Robin Williams will forever be remembered as one of the best comedians to ever grace the big and small screens. From his show-stealing turn as The Genie in Aladdin (1992) to unforgettable roles in hits like Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Williams made his mark on pop culture through his immeasurable talent playing and an impressive range of colorful characters.
There are also a number of roles he would have crushed, but sadly never got the chance because the parts eventually went to another actor. Fans have often wondered exactly how the gifted actor would have tackled many of those roles and how his unique take on certain characters may have changed many projects.
In honor of Williams' legacy, let's take a look back at some of the biggest roles he almost landed and consider what could've been.
1. Jack Torrance
- Movie: The Shining
- Director: Stanley Kubrick
- Year Of Release: 1984
Thanks to his disturbing depiction of Jack Torrance, an every-man being slowly driven mad by the Overlook Hotel's unseen supernatural presence, Jack Nicholson showed what kind of darkness could be lurking inside a seemingly-normal person in Kubrick's iconic adaptation of Stephen King's novel of the same name.
But as iconic as Nicholson was, he wasn't Kubrick's first choice for the axe-wielding role. Kubrick considered Robin Williams for the part of Jack Torrance, who was then playing the lovable alien Mork in the sitcom Mork And Mindy. At the time, Williams had yet to prove himself as a bankable leading man, but Kubrick obviously saw the actor's potential for portraying characters who were a far cry from Williams' comedic reputation.
Check out the trailer for #TheShinning below.
2. Charlie Chaplin
- Movie: Chaplin
- Director: Richard Attenborough
- Year Of Release: 1992
No one can deny that Charlie Chaplin is the face of silent cinema, and it only made sense that an incredibly talented actor who could balance both comedy and drama should be the one to depict him in a biopic.
Attenborough fulfilled his dream of working with Robert Downey Jr. when he got the future #IronMan actor to portray #Chaplin, but the movie's producers and executives wanted Robin Williams to don the iconic bowler hat and cane. Downey Jr.'s performance got him tons of critical acclaim, while Williams went on to voice the Genie in Aladdin, which was released the same year as Chaplin and met with similar critical praise.
Check out the trailer for Chaplin below.
3. Joe Miller
- Movie: Philadelphia
- Director: Johnathon Demme
- Year Of Release: 1993
- Notable Awards: Academy Award for Best Actor and Best Original Song
The movie Philadelphia, a story of a lawyer being unjustly discriminated against after he contracts HIV, is a depressing law movie. Because Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) goes through a lot of onscreen suffering, Demme thought it would be a good idea to add some comedic relief, courtesy of Bill Murray or Robin Williams.
Demme's mind changed when Denzel Washington expressed interest in the role of Joe Miller, Beckett's defense lawyer. Because he reportedly always wanted to work with Washington, Demme quickly scrapped the idea of a comedic counter to Philadelphia's heavy drama and kept Washington's character as serious as possible.
Check out the trailer for Philadelphia below.
4. The Riddler
- Movie: Batman Forever
- Director: Joel Schumacher
- Year Of Release: 1995
Due to the dark tone of Batman Returns (1992) and the ensuing backlash, Warner Brothers saw fit to lighten the mood of Batman Forever and scrapped Tim Burton's plans for a third movie. Said plans included Billy Dee Williams reprising his role as District Attorney Harvey Dent (who would now become Two-Face) and Robin Williams as the obsessive Riddler.
While Robin Williams claims he was "screwed over" when Schumacher chose Carrey over him, some insiders claims that Williams was the one who left production when he didn't see eye to eye with the writers' depiction of the character. Rumors persist that Williams disliked the movie's take on The Riddler because he was supposedly not funny enough.
Check out the trailer for Batman Forever below.
5. Willy Wonka
- Movie: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
- Director: Tim Burton
- Year Of Release: 2005
For many, Gene Wilder immortalized the eccentric Willy Wonka in the beloved 1971 adaption of Roald Dahl's book Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Whoever would be chosen to be the new Willy Wonka needed their own unique brand of comedic talent and charm. To this end, Tim Burton chose long time collaborator Johnny Depp for the role, despite producers' wishes for another actor to follow in Wilder's footsteps.
Before Burton was tasked to direct the movie, Warner Brothers produced a long list of actors and comedians they wanted to see as Willy Wonka. One of those actors was Robin Williams, but Burton ignored the list and went with Depp. Additionally, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson would be his second choice if Depp was unavailable.
Check out the trailer for Charlie And The Chocolate Factory below.
6. The Joker
- Movie: Batman and The Dark Knight
- Director: Tim Burton, Christopher Nolan
- Year Of Release: 1989, 2008
- Notable Awards: The Dark Knight won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and Sound Editing
Robin Williams tried to land the role of Batman's iconic nemesis, The Joker, not once but twice. The first time was in 1989, though Williams claims his presence and fame at the time was only used by Warner Brothers to convince Jack Nicholson to sign-up for the movie. Williams then refused to work with the studio until an apology was made. The Riddler offer was supposed to mend bridges but, as mentioned earlier, it went nowhere.
The second time was for Christopher Nolan's follow-up to Batman Begins, where the Joker ultimately became Heath Ledger's most memorable role. This didn't stop Williams' desire to be in a #Batman movie, leading him to call up Nolan to offer his services to be anyone in The Dark Knight Rises, including "some weird little man in the background in Arkham Asylum."
Can you imagine the below scene from #TheDarkKnight played by Williams?
7. Rubeus Hagrid
- Movie: Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone
- Director: Chris Colombus
- Year Of Release: 2001
When the #HarryPotter movies were just starting, Williams expressed his desire to play the role of the half-giant and all-around lovable #Hogwarts groundskeeper, Rubeus Hagrid. Though the movie's producers and casting agents considered him for the role, there was just one problem: Williams wasn't British.
The Harry Potter movies are known for having an all-British cast, and this mandate forced the production to deny many talented actors who were not of British descent. Williams held on to the hope that the Harry Potter stories would find their way to America, which eventually happened in Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, which was set in 1920's America. Sadly, Williams took his own life years before seeing his hopes come to fruition.
Check out the trailer for Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone below.
8. The Vortigaunts
- Video Game: Half-Life 2
- Developer: Valve Corporation
- Year Of Release: 2004
- Notable Awards: 39 Game Of The Year awards, including IGN and Gamespot
It's no secret that Robin Williams was a massive nerd, and some of his interests were in the realm of video games. One of his favorite game developers was Valve Corporation, and his enthusiasm for their games almost landed him a role in the critically acclaimed Half-Life 2.
This potential team-up stems from the time Williams showed up in the official demo reveal of Half-Life 2 in an #E3 convention. The actor expressed his admiration for Valve's games to Gabe Newell, the president of said game developer. Valve then attempted to collaborate with Williams to voice the Vortigaunts, since they believed he would be able to give the alien race a unique character, but scheduling conflicts kept this from becoming a reality.
Check out the trailer for Half-Life 2 below.
9. Frank Ginsberg
- Movie: Little Miss Sunshine
- Director: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
- Year Of Release: 2006
- Notable Awards: Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor
Little Miss Sunshine was the indie darling of 2006, and one of its most memorable aspects was a cast of outcasts who were forced to call themselves a family. One of the iconic roles was that of the suicidal scholar Frank Ginsberg, played by Steve Carell. However, this character would've been played by someone else if it were up to the studios.
Though directors Dayton and Faris were deadset on keeping Carell as Ginsberg, there was pressure from the studios to get a more popular comedian in the role, with Robin Williams being one of those suggested. The gamble to keep Carell (as well as the fact that Williams was considered to be too expensive for the production) paid off, since Carell's spin on Frank was seen as an unexpected dark horse in Little Miss Sunshine.
Check out the trailer for Little Miss Sunshine below.
10. Harvey Milk
- Movie: Milk
- Director: Gus Van Sant
- Year Of Release: 2008
- Notable Awards: Academy Award for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay
The story of gay-rights activist Harvey Milk is one that seemed to be always destined for the big screen, but it took decades before this happened. Before the task of portraying Harvey Milk was given to Sean Penn, Oliver Stone was attached to a different version of the film and he wanted Robin Williams to portray the first openly gay person to be elected into Californian public office.
Stone's planned Milk biopic (titled The Mayor of Castro Street) never left the ground, and the project soon shifted hands to director Gus Van Sant. Milk's biopic would lay dormant for a few more years and eventually evolved into the movie we now know with a new screenplay written by Dustin Lance Black. The delays convinced Williams to move on to other ventures, thus allowing Sean Penn to take the Academy Award-winning role.
Check out a scene from Milk below.
What Could've Been
All we can do now is imagine how different certain films would've been if Williams was cast in them, but the movies that defined the iconic comedian (and that he helped define in turn) still remain.
Through his hilarious stand-up comedy performances and memorable movies like The Fisher King (1991), Aladdin (1992) and many, many more, he continues to move us in numerous ways today.
Which role would you liked to have seen Robin Williams play most?