The New Zealand filmmaker fondly remembers his time directing Williams in his first role following his Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting.
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12 Aug 2014 - 5:46 PM  UPDATED 29 May 2019 - 1:49 PM

“He was very present, always professional, always turned up ahead of time and stayed long and stayed late,” said Vincent Ward today about Robin Williams, who tragically died aged 63.

Williams worked with Ward on the director’s first Hollywood production in 1998, the fantasy romance What Dreams May Come. The actor was cast as a recently deceased man who looks for his wife in the afterlife.

“I wanted somebody who I thought was an everyman and as it was a project that was quite emotional in some respects and intense I wanted someone who could level it occasionally with humour. He just engaged really emotionally with the material. We think of him as this person who does these rapid-fire riffs in an ever-changing variety of accents, but I called him the stealth bomber because to be onset you wouldn’t know he was there, he’d be so quiet and he’d be taking everything in – quietly absorbing and listening.”

Ward continues: “Then when you’d work with him he was the same, yes he’d do these loud riffs sometimes or he’d do a take that was big, but then he’d do these very internal performances and you could even talk him through the take of what the character was thinking. He was really open and completely unegotistical.

"I called him the stealth bomber because to be onset you wouldn’t know he was there, he’d be so quiet and he’d be taking everything in – quietly absorbing and listening" 

“The only time he would do the riffs was during the long nights when there were a lot of extras around and everybody was tired and he’d do that to buoy everybody up. He’d try and make it a good experience for everybody.”

Williams had breakfast with the filmmaker and his family in 2010, the day after the actor performed his 'Weapons of Self Destruction' stand up show in Christchurch, shortly after Canterbury's earthquake. The proceeds of which were generously donated to the city's restructure, the Red Cross and the Mayoral fund. Ward remembers the last encounter he had with the actor.

“We skyped about two years ago and he was unbelievably kind. I was trying to raise some money via Kickstarter for a Shanghai Biennale art project and he did a video support of me online. There was no reason in the world why someone of that stature would bother – but he was just incredibly thoughtful and kind.”