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How Can You Tell This Story? Inside ‘Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind’

Using Williams' own words, Marina Zenovich's documentary celebrates what he brought to comedy and to the culture at large.

A funny and heartbreaking portrait of one of the world’s most inventive comedians, director Marina Zenovich’s HBO documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is told primarily through Williams’ own words, the film celebrates what he brought to comedy and to the culture at large.

Owen Glieberman says that while documentary is “sharp-edged, humane, and deeply researched enough to take you closer to the manic engine of Williams’ brilliance and pain than you were before, the smartest decision made by the director, Marina Zenovich, was to use a great many never-before-seen outtakes, as well as clips from obscure or forgotten performances, so that Williams’ routines hit the audience with a fresh ping. ” To read the full article, click here.

With previously unheard and unseen glimpses into his creative process through interviews with Williams, as well as home movies and onstage footage, the film features interviews with those who knew and loved him, including Billy Crystal, Eric Idle, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Pam Dawber, and his son, Zak Williams.

“We were really trying to get into his soul and his mind. I didn’t know what we would find.” Zenovich tells Julia Felstenthal

Read more: Come Inside My Mind Taps into the Genius of Robin Williams

“We knew that we wanted Robin to tell his story in his own voice as much as possible; we didn’t know, initially, that we were going to limit the interviews, but I feel like the stakes are getting higher for documentaries as filmmakers are getting more and more inventive,” Zenovich tells Tom Gianakopoulos. “The problem with a film like this is that you know you’re going to have to go back in time at some point; it’s just a matter of when and how you keep it interesting and fresh. 

“We wanted to focus on his creativity, to try to get inside his mind while we were telling his story. But as we’re cutting the film together… it’s not that we get off track; it’s more that we’re trying things that might not necessarily work, and it takes time to figure that all out.” To read the full interview, click here.

“Once we did all the interviews, I had my editor and assistant editor in Los Angeles,” Zenovich explains to Leigh Blickley. “We were going through all the archives and getting it transcribed and trying to figure out how we wanted to tell the film. We knew that we wanted to tell it with Robin’s voice as much as possible, kind of have him telling his own story. So we were really looking for audio. [We were] always looking for something that people haven’t seen or heard before.”

Read more: Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind: 10 Things We Learned From the New Doc

“We lucked out because Larry Grobel did two Playboy interviews with him and saved all the audio tapes,” the filmmaker tells Felsenthal. “We got those. Most of them you could hear. We took lines from that. We used an NPR interview he did. We got an interview he did back in the ’70s. This gentleman had reached out to him, wanted to film him, but didn’t. But he had audiotaped him.” To read the full interview, click here.

“What you really need with this kind of film―where you have 100 to 150 hours of archives ―is time,” Zenovich continues. “You need time to look at things. You need time to pick out audio lines that you’re going to use. You need time to try things out.”

“There were many [challenges] but I’d say the biggest challenge was doing justice to his comedy,” she tells Laura Berger. “His comedy is so quick and in the moment. The challenge was how to capture that magic within the confines of a documentary. Getting that balance right was hard. I took a lot of time just trying different things.” To read the full interview, click here.

“I feel like for my characters in the Robin film, they wanted to show up for Robin and they wanted to tell their stories. All these little moments paint a portrait of a life that you’re trying to capture without the main character. You have his voice and you have his image and you have him doing stand-up and acting, but it all helps.” To read the full interview, click here

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