Mrs. Doubtfire Shot Two Million Feet of Film of Robin Williams Improvising

Robin Williams Doubtfire
The cream dripping into the tea was improvised by Williams. | 20th Century Fox

The filmmaker behind Mrs. Doubtfire has revealed that the crew shot two million feet of film as Robin Williams ran riot on set running through three or four scripted takes before improvising the scenes as well.

Chris Columbus, who directed the 1993 movie, was speaking to Business Insider for the film’s 30th anniversary and said he had to set up four cameras to keep up with Williams.

“None of us knew what he was going to say when he got going, and so I wanted a camera on the other actors to get their reactions. For Pierce Brosnan and Sally Field, it was quite difficult for them not to break character,” explains Columbus.

The mammoth performance means there are 900 boxes of film footage which includes outtakes and unseen behind-the-scenes clips. Columbus adds that William did some form of ad-libbing in nearly every scene which led to the two million feet of film being used.

The movie poster for Mrs. Doubtfire.
The movie poster for Mrs. Doubtfire.

Columbus jokes that it was a good job they were shooting on film because if it was shot on digital then Williams may never have stopped.

“Once we were out of film in the camera, we would say to Robin, ‘We’re out of film.’ That happened on several occasions,” the director adds.

In the interview with Business Insider, he mooted the idea of turning the two million feet of film roll into a documentary.

Robin Williams
Robin Williams in 2011. | Wikimedia Commons.

“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,” says Columbus.

“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. I mean, there’s one million feet of film in that warehouse so there could be something we can do with all of that.”

One example that Columbus, who also directed the Home Alone movies, gave is the famous scene when Williams slaps a pie in his face as he frantically switches between the Daniel and Doubtfire characters.

After punting the cream pie into his face, the mask starts dripping into the tea he’s making which was apparently unscripted.

“When he’s in the bedroom putting on the Doubtfire costume, that probably was his hardest work on the film. Verbally and physically,” Columbus says. “He was physically spent after doing that.”

William tragically took his own life in 2014 aged 63.