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Film

Inside the beautiful friendship between Robert De Niro and Robin Williams

Robert De Niro and Robin Williams are often cited as two of the greatest acting talents of their generation. Between the two of them, they starred in several iconic masterpieces that have had a definitive impact on the frameworks of popular culture – ranging from the endlessly influential Taxi Driver to the sweet idealism of Dead Poets Society.

The two have even worked together on the 1990 film Awakenings, a project that was based on the memoirs of Oliver Sacks. Williams starred as a neurologist based on Sacks who discovered how to help catatonic patients. While looking back on his career, Williams even named this particular role as his personal favourite of all time.

Williams enjoyed the opportunity to meet Sacks and was awed by the doctor’s comprehension of the human mind. On the other hand, the movie’s director Penny Marshall also noted that Sacks was taken aback by Williams’ ability to imitate his actions and the talented comedian figured out all of Sacks’ moves in no time at all.

De Niro featured in Awakenings as Leonard Lowe, one of Williams’ catatonic patients. In a strange turn of events, Williams even ended up breaking Robert De Niro’s nose during a particular scene where the doctor was supposed to restrain the patient. It was completely accidental but the crew were very scared when they saw what happened because of De Niro’s temper.

While recalling the incident in an interview, Williams said: “In the making of that movie I broke his nose by accident, we had this struggle when I was supposed to be restraining him when he was having a seizure and my elbow went ‘bam'”. He even described the sound of the breaking nose as the snapping of a chicken bone.

Despite the crew’s fears, De Niro remained calm which is why Williams later said that the actor was a very gentle man beneath that tough exterior. When the surgeon arrived, De Niro was also informed that Williams had eventually put his nose back in place by accident in all the chaotic events that had followed this accident.

They remained good friends and De Niro even dedicated his award from the Friars Club to the late comedian. The actor claimed that Robin Williams was one of the funniest people he had ever known. “If you know me, you know how much I like to laugh. And no one made me laugh like Robin,” De Niro said, while remembering Williams.

“Of course, it was more than the jokes. He had so much humanity,” he continued. “He was a wonderful actor, sure, but those feelings were real. No one could fake that kind of love and compassion. Robin, my dear friend, I dedicate this award to you.” De Niro has since revealed that he still finds it incredibly difficult to watch Awakenings because it reminds him of Williams.

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