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On the Dark Side Part One

Robin Williams plays it straight, again, in the thriller ONE HOUR PHOTO

By Pamela Harland     September 13, 2002

Robin Williams is not a funny man. At least not is his new creepy drama ONE HOUR PHOTO where he plays Seymour (Sy) Parrish, a lonely man who becomes obsessed with a family through developing their pictures over the years. The appeal of the character, says Williams, had nothing to do with the fact that he, a well-known comedic actor and occasional straight man for over 20 years on screen, suddenly wanted to explore his dark side. Williams says he has wanted to do these kinds of roles like Sy in ONE HOUR PHOTO and a murdering psychopath in INSOMNIA for many years but was never given the opportunity, until now.

"I've always wanted to play it and I've never been offered it because, you know, the sentimental movies made money," says Williams referring to his stints in films like MRS. DOUBTFIRE, BICENTENNIAL MAN and PATCH ADAMS. "They're going to keep offering you the same parts. The fact that someone took a chance and found this movie is great. I said, 'This is a great film and I want to do it.' "


Crediting writer/director Mark Romanek for putting on paper all he needed to create such a dark and disturbing character, Williams says Sy has a hidden past that manifests itself throughout the film. His need to belong somewhere and be a part of this particular family grows increasingly through his obsession and the delusions he creates through the family's photos.

"Those photographs are his life," says the 50-year-old Williams. "He thinks, in a way, that he is just doing his job and then you find out at the end why he fascinates with the photos. It's because of his own background. Photographs have a special meaning. He could live vicariously and emotionally through other people's pictures and literally have another life that's so opposite his own, which is pretty brutal. [To the Yorkin family] he thinks of himself as Uncle Sy which is very disturbing."

The part also gave Williams a chance to explore a certain behavior unique to the typical psychopath in most thrillers.

"It wasn't like a normal thriller where someone is stalking and slashing," says Williams. "It's more about loneliness and human connection more than anything else. It's about a man who is so lonely that he fascinates himself through other people's lives and thinks of himself as part of the family."

And when the Yorkins go through some familial problems, it's Sy who believes he is coming to the family's rescue.

Robin Williams and Connie Nielsen in ONE HOUR PHOTO

"He's trying, in a righteous way, to heal their family," says Williams, "by inflicting this kind of punishment and saying, 'Now go back and be the family you were before,' and they won't. He goes out of his way to inflict that because once [the Yorkins] have ruined his dream of the family, he goes about to say, 'Look what you've destroyed.' "

A family man himself, Williams, a father of three, says after the film wrapped he immediately left the troubled Sy behind him.

"You inhabit it and then you get out if it because I don't want to be bringing that home," laughs Williams.

Be sure to check back soon for part two of our Robin Williams profile.

Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at feedback@cinescape.com.


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