During an interview with Business Insider published Tuesday, Columbus revealed that William improvised so much during the making of the 1993 classic that nearly 2 million feet of film was shot.
Following the success of Good Morning, Vietnam — which resulted in Williams’ first Oscar nomination, for Best Actor — the actor starred in a slew of movies in a variety of roles including Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, The Fisher King, the voice of the Genie in Aladdin. When Patch Adams grossed an $135 million in 1998, by then, Williams was reportedly making as much as $20 million a movie. Williams, who was known for his high-speed wit and comedic genius, would take on the role of Mrs. Doubtfire in the early nineties and catapult the film to legendary success.
“Early on in the process, he went to me, ‘Hey boss, the way I like to work, if you’re up for it, is I’ll give you three or four scripted takes, and then let’s play,’” Columbus recalled. “By saying that, what he meant was he wanted to improvise. And that’s exactly how we shot every scene. We would have exactly what was scripted, and then Robin would go off and it was something to behold.”
“The poor script supervisor. Remember, this is the early 1990s, she wasn’t typing what he was saying. She was handwriting it and Robin would change every take,” he continued. “So Robin would go to a place where he couldn’t remember much of what he said. We would go to the script supervisor and ask her and sometimes she didn’t even get it all.”
Columbus added that it got to the point where the movie was shot with four cameras just to “keep up with him” and that on several occassions they would run out of film.
“[The studios] were loving what they were seeing. Did they watch everything? I don’t think so. We shot almost 2 million feet of film on that picture,” said the director.
Columbus also shared that he hopes to turn the additional footage into a documentary into the making of the beloved movie someday. “This is an example of Robin in his prime,” he told the outlet. “There are roughly 972 boxes of footage from ‘Doubtfire’ — footage we used in the movie, outtakes, behind-the-scenes footage — in a warehouse somewhere and we would like to hire an editor to go in and look at all of that footage. We want to show Robin’s process. There is something special and magical about how he went about his work and I think it would be fun to delve into it.”