BY FRANK LOVECE

SPECIAL TO NEWSDAV

He is the iiber-comic, the one

Williams travels a different route in the comedy'RV' by playing a cinematic dad
and they get nervous," says the formidable Broadway belter. "Except for Robin. He'll sing a frill aria. In another language we've neverheard of.,l'
he

when Dad's her hero and she's a
sweet little girl he's tucking into

bed. Flash-forward to now, and
teenager you just want to slap. Williams' own daughter, Zelda,
see

she's an obnoxious, iPodding
is 16. "It's kind of interesting to

other comedians fear and respect. On the raw frontier of

comedy, he's the gunslinger of giggles, a dead shot who, when

will secretly take along work that will'ultimately deliver him

kills. And now, like a slraggy dog, Robin Williarns has followed the likable likes.of Tim Allen and Steve Martin as a
Hollywood-regulation, moviecomedy, straight-man dad.

it

oomes

to

audiences, always

Making it up

That fearlessness served Williams well in his transition from street performer to screen per-

this phase, because she's a bit like fofo's character, very intense, and where Bob is erpected to ap- . very much like, You're so embarpear by a certain date. ' rassing,"'he says, launcfuing into "I never imagined being any- her voice. " You really bother place different," he says contemme, Robin'" She and herbrother platively in his Manhattan hotel CoSy, 14, call him by his first

to the Colorado company his own company ls acqurnng

-

It's not a bad thing. And he's sort of played a rhovie dad before, in drag, as the tihrlar Mrs. Doubtfire. Or magically, as an

former

niche riskily going off-script the

n

1977.

He found his

room, inlerviewed privately during a press junket for "RV."

following year

older and domesticated Peter
in "Hook" Yet now, playmg put-upon pop in the family-vacation comedy "RV," opening tomorrow, it seems a rare instance of the tornado being tamed. Not that his co-stars noticed anything different on the set. Jeff Daniels, for one, says he
Pan
a

'

work TV series, "Mork &
Mindy." A sudden star, he could have burnt out qs a comedy supernova (he has continued to perform standup with great success, over his 30-year career). Instead he stretched to become

improvise many of his own lines on a net-

to

"There's no,'This is where

I '

name, he says, '\vhen they're going to be kinda businesslike.. They call you 'Robin and then
you realize, "We're having a meet-

vont to be,"'he says, affecting a sinister tone in the first of many voices he'll trot out for the conversation. "It's where I am. It's not like I erfvisioned being more
or less." He pauses, as if, improb-

ing, tren't we?' 'Cody and I,

as

partners in this family, have devel-

oped what we like to call profit-

sharing ideas . .

."'

Williams

ably, thinking about it for the first time. "It's been good, It's
been a good one."

also has an NYU-graduate son,
Zack, with first wifeValerie Ve-

an Academy

knew going in that Williams is "always gonna go off' on his famed improvisational riffs. Then it's just a matter of going

dramatic actor ("Good Will
Hunting") and additional threetime nominee (for the dramas "The Fisher King" and "Dead Poets Society" and the seriocomedy "Good Morning, Vietnam"). But he has also kept his hand in the over-the-top hilarity ("Mrs. Doubtfire," "Death to Smoochy") that made him famous in the first place. Which brings us to 2006 and

Award-winning

A comedy of family

While there are

physical,

with him." Which did, Daniels admits, require survival techniques. Sometimes on a take,

gross-out gags, the core of the movie is its family dynamics. It opens with Cassie's childhood,

Iardi, in addition to his two children with Marsha Garces Williams, whom he married in 1989. He became famous almost overnight for improvising wildly and amazingly on his hit '70s sit-

com "Mork & Mindy." After a while, the show's writers would

Daniels'hale and hearty charac-

ter "would slap [Williams] real
hard on the shoulder, and then I'd get to that point in take two and I wouldn't do it I'd - a so keep Robin off-balance bit. It

'RV." Williams plays
Munro,
a

Bob

was my only prayer," Daniels jokes. "But I had a good time
with him. He's

ecutive
Forced
job or
a

in a soda corporation. to choose between his

Willy Loman-esque ex-

a good listener." Likewise off the set, according to Tony Award-winning singer Kristin Chenoweth, who plays

long-promised and post-

Daniels' spunky wife. 'Robin and I could probably talk for
three hours nonstop," she says

poned Hawaiian vacation with his family famie (Cheryl - wife Hines) and spoiled kids Carl

cheerfully. And not just talk. "People try to sing in front of me

ie (singer Joanna "IoIo" Levesque), 16 he attempts a - He third alternative. rents an RV
for a family road trip on which

(Josh Hutcherson), 12, and Cass-

COLUMEIA

PICTURES

PHOTOS

Along for the ride and enjoying it are William's co-stars, Jeff Daniels, left, and Cheryl Hines, who plays Williams'wife.

siftFly leave spxCin the s*ript
"Robin does funny stullhere." That traditian has cr:nti*$*d

with words to the effccr of
into"RV.' "We would do two, three,
four takes as scripted," says director Barryr Sonnenfeld, "and then I would say,'You got anything Robin?' And he wauld

Umbashd

abcmt playing

drar-

acter bits anci cameos, Williams is currently in and out of New York filming a role in the ersemble fabts "August Rush" arrd an-

other in the Ben Stilleroornedy
'Trlight at the Museum." Slated far summer release is

the

say. 'Na, boss, I'm fine,' sr, 'Yeah let metry sorue stuff."'

Armisted Maupin novel, which
.

radio-host thriller "The Night Listener," based on the

played at the Sundance Film Fes-

Altenrative irnprovs
One scerre, says So$nenf€ld,

prov . .

Rap," in which Bob resflres his son from some wrxrld-be white gangstas at an RV park- "The script says, 'Robin arrives and says funny stuff to the white boys.'.., We have a totally other version of that scene where Robin plays a sort ofkung-fu Zen rnasrir.. . .
We screened it that way orr l,ong

'literally was scripted

. the Robh

as an

iin-

Year," which is scheduled for

political s*tire 'iMm
2006 release.

And hestars i:r Barry l.eviaccn's

*

ol

{ €
o

the

{

didn't work" After all that, he'll need a vacation hims€lf thollgh not in
an RV.

As for the repor"ted scquel "Mrs- Doubtfire 2":'}{o, not hap: penine The script they had iu.st

: o :
2

it


O

-

j<

Island, the first recruited*audi' ence screening we had, and it was phenomenal, it was, like, hilarious, and I said, 'Well, OK, next screening we'll do the rap version.'And the rapper tested
even bigger than the Zen rraster, and also I preferred it.'"

"I've never driven an RV except for this movie, but I have a Land Rover," which he uses for family road trips. And as with Bob and his brosd,'A.ll of a sudden you do have these rnoments where you're back iust as a fami-

I c 7

*d

@

t 'e
F
,!

ly, having a great time and

so

mellow again that you realize,
'Oh. This is why we're together.' Itt*kes a while to ds that.*

u

'"Sonretimes yau just gr: for

{}
o\

iarns says of doing improvs with mote $Hrrctured *ctors, "afld ifit makes them angry, then you dna't do it again, Some people

the elernent of surprise," WilF

are Yery $uch about, 1ffe$, rrhen do I corne in?' 8nt r;vhen ypu have people like limprov

v€t} Cheryt Hines, she'll Sr: any. where rBith iq she's used ta that-" Witb *RV,' Scnnenfeld saya "Robin and I instantly k*ew that I would give him enough rupe to ad lib and lre would he give me the ability to control tl,e movie and do takes the way I wanted to."