suicide, like, 'Oh, suicide? Sure. We all understand that. Masturbating with a belt around your neck, that's weird.'
Q: Do you think there's such a thing as a selfless lie?
Goldthwait: Yes, I do. I believe that if you're telling a lie and that lie is out of kindness and it's not about reinventing yourself, making yourself look better or making yourself come off so that you benefit, you're just doing it out of kindness then I do believe that's the high road.
Williams: That was kind of like your movie before, 'Let Sleeping Dogs Lie', where it was like sometimes the truth is not always the best thing, especially in terms of a relationship, going, 'What did you do?' That was the thing, when she eventually tells him that it'sâ€¦
Goldthwait: A lot of people are bullies because they go, 'Hey, man, it's just the truth. I'm just telling you how it is.'
Williams: That's cruelty.
Goldthwait: Yeah. 'No, you're just being a lout.' So I'd written a movie like that and now I wanted to write one where someone has to grow up and be honest even though they would lose all the shiny things that were popular in American culture.
Q: Robin, you had your own brush with the health scare. How are you now and are you using that in your upcoming tour?
Williams: Oh, yeah, big time. He gave me the greatest line of allâ€¦
Goldthwait: Wait. You have to say that Robin was very, very emotional after he got surgery.
Williams: Yeah. It is that weird thing where I did have open heart surgery and people go, 'How are you?' and you go, [Crying] 'Thanks for asking.' I thought instead of valves they gave me a tiny vagina because it's that thing of all this weird stuff about what happened with the surgery and coming out of the surgery, life after surgery. This whole thing now, I missed the cash for clunkers –
Goldthwait: For your heart.
Williams: 'Hey, Robin, I'll give you fifty for your heart.' And the new Apple iHeart. It's amazingly kind of like this movie where you do get a second chance. You're back and you're like, 'Hey, thanks.'
Goldthwait: The movie, in regard to second chances, it's not just the characters stuff. It's the fact that I think people have probably written myself off and I think that people didn't really expect great things from the kid from 'Spy Kids' and I'm sure we all had questions about Bruce Hornsby. But I mean, to me in a weird way, that's another really weird and awesome thing that's come out of this movie. That does interest me, that things are not what you perceive them to be. From my standup and now the movies that I'm getting to make, that seems to be the case.
Williams: And we're both on the road for the same reason. Cash.
Q: What happens to Lance after this?
Goldthwait: I hope that he continues to write for the right reasons and not to become successful.
Williams: I think he's starting to have a life at that point. He goes, 'All of a sudden I have people who I know who –'
Goldthwait: Now I hope he's going to be around people that like him just because they like him.
Williams: The most painful line for me comes at the end where he says, 'It's one thing to be alone. It's another thing to be around people who make you feel alone.' Most people self-impose that, like, 'I can't be around other people.' What he said, the acceptance and going, 'Life is short, number one. Number two, if you find people and connect with people, they really are extraordinary if you recognize that.’ It's kind of amazing.
Goldthwait: The really terrifying thing is to say, 'Hey, man, I can be okay without a relationship.' That's the most terrifying thing you can do and then the gifts that you get back when you do say that is that all of a sudden the right people are drawn into your life.
Williams: And you're powerless over them and not trying to manipulate them and going, 'I can just go, "Oh, hey."'
Goldthwait: 'If I had you in my life, my life would be perfect.' All that stuff has gone out the window. I was really glad that Dr. Phil was such a big help writing this movie.
”World’s Greatest Dad” opens in theaters on August 21st.