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Interview: Writer, Director Bobcat Goldthwait on ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ With Robin Williams

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CHICAGO – Bobcat Goldthwait has made one of the most daring, unique, dark comedies of the year, the personal “World’s Greatest Dad,” starring Robin Williams, Alexie Gilmore, Daryl Sabara, and Henry Simmons. He recently sat down for a spirited conversation with HollywoodChicago.com about the response to his film, finding his own happiness, and why he hates acting.

“World’s Greatest Dad” stars Robin Williams as Lance Clayton, an aspiring writer stuck teaching poetry to kids who don’t care about and dealing with an obnoxious son (played by Daryl Sabara) and a younger girlfriend (Alexie Gilmore). It’s not hard to see some of Bobcat in Lance.

Robin Williams and Bobcat Goldthwait in WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, a Magnolia Pictures release.
Robin Williams and Bobcat Goldthwait in WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, a Magnolia Pictures release.
Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

Goldthwait says, "About a day in, Robin just goes, "I'm playing you." And I was like, "Yeah." There's a ton of Lance in me. I just spent a good portion of my adult life thinking "Oh, poor me. I'm not getting a break." I realized that none of these things that I was pursuing were going to ever really make me happy - relationships or work."

Robin Williams in WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, a Magnolia Pictures release.
Robin Williams in WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, a Magnolia Pictures release.
Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

“In my mind, Lance is writing for the wrong reasons,” Goldthwait says. “He’s trying to…To try and make stuff artistically and you’re thinking of how it’s going to affect other people and the repercussions is…well, I shouldn’t say that…trying to make art for fame and money and all that is really silly. Trying to make stuff to connect with other people is a valid way to make stuff.”

It took some time but Goldthwait has a very simple goal when he writes and directs - “I’m trying to make movies that I would go to.”

“If it works for other people, that’s awesome, but I spent most of my career just reacting to whatever was offered me or trying to pursue the things that Lance is trying to pursue - meet women and get rich. It doesn’t work and it’s not very fulfilling.”

Of course, Bobcat Goldthwait has been a part of the stand-up scene for decades and still gets recognized for his roles in the “Police Academy” movies. He had the fame that Lance Clayton is seeeking and admits that “It never felt right.” It wasn’t until he ditched the persona that once made him so famous that he found true comfort.

Goldthwait says, “I’m much happier. It’s funny. The cynical person who blogs or comments is going to say, “Well, he says he’s happier now but…” I read a comment that was like, “That’s what someone says when they’ve made mistakes and burned bridges and they’re not happy.” It’s like, “No, I’m happier now pursuing the things that make me happy.” If you’ve convinced yourself that making money makes you happy, it doesn’t. In our culture, people aren’t really encouraged to be fulfilled.”

Alexie Gilmore, Robin Williams, and Zach Sanchez in WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, a Magnolia Pictures release.
Alexie Gilmore, Robin Williams, and Zach Sanchez in WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, a Magnolia Pictures release.
Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

“World’s Greatest Dad” is ultimately about a man who “grows up and doesn’t do what’s expected of him because he’s convinced himself that it would make him happy. The only reason that Lance is rewarded by the end is that he’s willing to be alone. That’s really scary to most people - the idea of being alone. And then the reward is that he ends up with people in his life who like him and are supportive.”

The film features Robin Williams’ best performance in years, although Goldthwait admits that he’s aware of the baggage an actor like Robin has in a film with a title like “World’s Greatest Dad”. And he’s not alone. Goldthwait says, “One of the nice byproducts of this movie is that people have a perception of me that I’m doing my best to change but people also have a perception of Daryl [Sabara], Robin, Bruce Hornsby [who has an amazing cameo]…it’s fun to say, “You know, it ain’t over.””

Goldthwait admits that he’d be happy if he never acted again, finding much more fulfillment in writing and directing. As for acting, he says, “I don’t enjoy it but I also feel that I don’t think that it’s what I’m strong at. I think there are a lot of people that are talented.”

Director Bobcat Goldthwait on the set of WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, a Magnolia Pictures release.
Director Bobcat Goldthwait on the set of WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, a Magnolia Pictures release.
Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

As a writer/director, Bobcat is “trying to perpetuate a trust” with people who liked his last few films. When asked who has developed that trust with him, he cites all writer/directors - P.T. Anderson, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, The Coen Brothers - “All people who have a voice. I admire them. I get excited to watch their new stuff.”

Goldthwait still hits the road and does stand-up “to pay bills” but if you head out to see him, don’t expect to see the same old Bobcat. “…recently I killed the character. And, by the way, if you’re in the heartland and people come to see you do that? It’s like being at a Poison reunion tour and not hearing “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”. There’s gonna be disgruntled audience members.”

“I named a CD this because it was true. I did have a woman say, “I don’t mean to insult you, but you look like Bobcat Goldthwait.” A lot of people when they come up to me in an airport, they’re unsure that it’s me. And I do often hear, second hand, that people think I’m dead.”

Bobcat Goldthwait is definitely not dead. His film, “World’s Greatest Dad,” opens today, September 4th, 2009, in Chicago

‘World’s Greatest Dad’ stars Robin Williams, Alexie Gilmore, Daryl Sabara, and Henry Simmons. It was written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. It opens on September 4th, 2009. It is rated R.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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