As if performing the voices of Ramon, Lovelace and Cletus in the animated feature “Happy Feet” wasn’t enough for one year’s work, Williams also headlined the films “RV,” “The Night Listener” and “Man of the Year,” in which he plays a political talkshow humorist who makes a successful run for the presidency. The role is so perfectly tailored to the actor’s personality and talent, it echoes his previous collaboration with writer-director Barry Levinson, “Good Morning, Vietnam.”
As his “Man of the Year” co-star Laura Linney observes, “Robin’s not just a comedian, he’s a Julliard-trained actor. He listens, he really listens, and he works with everybody. He’s not just a geyser of energy and entertainment and razzmatazz.”
Linney ought to know, having also worked with Jim Carrey and Steve Martin. “I don’t think I’ve ever anybody who made so many people so happy. I’ve never seen that before. And it was so moving. Everywhere he went, there was a generosity that was staggering and very brave. He’s not afraid of people, and not afraid of giving. I used to love to be in a room with him and look at everybody’s faces: They would be beaming.”
Although Williams often keeps them laughing, he is dead serious when it comes to the subject of his latest movie: He isn’t gunning for politics. “I wouldn’t want to run,” he says.
The only “research” Williams did to play a talkshow host was review his own life as a frequent guest. “That was pretty much it, being on the other side of the interviewer, because I’m their worst nightmare. I’ve been on all of them, not on them but near them,” he jokes.
Regarding the highest office itself, he isn’t overly impressed. “It’s good to be behind the desk. You look at the news, and it’s so far out there it’s hard to top. When W. says, ‘I’m the decider,’ you’re off and running. When you’re making up new words, even the people from Webster’s love him.”
As if to indicate that maybe he’s gone too far, the star of “Man of the Year” asserts the film isn’t politically partisan; rather, he says, it’s an attack on a system of special interests and the high cost of campaigning: “Is anyone happy with the way things are? How do we stand nationally? How do we stand internationally?”
About the irony of making an American political satire in Canada, Williams is especially ready to answer that jibe: “It’s like doing a movie about alcoholism in an Arab country.”