Robin Williams - One Hour Photo

Originally published in August 2002 | | written by Christine Blosdale

He won't make you pee your pants from laughter--but Robin Williams will manage to scare the smirk right off your face in the new thriller One Hour Photo. Williams morphs into the dark side as a lonely Wal-Mart-esque photo processing manager named 'Sy' who becomes obsessed with the lives of one picture perfect family.

Betty caught up with Robin (no easy task) and asked him, "How does it feel to be so creepy?" Scroll down for the deliciously dizzy details...

This is a creepy movie Robin.
Yes. As it's meant to be.

But it was so wonderful that the film's writer and director (Mark Romanek) portrays the character as--not some creepy bad guy that you automatically hate--but it's the brilliant things that he says that makes him lovable in some ways...
That's what I like. The things he says are painfully true--like, my favorite line is... "photographs are your own personal stand against time. That someone cared enough about me to take my picture means that I existed." I was at an old flea market the other day and looked at this box of old photographs and you realize that most of these people are dead. There's a moment in time that you really get to see someone.

Were those types of monologues in the script when you first read it?
Yeah, things like that--and the idea of this lonely, lonely guy who just exists and does the work, and he puts on that "everything is okay" kind of face. Then he has his photographs where he lives and everything is bearable... but when they fuck up with it...then he becomes almost redemptive.

Isn't this a metaphor for being a celebrity? He knows everything about them and they know nothing about him?
Yeah, you could use that as a metaphor. Have I had letters in the past from people who say, "we should be together" with photos? Sure. People can read a lot about me and some do fantasize about celebrities outside of their lives.

Have you taken a roll of film in to be processed since you made this movie?
Not in a long time. No, I haven't. And now after having talked to these guys (real photo processors) I never will--because they all say there's a "wall of shame" that they have.
A guy at the FotoMat said, "Sure, there's the guy in a thong that shouldn't be..." They'll just dupe one off for themselves. Another story I heard was about a guy who was working in a bar and these guys were showing nude pictures and he looked over and it was his GIRLFRIEND! And it ended up being the guy from the photo lab who had duped up these nude photos of her--apparently she was an art student. That's on the negative side of it. So in terms of me taking photos to a lab? No!

As an actor, is this type of intense role more satisfying than let's say a "Death To Smoochy" role?
"Death To Smoochy" is satisfying in this visceral, "Oh, fuck off this is fun" sort of way. Just to be kick-ass funny. This is satisfying because it's like running a marathon--that you created something so intense--and that it achieves its purpose. It creeps people out in a way and makes them examine things. That's satisfying, but it's hard work. It's like 18 hours a day. But could I keep playing that typer of character all the time? Naw. I don't want to creep people out.

But you've got to admit, this is a real departure for you and your career.
Yeah. It's just time to add some dark colors to the palette. I've always wanted to, but they just wouldn't offer them to me. Hollywood goes for what sells and what sells is "warm and happy... good and fun!" But when I got this, I was like, "God this is great. Thank you!" And it has to be a small movie, which is fine. Would I play another villain? Fuck yeah, if they offered me one. I haven't got another one yet... maybe "Hitler: The Musical"--but then again, I hear they're already doing that.

[LAUGHS] Now, your character in this film really does manage to creep you out. Even when he's spending time with the young boy in the film...
It does creep people out... but it takes on a different scope. There's a bigger picture. It isn't sexual--it's actually a need to belong. He says things that creep the shit out of you, but in his mind it's like, "I've seen you since you were this big..."

Did you discuss with the director (Romanek) exactly how dark you wanted to go with this character?
He tried at one point to make him more lethal, but he said it would be much more creepy to do it this way--to make it even more psychologically disturbing.

Even the small movements you make as this character--they're very much contained.
Everything is contained. Mark wanted it to be that way. So when Sy comes unglued... Mark said it was like bolts popping.

How did you get into this character? How did you become Seymour 'Sy' Parrish?
Everything. The clothes and the place he works. Everything has to be in order. The way he dresses--his haircut--everything is bland and bound. It's more than a compulsion, it's a way of life for him.

How did this project find you?
They sent it to my agent and when I saw it I thought it was great. I knew the second part of the equation for this movie would be the visuals. And when Mark described what he wanted to do... it's a hard process but he's got the chops. He knows his stuff.

Did you spend time with actual photo lab technicians?
Oh yeah, the AGFA lady. She was great. I went to the AGFA lab and she taught me everything. They teach classes to people who run one hour labs. It's very precise to make a perfect photo.

Do you own a camera? And if so, what do you take pictures of?
I have a digital camera. I just took pictures of the Tour de France when I was there. I haven't bothered to download them yet--I figure they're going to be just a lot of wheels!

On stage I know that you're not afraid to poke fun at the politicians and things that have been happening with corporate crime... but what issues really concern you these days?
I'm drastically concerned that the trillion dollar surplus that we had is gone. Education is another one. And we're about to form this new security agency when the old one didn't work really well. The most concerning thing to me is the Middle East. I've talked to people on both sides--the Palestinians and Israelis alike, who are trying to find some solution.

And now we're about to invade Iraq.
Yeah, Congress approved the covert plan to assassinate Hussein. Oh, so you publicly approved the secret plan! But now our allies don't think it's a good idea--because then you play right into what Bin Laden said--that it's the crusade. And this was the excuse.
And they keep going back to the Kurds saying, "Come back, we're going to do it again!" And the Kurds are like, "Yeah right. Thank you for the last time you said 'rise up' and then he used nerve gas on us."
And they left him intact. They were the ones who left him there. It's like The Clash--they're back together! It's Colin [Powell]--it's Dick [Cheney]--they're back again! Is he evil? Has he done horrible things? Yeah, but they made him. The main thing for me, was India and Pakistan. They both had seven nuclear tests (fourteen back to back) and the CIA didn't know shit about it until it happened. So that shit bothers me.

Right on. Keep up telling it like it is Robin.

Wall of Tributes >