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Robin Williams broke Robert De Niro’s nose while making this classic

Robin Williams, legend of the screen, broke Robert De Niro's nose while the pair were making one of their best '90s movies. He didn't know his own strength.

Robin Williams in Awakenings

Robin Williams was known for his charisma, quick wit, and general affability. But, Robin Williams displayed a different side of himself to Robert De Niro in 1990, when he broke his co-star’s nose. Ouch.

The pair worked together on the critically acclaimed Awakenings (which bagged three Oscar nominations, including a Best Actor nod for De Niro). It ranked among the year’s best drama movies, telling the story of a neurosurgeon who makes a breakthrough discovery which leads to the re-awakening of catatonic patients who survived the 1917–1928 epidemic of encephalitis lethargica.

The awakened patients, including De Niro’s Leonard Lowe, must come to terms with their new lives after decades have passed them by. De Niro also had to deal with a broken nose.

The accident happened during the filming of a scene in which Robin Williams was attempting to restrain De Niro, resulting in a stray arm to the face. “In the making of that movie I broke his nose by accident. We had this struggle when I was supposed to be restraining him when he was having a seizure and my elbow went ‘bam!’ and it made a noise like a chicken bone breaking,” explained Williams, speaking with talk show host Ray Martain.

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On another movie, with different actors, the accident could have led to a serious falling out, causing major on-set disruptions. Thankfully for Williams, De Niro didn’t seem to mind about his injury.

“The thing is, my nose was broken once before, and he knocked it back in the other direction — straightened it out,” said De Niro, via People. “It looks better than it did before.” De Niro had previously broken his nose while filming Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, so he was somewhat used to it by the time he was struck by De Niro’s flying elbow.

Strangely, it all worked out for the best in the end. What’s a broken nose, between friends?

To read more on Williams, see how he lost one of cinema’s best villain roles to Jack Nicholson, and how his first bad guy role was in an underrated Christopher Nolan movie.