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Of all the fond memories Dante Basco has of working with Robin Williams on Hook, their time getting ready on set in the mornings are his most cherished.
“My favorite movie going into the film was Dead Poets Society, and we spent hours on end, away from everyone else, just getting ready in the morning, talking about poetry,” Basco told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, which marked the second year since Williams’ death.
Basco, 15 years old when he played the leader of the Lost Boys, Rufio, in the 1991 film, says he learned valuable life lessons from Williams, his “great mentor,” who taught him kindness and compassion, which he carries with him today.
“Robin was a unique star in a town full of stars,” Basco tells THR.
Basco, now 40, recently starred in the comedy, The Head Thieves, which is on the festival circuit. He is also a partner in production company Kinetic Films, based in Hawaii, and a playwright.
In Steven Spielberg’s Hook, Basco and Williams played adversaries for a portion of the movie, but their time off camera was the total opposite, Basco says.
“He would bring in poems he wanted me to read, and I was writing poetry a lot,” he says. “He ended up giving me Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass,’ this really beautiful leather-bound book for my wrap present, and I gave him a hat that said ‘Oh Captain, My Captain’ that I got stitched up at a swap meet.”
The two kept in touch through the years, and Basco says he could always expect a Christmas card from his friend.
Then the world seemed to stop for a moment when it was reported that Williams had died. The news was especially tough for Basco, calling it a “quiet time” for himself.
“I was really, really — it was like the death of my childhood,” he says. “You look back at your life, the people who you worked with and there are ‘growing up’ moments. And that definitely felt like a ‘growing up’ moment in my life.”
Basco, happy to talk about his days on the Hook set, says Williams made his fellow actors feel special and valuable, a trait not common in Hollywood. “He was just a warm and welcoming spirit, and that, for me, will live forever,” he adds.
Basco’s favorite scene with Williams in Hook is at the dinner table of the Lost Boys fort when Peter and Rufio trade insults at a rapid-fire pace.
“Robin was amazing, take after take, and it was fun getting to sword fight verbally. I stuck to the script, he did what he does,” Basco adds, marveling at Williams ability to improv.
The children all loved Williams, but Basco says the Lost Boys also had a fondness for Dustin Hoffman, who played Captain Hook.
“He also has a ton of energy,” Basco remembers, chuckling as he recalls the time Hoffman showed up to the set in a brand new sports car.
“He had a brand new Porsche and there was this one time all the Lost Boys jumped in and were just hanging out. They were on the hood and everything,” Basco says, laughing. “He didn’t mind. He was like that, a very cool cat.”
Basco was recently reunited with his fellow Lost Boys for a full-costumed photo shoot, for the 25th anniversary of Hook.
Since Williams’ passing, Basco says he watched their film once, calling the experience “beautiful.”
“Robin had a never-ending child-like energy and that’s what we all miss,” Basco says. “He’s like the favorite uncle who really had the Peter Pan in him.”
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