Robin Williams

Hank Azaria Made It Difficult For Robin Williams To Star In The Birdcage

Robin Williams is famous for making his co-stars lose it but Hank Azaria got the upper hand on the comedy legend.


  •  Robin Williams struggled not to laugh while working with Hank Azaria on the movie The Birdcage.
  •  Azaria’s performance in The Birdcage was so entertaining that it stole the spotlight from the cast.
  •  Hank Azaria had great respect and admiration for Robin Williams.


During Robin Williams‘ acting and standup comedy careers, the incredibly beloved performer worked with a slew of legends. Williams even managed to become friends with Jack Nicholson which proves that he never missed a beat among the biggest stars of all time.

Even though Williams could hold his own with legends, it was an actor who starred in the disastrous 1998 Godzilla movie that he struggled to work with. When Williams filmed scenes for The Birdcage with Hank Azaria from The Simpsons, he struggled not to laugh.

Did Robin Williams And Hank Azaria Get Along?

When The Birdcage was released in 1996, it quickly became a critical and commercial hit. In fact, The Birdcage was so successful that it made Nathan Lane go from being the guy who voiced a meerkat from The Lion King to being a live-action star.

Robin Williams and Nathan Lane from The Birdcage
Via: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

On top of Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, The Birdcage starred another pair of famous and widely respected actors, Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest. Despite The Birdcage starring Williams, Wiest, Lane, and Hackman, another one of the movie’s actors arguably stole the spotlight from them.

In The Birdcage, Hank Azaria portrayed Agador Spartacus, a maid with an infectious personality many moviegoers couldn’t get enough of. The actor’s work in The Birdcage was so entertaining that in 2015, The AV Club published an article about Azaria stealing the movie.

The Birdcage 1996
Budget: $31,000,000 (estimated) Worldwide Box Office: $185,260,553

Clearly, the writer for The AV Club wasn’t the only one who was mesmerized by Azaria’s The Birdcage performance. After all, when Williams took part in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session in 2013, the beloved actor was asked about Azaria.

During the AMA, a Reddit user who has since deleted his account asked Williams if it was hard to work with Azaria. In this case, the Redditor didn’t suggest Azaria was unprofessional or anything like that. Instead, the Redditor suggested that Azaria is so funny that it would be difficult to share a scene with him.

“Robin, was it hard not to laugh at Hank Azaria during the making of ‘The Birdcage’?”

In response to the Redditor’s question, Williams instantly agreed that Azaria was so funny that it was hard to share a scene with him without laughing.

“OH, it was really hard. His voice, that character, Agador Spartacus.”

Williams then went on to reveal that Azaria wasn’t the only one who struggled to work with Azaria on The Birdcage. According to Williams, The Birdcage’s director Mike Nichols had to go to extremes to not ruin takes because of Azaria.

The Birdcage director Mike Nichols smiling
Via: Instar

” It wasn’t just me that had a hard time. Mike Nichols would laugh so hard they would have to put a blanket over his head.”

Surprisingly, Williams then went on to talk about another The Birdcage actor who left his co-stars in stitches. According to Williams, Gene Hackman was absolutely hilarious even though the actor was never known for comedy.

“The other guy who was so funny was Gene Hackman. His speech about the leaves in New England was one of the funniest, driest pieces of comedy I’d ever seen.”

What Did Hank Azaria Think About Robin Williams?

Based on what Robin Williams told a Redditor in 2013, it was very clear that he respected Hank Azaria’s comedy skills. However, Williams’ comments didn’t reveal anything about Azaria’s opinion of him or if the two actors had any kind of bond.

Fortunately for anyone who wants to know what Azaria thought of Williams, however, that isn’t hard to know. In the years since Williams passed away, Azaria has expressed his opinion about the comedy legend on several different occasions.

In 2020, Azaria was interviewed for a video released by People. During the resulting conversation, the interviewer asked Azaria a fascinating question. Does Azaria’s gift for voices “help in dad life” or does it “[drive] everyone crazy”?

At first, Azaria explained that his dad used to force him not to use any other voices at times when he was a kid. From there, Azaria began talking about doing voices now that he is a father.

Hank Azaria looking unsure
Via: Instar

As Azaria explained, he once ran into Williams when his wife was carrying their baby. At that moment, Williams explained something very touching about being a father with voice acting skills.

“When we were pregnant, I ran into Robin Williams who I worked with a few times. He, of course, saw my wife’s big pregnant belly and did twenty minutes of shtick based on it. When he stopped, he said ‘You’ll see’. He knew I was a voice guy as well.“

Azaria continued to tell the story that revealed what kind of man and father Williams was.

“He said, ‘You’ll see. Your child will not let you spear in any other voice for the first six years of their life.’ And he was totally right.”

  • Hank Azaria’s son Hal was born in 2009
  • Robin Williams’ son Zachary was born in 1983, his daughter Zelda was born in 1989, and his son Cody was born in 1991.

In 2016, Azaria spoke to The Daily Beast about The Birdcage twenty years after the movie was released. During that conversation, Azaria made it clear that he also had a really hard time working with Williams because it was so hard to not laugh.

Azaria even went so far as to show the interviewer a clip from the movie. After showing a memorable moment where Williams has an unscripted fall, Azaria pointed out to the interviewer that he pretty much lost it.

“You’ll see I’m kind of laughing, and I have to pretend I’m crying. That was completely a mistake, and it ended up in the movie.”

Azaria then went on to talk about how Williams would make everyone around him laugh by joking about anything that happened.

Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, and Dan Futterman from The Birdcage
Via: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

“(Robin) was always joking around and being really silly and improvising, not just within the script, but at anything that came along in life. If he asked you what you did that weekend, and you said I went bowling, he would do a ten-minute routine on bowling.”

As great as it is to hear Azaria talking about how funny Williams was, something else he said was even more delightful. As the interview went on, Azaria spoke about how great a guy Williams was before his passing.

“(Robin) was always a very sweet, caring guy. He had a very sweet, calm side. He really took a genuine interest in people around him, much more so than most movie stars.”

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