'Boulevard' Director Praises Robin Williams' "Humanity," Dedication to Final Dramatic Role

Starz Digital
Robin Williams and Kathy Baker in 'Boulevard'

The comedian and actor, who committed suicide 11 months ago, makes his last onscreen appearance in a feature film in Dito Montiel's indie drama.

Eleven months after Robin Williams shockingly committed suicide, the actor makes his final onscreen appearance in the indie drama Boulevard.

Williams plays Nolan, a 60-year-old married bank manager who is forced to confront his repressed homosexuality after he encounters a young hustler named Leo (Roberto Aguire). The role is another serious turn for the actor who was known for his larger-than-life comedic characters like Mrs. Doubtfire and the voice of Genie in Aladdin but also received acclaim for dramatic performances in films like Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting.

Boulevard director Dito Montiel tells The Hollywood Reporter that Williams was able to straddle both genres because of his innate ability to portray someone relatable.

"Some people have this crazy talent that makes you tap into a human side as well even with all their fame. He has a sort of humanity to him. You feel like you know him," Montiel says, referring to Williams in the present tense. "He had a way, for me, of bringing that into a film and that will never hurt drama."

Montiel also praises Williams' dedication to the film, explaining that the two men had similar thoughts and long conversations about the characters.

"He really thought about it a lot and had some really interesting thoughts as far as what Nolan was going through, and it really excited me," Montiel says. "His attitude about it, which I jumped on in a big way, was this is a story about letting go. How do you say goodbye to the love of your life? It can't be easy, especially at this age, after all these years."

Montiel explains that, as Nolan says on more than one occasion in the film, he really did love his wife Joy (Kathy Baker). "I've heard people say this is a film about a bad marriage. We didn't think it was a bad marriage. It was a marriage of convenience, and he truly loved Kathy Baker's character and she truly loved him. Unfortunately it wasn't the right fit."

And Williams and Montiel's collaboration led to some "honest" moments in the film, the director says, in which Nolan and Joy say they love each other, exchanges that weren't in the script.

Instead, Montiel explains saying that came out of discussions he and Williams had about the scene.

"Why don't you just tell her you love her?," the director says he suggested. "And then [Williams] did and he goes, 'Oh that's right. I gotta say 'I love you'.' Kathy said 'I love you' back, and the scene felt so honest."

Even though Nolan loved Joy, Montiel says the married man knew about the street where he takes a U-turn and meets Leo.

"I think, like everybody, you have these places you want to go really bad and you get closer and closer and you look at them and you think, 'One day I'm going to check it out' and you never do," Montiel says. "My attitude about it was that he knew about this street. This was not the first time he ever drove down this street. And it's probably not the first time he's ever made a U-turn there. But it's the first time, because of circumstance, he's gotten into a conversation…I think he'd gone down that street many times."

With Leo, Montiel says Nolan sees everything he could have been if he'd come out when he was younger.

"You're just looking at yourself in that room, and you don't know what to do with yourself," the director says of Nolan's attitude towards Leo.

Boulevard debuted at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, months before Williams' death. Starz Digital acquired the North American rights to the movie this April.

Montiel said of Williams' suicide, "you never expect it," wistfully talking about the bonding experience that happens on film sets and the hope that you'll reunite with your onetime colleagues.

"I've done every job in the world and movies, the only thing close to a movie that I've ever done is it's kind of like being in a band. You have these incredible months where you're attached at the hip with all of these people. You talk to them more than you talk to any human being in the world, for three months. And then the movie says cut and everybody goes home and somewhere down the road you run into each other again," Montiel says.

He adds that those mourning Williams extend beyond those he shared a film set with.

"He's got his family and his close friends, that's one level of dealing with it, and then you've got all the people he's worked with — which, at this point, who knows how many thousands of us there are — and then you've got the whole world who loves him too because they grew up on Mork or whatever they grew up on," Montiel says. "So you sort of share in the heartbreak, and it's really sad."

Although Boulevard marks Williams' last onscreen movie role, the actor will be heard in theaters again as he voices the role of a talking dog in Absolutely Anything, which opens overseas starting in August.

Boulevard co-stars Bob Odenkirk and is currently playing at New York's Landmark Sunshine theater and set to expand to additional cities starting July 17.