Robin Williams

The “insane” movie Robin Williams compared to being “handcuffed”

As well as being one of the most beloved actors and comedians of the 1990s and early 2000s, Robin Williams was an influential star who also liked to lend his expertise to some of cinema’s biggest franchises. In 1992, he helped Disney gain great financial success with Aladdin, and years later, he played Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum trilogy. In 2009, he even appeared in an episode of Spongebob Squarepants.

While modern audiences will know him for such roles and his contributions to the indie flicks Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting, Williams has thrived in the industry ever since the 1980s. Although the actor would have rather forgotten that he played the part, his first big break came when he worked with Robert Altman in the big-screen adaptation of Popeye. 

Yet, in the very same decade, there was another cartoon character that Williams almost voiced on the big screen, too, auditioning for the title role in the obscure Marvel movie Howard the Duck back in the mid-1980s. Vying for the role alongside the likes of Martin Short and John Cusack, Williams ended up getting the gig for just a week before giving up on the film’s bizarre demands.

“I can’t do this. It is insane,” he stated, as per actor Chip Zien in The Hollywood Reporter, “I can’t get the rhythm of this. I am being confined. I am being handcuffed in order to match the flapping duck’s bill”.

Instead, Zien took the role on, with the actor recalling: “So, on Memorial Day 1985, I got a call from my agent who said, ‘You have to get right to the airport! Robin Williams just quit and you’re now Howard the Duck. You need to get there tonight. There is a ticket waiting for you at the counter.’ I was incredibly excited”.

Now something of a cult movie, Howard the Duck is seen as a bizarre film to have kicked off the now iconic Marvel legacy, being the first movie ever made to be based on a comic by the publishing company. Telling the story of a humanoid duck who is sent to Earth to help stop an alien invasion, Howard the Duck is undoubtedly the strangest movie Marvel has ever done, featuring a cast that includes Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins and Lea Thompson.

It is especially strange as, decades later, the MCU is the most successful franchise of all time by quite some distance, making $29 billion in total from 33 movies that started way back in 2008 and continue to this very day.

Take a look at the trailer for the movie that technically started it all, Howard the Duck, below, a movie that so nearly had the magic touch of Robin Williams.

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