'Mrs. Doubtfire' Celebrates 27th Anniversary: 'Robin Williams Was So Great With Kids'

'Mrs. Doubtfire' Celebrates 27th Anniversary: 'Robin Williams Was So Great With Kids'

The comedy-drama was released in 1993 and the former child actors only have heartfelt memories with the late actor.

Can you believe it? It's been 27 years since we first saw Robin Williams play the role of played Daniel Hillard who in turn portrayed a badass nanny, Mrs. Doubtfire. The film, directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, and the first two Harry Potter films) was released in 1993 and featured Williams, Oscar winner Sally Field as well as Pierce Brosnan, who played Field's sophisticated new boyfriend Stu. As for the actors who played the Hillard children, there was Lisa Jakub as Lydia, Matthew Lawrence as Chris, and a 5-year-old Mara Wilson as Natalie. The enduring classic comedy opened on Nov. 24, 1993, and the role of Mrs. Doubtfire is said to be one of Robin Williams' most iconic roles amongst many. The story revolved around a freelance voice actor who loves his three children, Lydia, Chris, and Natalie. His wife finds him unreliable and a total man-child and files for divorce. In an attempt to win back his family, he disguises himself as the now-famous nanny.

On its 25th anniversary, a few cast members got together for an interview on TODAY with NBC's Gadi Schwartz. The three kids ( all grown up) along with Brosnan opened up about the appeal of the film, even decades later, and what an incredible force the late Robin Williams was. "To work with Robin was just sheer heaven," said Brosnan. "To watch his artistry, his commitment, his passion, his humanity, and just his hard work and commitment to the role, and to everyone on the set, it permeated all our lives. He was so great with kids ... He was very kind, very giving, very funny," said Wilson, who described Williams as "a consummate performer," adding,  "He would make his carpetbag bark like a dog under the table. There were so many times, just innumerable times that he made us laugh."

Williams was like a father figure to the children, even offering them candid advice. Jakub recalled, "One of the most powerful things for me about working with him is that he was very open and honest with me talking about his issues with addiction, depression, and that was so powerful to me at 14," she said. Matthew Lawrence too had a similar experience where Williams's frankness was an inspiration to be better. "Robin was like a guiding force," Lawrence said, who was 12 at the time of filming. "Like, he would just, all of a sudden out of the blue look over to me like, 'By the way, don't do drugs! Really messed up my brain. I'm serious. Do not do them.' I was like, 'OK!' That stuck with me." Mara Wilson who was just 5 still remembered the impression Williams had left on her too. Williams, she noted, “was just lovely the whole time. He was making hand puppets with us and making all kinds of jokes.” “He would make a paper bag bark like a dog under the table,” said Wilson. “He never talked down to us. He would get down to our level, literally, looked us in the eye and talk to us very gently. He was warm and friendly and fun and ridiculous the whole time. But you could tell he really understood and loved kids.” Lawrence added, "He had his heart on the sleeve all the time. He was such a loyal and exposed human being.”



According to Variety, the film was adapted by Randi Mayem Singer and Leslie Dixon from Anne Fine’s YA novel Alias Madame Doubtfire. Singer remembered the first time he met the talented Williams and his then-wife Marsha. “He alternated from speaking calmly and articulately in his chair to literally getting up and using the entire space around the table to perform and act out what he was talking about — in character, in that stream-of-consciousness trademark Robin Williams way,” Singer recalled. “I thought to myself that it was a good thing he became an actor and comedian, I couldn’t envision him in any sort of normal job. Meanwhile, everyone in the restaurant was watching and smiling. I felt so incredibly fortunate to be working with him.”



While most films always portray couples "living happily ever after" by being together, this film would be remembered for doing something different. Singer felt it was important that parents Chris and Miranda didn’t get back together. “Anne Fine’s children’s book seemed to be written to help kids cope with divorce,” she explained. “It would’ve not only have done a disservice to that intent, but it would leave kids in the audience with false hope. Just because parents fail as a married couple doesn’t make it acceptable to fail as co-parents. I’m so proud that in 1993, we had a message that says there are all kind of families and that includes families where the parent were no longer married.”



Two scenes were considered so heartbreaking they were actually deleted from the film. According to The Independent, one scene includes Lydia (Lisa Jakub),  at a spelling bee where she can see her parents bickering in the crowd. She questions why her parents can’t just “pretend” to love each other. Another involves a vicious argument between the parents through the eyes of their kids. For a light-hearted film, Mrs. Doubtfire will be always be remembered for how it handled serious conversations while also touching a chord with people and making them laugh. Decades later, Robin William's incredible warmth and talent will continue to shine through.


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