(TC) “Genius”: Batman Forever Writer Discusses Robin Williams‘ Lost Riddler Role

Writer Akiva Goldsman recalled a wonderful time meeting Robin Williams, when the legendary actor was attached to Batman Forever in the role of The Riddler. Williams had a history with comic book movies, having famously starred in a live-action adaptation of the Popeye comic strip. He was also considered for the role of The Joker in the 1989 Batman movie, which ultimately went to Jack Nicholson, and was one of the candidates to play Mister Mxyzptlk, in an early draft of Superman III.

Akiva Goldsman described his working with Robin Williams in an interview with The Playlist. Sent to San Francisco by Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher, Goldsman was invited into Williams’ home, so that the two could brainstorm on the script’s direction for The Riddler. Goldsman described the experience as beautiful, and Williams himself as “so kind.”

Robin Williams Had Brilliant Ideas For The Riddler

Saturday Night Live What Up With That sketch with Robin Williams cameo

While not going into detail regarding their time together and the ideas they considered, Akiva Goldsman described how productive he was after a day of discussing The Riddler with Robin Williams. Goldsman said the word genius did not capture Williams’ creativity, saying that it was as if Williams “had opened up his head and the universe would just talk into it.” Williams also apparently called Goldsman’s apartment after he left Williams’ home, leaving a message that Goldsman’s girlfriend at the time replayed in disbelief.

Why Robin Williams Left Batman Forever

Batman Forever Two-Face Riddler

Unfortunately, despite apparently hitting it off with Goldsman, Robin Williams ultimately decided to leave Batman Forever and the role of The Riddler behind. Akiva Goldsman said this was due to a conflict with director Joel Schumacher, and how the two “didn’t see eye to eye.” Goldsman did not elaborate on the specifics, but did note that many later disagreed with Schmacher’s campy interpretation of Batman, even though he felt it was “truer to the source or at least a version of the source.”

Given Williams’ work following the release of Batman Forever in 1995, it is easy to imagine that he might have preferred playing a darker take on The Riddler than Schumacher had envisioned. While Williams was a consummate comedian, he had already begun taking on more dramatic roles in feature films. By that time, Williams had already earned two Oscar nominations for his work in Dead Poets Society and Good Morning Vietnam. It seems probable that Williams feared being typecast as a living cartoon character and that playing The Riddler in Schumacher’s Batman Forever would retread old ground.

Williams finally won an Oscar in 1997 for his work in Good Will Hunting, and went on to play more cerebral and villainous characters in his later films. While it is hard to imagine just what Williams might have been like as The Riddler in Batman Forever, his role as murderer Walter Finch in the 2002 thriller Insomnia comes close, as Finch used his knowledge of police procedure to manipulate the corrupt detective investigating his crime. Coincidentally, Insomnia director Christopher Nolan went on to make a trio of Batman movies, but not with Robin Williams as The Riddler.

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