- Robin Williams was originally to voice the lead character in 1986’s “Howard the Duck.”
- But he left after only a week on the job due to having to match his lines to an animatronic duck beak.
- “What I was told was by the third day, Robin said, ‘I can’t do this. It is insane,'” said Chip Zien.
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1986’s “Howard the Duck” is one of those movies that’s so bad it became a cult classic decades later.
However, the live-action adaptation of a wise-cracking duck from the Marvel comics didn’t have an entirely smooth journey to theaters.
In fact, it proved too much for Robin Williams, who walked off the movie after only one week on the job doing the voice of Howard.
According to a new 35th-anniversary interview for The Hollywood Reporter, Chip Zien, the voiceover actor who went on to play the duck, revealed what led to the Oscar-winner’s exit.
“What I was told was by the third day, Robin said, ‘I can’t do this. It is insane. I can’t get the rhythm of this. I am being confined. I am being handcuffed in order to match the flapping duck’s bill.'” Zien revealed.
The problem was that Williams couldn’t add his improvisational stylings to the character (which he would famously go on to do for the Genie in Disney’s 1992 classic “Aladdin”) because he had to match the animatronic movements of the duck’s bill.
“Howard the Duck” was made long before the days of CGI. The character’s bill was created as an animatronic by Lucasfilm (George Lucas thought so highly of the project he stepped down as president of his company to put more focus on producing the movie). But the problem was Williams was hired during post-production to do the voice. A puppeteer delivered Howard’s lines on set, resulting in the bill matching his bland delivery.
Zien, who had lost the gig to Williams, was now hired for the role.
“So, on Memorial Day 1985, I got a call from my agent who said, ‘You have to get right to the airport! Robin Williams just quit and you’re now Howard the Duck. You need to get there tonight. There is a ticket waiting for you at the counter.’ I was incredibly excited,” Zien said.
But the movie about a duck who is blasted from Duckworld to Earth didn’t grab audiences. It only made $US16.2 ($AU22) million (on a $US37 ($AU50) million budget), went on to win three Razzie Awards (including best picture), and has been regarded as one of the worst movies of all time.