Mrs Doubtfire is one of Robin Williams‘ most beloved roles, thanks to the fact that it’s a family movie that many of us grew up watching. The audience aren’t the only ones who have grown up with the comedy movie however, for the actors who played Williams’ character’s children, it has become an important part of their lives.
Williams plays Daniel Hillard in the movie, who goes to extreme lengths to be given access to his children after a divorce. Lisa Jakub played Lydia, the eldest of the Hillard children, Matthew Lawrence played difficult middle child Chris, and little Mara Wilson played the youngest, Natalie.
Jakub and Lawrence have spoken about their experience of auditioning for the movie with Williams, who was in the Mrs Doubtfire make up and costume at the time. For both of the child actors, it took them a while to realise that the person they were talking to was in fact famous actor Robin Williams. Jakub believed that he was, in fact, director Chris Columbus’ mother.
Speaking to The Chicago Tribune a few years ago, Jakub said; “I remember being introduced to Chris Columbus’ mother and thinking I had to really make small talk and be charming because this was my boss’ mom. I wanted to make a good impression. It wasn’t until later that I realised [it was Williams]. I totally fell for it.”
Lawrence had some experience of acting, but it also took him a while; “I started to catch on because I was a working kid. But definitely for two or three minutes I was sitting next to Mrs. Doubtfire and I had no idea [it was Williams]. I think they didn’t tell me that the cameras were rolling, and they just had us sit down. I think they just wanted to get our natural kids’ reactions.”
Lawrence also explained Williams’ unorthodox method for helping him get the role; “Robin basically got me the role. He leaned over me and said ‘I really like you. I want you to play my son, so you got to work with me on this one. I’m going to do something, just go with it” He turned his back to the camera and just pinched me so hard, right in that sensitive spot between your arm and your chest.”
“My reaction was a normal reaction — ‘Hey, you can’t do that. You just hurt me. What are you doing?”’ That was the moment that got me the role The fact that I reacted that way to Mrs. Doubtfire was what they were looking for, and Robin knew that.” Lawrence’s character Chris has to get upset and angry with his father, which probably explains why Williams went down this unusual route.
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