During his lifetime, Robin Williams inspired many people to follow their passions through his unique brand of comedy. When it was announced that Williams had taken his own life, many younger artists took to the internet to deliver personal and heartfelt tributes about how the legendary comedian had influenced their work.
One of those artists who was deeply impacted by Williams’ work was none other than his Dead Poets Society co-star Ethan Hawke. In an interview, the actor claimed that Williams’ performance in the classic film left an indelible mark on his own life and actually shaped his own journey towards becoming one of the most recognisable stars in Hollywood.
Of course, it is hard to imagine that somebody can come away from Dead Poets Society without being moved by what Williams had managed to create on-screen. He is flawless as a literature teacher in a strict, conservative school, inspiring students to constantly think outside the box and realise that societal norms do not dictate individual passions.
Even in the film, Williams’ character helps the young boy (played by Hawke) to break out of his introverted shell and conquer his fears over public speaking. It turns out that Williams was trying to do a similar thing on the set of the film as well, constantly attempting to make Hawke laugh even though he was trying to be serious.
While speaking to Graham Norton, Hawke recalled how Williams operated during the production process and described his genius. “He was incredibly funny,” Hawke declared. “He was very relaxed and very inventive.. he would just improv constantly, all day long and the more the crew laughed, the more [he would go on].”
Williams’ jokes weren’t well-received by Hawke as he was trying his best to stay in character. He recalled: “I really wanted to be a serious actor. I had read Stanislavski and I had what was supposed to be in my pockets and I really wanted to be in character. I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane he got.”
Although Hawke’s resistance to Williams’ jokes made the comedian furious initially, it actually convinced him that Hawke was going to be a very accomplished actor in the future. When Hawke went back to school, he realised what Williams had done. The actor added: “I got this call and it was from a big Hollywood agent. This guy said: ‘I’m Robin Williams’ agent and he says you’re gonna be somebody and that I should sign you.'”