One Hour Photo

Originally published in August 2002 | Unreel.co.uk | written by Unreel Staff

'One Hour Photo' is a dark tale of a photo developer who forms a strange attachment to a family whose films he has been processing for years. It's yet another weird role for Mr Williams, following on from his appearances as a disgraced children's TV presenter in 'Death To Smoochy' (with Ed Norton) and a murderer in 'Insomnia' (with Al Pacino). Unreel's London correspondent recently attended the press conference for the film, and this is what our favourite funny man had to say...

You could suggest that you are in the middle of what some might consider to be your 'dark period': 'Insomnia', 'Death to Smoochy', 'One Hour Photo', what is that all about?
It is my dark period, it is me doing these dark movies. Did I go consciously after them? No. They came in sort of a weird synchronicity, 'One Hour Photo', then 'Smoochy', then 'Insomnia'. They were so good, and so strange I thought I have to do these, I know they're not normally something that I get offered which was great.
The chance to get to work with Chris Nolan was like "I'm in". After seeing Memento, with all the people coming out saying "What was that, I'm going to have to get a tattoo now: 'see movie again!' Then I worked with Danny DeVito, which was great, and when I read this movie which was the first one in the series, I thought this movie was so strange and when I saw Mark Romanek's videos I thought that I had to do it.
Will I continue to play nasty characters? If they send one more probably, but if I keep doing that then it's like "oh! Another dark character Mr Williams, then I will have to find another type of movie, but it has been a privilege to be able to play these type of characters because you're not bound by the laws of likeability and you start off with a kind of surprise attack because people think "oh it's that nice man", even in 'Insomnia' people thought "oh he wouldn't do anything awful, and even if he did it wouldn't be that bad, and then they realize "he's a prick!--he's an evil bastard!" I think it helped the film in that way, I think it kinda confused people, and then when it starts to turn, it helps the mystery and becomes ugly, and that's good.

With regard to these three films did you behave any differently with your other actors in between takes?
I dress up for them. Mr Pacino, he had desires, I said "why nipple clips?", and he said "just do it!"
No, I didn't behave differently, especially with Al, because everyone has visions of him as the great Method actor, and first day I came on the set part of his preparation was to do a lion's roar (does impersonation), and I went on and did this (does another impersonation) sheep noise and he got very angry and went "who did that!?". I just went (in kiddy voice) "Hi, Mr Pacino, I'm out of order. I'm out of order! You're out of order.." and then he just went "ok game's over, we're up" So I just did that in between takes because if you stay in Method all the time you can drive people crazy. When we were acting and working I'd get very concentrated and then blow it off because you have to. Especially with 'One Hour Photo'--by the end it was 18-Hour Photo, it was crazy the amount of work people were doing, and you have to kind of kick it out, if you're doing that Method thing--call me by my character--it's like uh-oh, or stalking the PAs on the way home, "I'm just stalking you, don't be afraid." But seriously, it's good to have the mixture of both, that was part of the drill.

Quite recently you were up in Scotland as a guest of Billy Connolly, at his sixtieth birthday party, what was that like?
Oh yes, for his early birthday party, I was up there addressing the haggis (goes into broad Glaswegian accent and digresses somewhat incomprehensibly). But it was great to be there, it was a wild group of people, it really was.

His wife has recently written a biography of Billy, it's a riveting read, I was wondering if you'd had a chance to read it yet?
No, not yet, but I do know that it's great to have a psychiatrist for a wife, and a sex therapist too, which adds a lot more fun. But if anyone could write about him it would be her, because she could write about him from a deep personal knowledge, and also from the perspective of her profession. It started off as a doctoral thesis I think, of her writing about celebrity, and she just kept going with it, trying to see what makes a comic tick, which is a bizarre concept to begin with, but I'd love to check it out.

Would you be interested in submitting yourself to that kind of scrutiny?
Not at all. Oh Pamela's scrutiny oh yes, that and a thong, it'd be lovely. To have someone that funny writing about you is a great thing. There's a biography out now about Peter Sellers, written by an unfunny man, which is kind of like having Ray Charles as an art critic. But if you have somebody with humour writing about you it's great, the biography of Peter Cook is like that--knowing him and having been in his company at 4 in the morning, you want to have somebody with a sense of humour writing about you, and yes if it was her, I'd be happy.

Have you ever thought about working together?
Oh, I'd love to. We've just got to find something that mixes a tall Scotsman with a furry boy, that sounds like a weird musical. And now that he lives outside the country we'll have to work some place like Ibiza. He lives all over the place--he has a house in Malta now--oh now they'll find it...

You just talked about Billy Connolly's sixtieth; can I ask you how was it turning fifty yourself?
Well I turned fifty last year, but turning fifty-one this year was even better. It's been nice to hit that--I mean I had a mid-life crisis at thirty--and now I get the chance to play character parts. The idea of being fifty is very comfortable.

Did you have a big Connolly-esque party then?
Yeah, we had a nice one. We took a lot of friends to a private island and played 'Survivor'. We actually had a great time though, on this wonderful island in the Caribbean, and it was fun to have a party like that with great friends and a lot of comics, which is always great to have at a birthday party.

You mentioned earlier on the likeability factor. Mark Romanek was saying a few weeks ago that one of your good qualities was that you were very self-aware?
Why do you say that?!

With reference to 'Bicentennial Man' and other films like that, were you afraid of being accused of being blindly sentimental?
Oh God, it was frightening though, some of the reviews. I would read reviews about other movies and they'd attack me again, I was thinking it was safe, and then it was opening the paper to see "that prick!" They were reviewing other people's movies, there was this one woman who wrote "the people who made this movie should be put on the same desert island with the people who made 'Patch Adams', and may they drown with Robin Williams." I was like "oh lady, come on, it's not even my movie, you don't have to beat me up again!" But it was weird, because they it was like they had a half life, especially 'Patch'--'Patch' seemed to have this thing, like I mean somebody must have had an awful experience with a clown, but it was it was weird, I would try and stay away from papers and things.

So the movies of yours that haven't done so well, 'Smoochy', 'Bicentennial Man' and the like, do you think that they damage your career?
No, my career has always had an elastic quality to it, it comes and goes. I'm on the outside now. There was a time when I used to be on the list of the 100 Most Powerful, but now I'm not even on the list of the 100 Most Interesting People to Watch. But I don't worry about it too much.

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