Robin Williams begged to improv on Good Will Hunting

Connie Queline

Robin Williams begged to improv on Good Will Hunting

Robin Williams brought his improv skills to the set of Good Will Hunting, with Gus Van Sant remembering it as his loudest.

Son of a bitch…He stole my line — and ad-libbed it, too. We all know Robin Williams was a habitual improv artist on the set, giving his own spin on lines and scenes as only he could. But this wasn’t just in comedies and for Disney animation; he also did it in dramas, namely 1997’s Good Will Hunting.

Good Will Hunting director Gus Van Sant revealed that Robin Williams loved going off script so much that he would beg to do so. “Robin had a lot of ideas. His only problem was he wanted to do a lot of takes — a slow one, a fast one, a funny one, a funny fast one, a funny slow one. … He knew that in the editing, they need that kind of stuff. But if I get a good take, I try to stop. He’d get me up to seven or eight just by begging, “Please, please? One more? One more.” Williams was also known to try out lines in the voices of famous actors like Jack Nicholson and James Cagney.

As Van Sant would give in here and there, it became the loudest set the traditionally calm-demeanored director ever had, of course all due to Robin Williams. We can see it on the screen, too, with the absolute fit Williams has Matt Damon in during the “my wife used to fart in her sleep” scene. And yes, that story was made up by Robin Williams. But who were Damon and Ben Affleck to tell Williams to stick to the script at that point in their careers?

But for his efforts, Robin Williams would win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar (and his first solo SAG statue) for what would be his last Academy Award-nominated performance. Damon and Affleck, too, took home Best Original Screenplay, no doubt aided by Williams’ on-set ad-libbing. And that’s something that we know can’t be duplicated with AI…

Good Will Hunting would be nominated for nine Oscars in total. Despite its two wins, it lost the majority of the rest to Titanic.

What is your favorite Robin Williams scene from Good Will Hunting? Share your pick in the comments section below.

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