Few comic actors are as fondly remembered by audiences of all ages as Robin Williams. And few of Williams’ family-friendly comedies are as well-loved as 1993’s Mrs. Doubtfire.
The story of a divorced father who disguises himself as a quaint Scottish nanny to spend time with his children, Mrs. Doubtfire was based on the 1987 children’s novel Madame Doubtfire, by the acclaimed English author Anne Fine.
It took Williams four hours in the make-up chair to transform himself into the movie’s eponymous nanny, but, true to form, once on set he made the most of his time in front of the cameras by improvising his way through many of his scenes—seemingly with no intention other than to make his costars break character.
Williams’ nonstop adlibs and on-the-spot flights of fancy soon proved so frequent during filming that director Chris Columbus was compelled to start shooting scenes using multiple cameras.
That way, all the cast’s reactions to Williams’ improvisations could be recorded simultaneously, without Williams himself having to reshoot or revisit his additions to the script. The result proved hugely effective, allowing Williams not only to make the role his own but ensuring that the rest of the cast’s reactions to his quips and adlibs appear entirely genuine on screen.