Chris Columbus says he has 972 boxes of footage ready to be used for a documentary about filming Mrs. Doubtfire with Robin Williams.
The film’s director opened up about his doc dreams, along with those scrapped sequel plans and the two million feet of film he amassed while shooting Williams in a 30th anniversary piece published by Insider on Tuesday. The doc, in particular, was something Columbus says “we are talking about it and trying to get it done.”
“There are roughly 972 boxes of footage from Doubtfire — footage we used in the movie, outtakes, behind-the-scenes footage — in a warehouse somewhere and we would like to hire an editor to go in and look at all of that,” he explained.
According to Columbus, the motivation for the documentary is to highlight and celebrate Williams’ process. “There is something special and magical about how he went about his work, and I think it would be fun to delve into it,” he explained. “I mean, there’s 2 million feet of film in that warehouse so there could be something we can do with all of that.”
Speaking of the almost 2 million feet of film, the director noted that it was amassed due to the late actor’s penchant for improvisation, and that despite how much film they used, the studio executives “were loving what they were seeing.”
“If it were today, we would never end. But back then, we were shooting film so once we were out of film in the camera, we would say to Robin, ‘We’re out of film.’ That happened on several occasions,” Columbus recalled. “It got to the point that I had to shoot the entire movie with four cameras to keep up with him. None of us knew what he was going to say when he got going, and so I wanted a camera on the other actors to get their reactions. For Pierce Brosnan and Sally Field, it was quite difficult for them not to break character.”
“The poor script supervisor,” he said at another point in the interview. “She was handwriting it and Robin would change every take. So Robin would go to a place where he couldn’t remember much of what he said. We would go to the script supervisor and ask her and sometimes she didn’t even get it all.”
The director pointed to two scenes that highlighted Williams’ improvisation chops: Mrs. Doubtfire losing her teeth in a drink at the restaurant and “the pie-in-the-face sequence.”
“When [Williams’ Daniel is] in the bedroom putting on the Doubtfire costume, that probably was his hardest work on the film,” Columbus told Insider. “Verbally and physically. He was physically spent after doing that. I think we did 18 takes on that sequence.”
During the interview, Columbus also recalled the sequel he had been working on before Williams’ death in 2014. Back in 2021, during an appearance at the San Francisco Film Festival, the director told SF Gate that a follow-up would be impossible without Williams, but that he and the actor had talked about it before his passing.
Speaking to Insider, the filmmaker shared that when they were filming the movie in the early ’90s, there “was an attitude that sequels were looked down upon by the artists. So Robin was against doing a sequel immediately after.”
But when he brought something to the beloved comedian and actor in 2014, the tune had changed. Columbus says he believes Williams was hoping for a rewrite that would reduce the amount of time he spent as the Doubtfire character due to his age and physical demands of the makeup and costuming.
“We had a script that was written, and it was the last time I saw Robin. I went to his house, and we sat down and talked about it, and the script was really strong. Robin’s only comment was, ‘Boss, do I have to be in the suit as much this time?’ It was physically demanding,” Columbus recalled. “For Robin, I think it was like running a marathon every day he was in the Doubtfire costume.”
“But then Robin passed away, so there will never be a sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire,” he concluded.
The director is also still adamant that a sequel shouldn’t happen. “Fox/Disney owns the rights, I think … so the studio can do whatever they want with it,” he told Insider. “Should they? God no. I will certainly be very vocal about it if they decide to do it.”