The Roles Robin Williams Almost Played

The late star has portrayed many iconic characters on-screen, but there could have been even more. Here are some of the roles he didn’t get.

Batman (various)

Williams flirted with the Caped Crusader on-screen so many times, it’s difficult to keep count. He thought that Warner Bros. used him to convince Jack Nicholson to take the role of the Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 movie.

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Then when Burton was prepping for the follow-up to ‘Batman Returns’, Williams was first choice to be The Riddler. But Burton left the project and replacement Joel Schumacher preferred Jim Carrey. Williams worked with ‘Batman’ reboot helmer Christopher Nolan in ‘Insomnia’ and aggressively pursued the chance to play The Joker again to no avail. There were rumours online that he would play villain Hugo Strange in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, but Nolan went in a different creative direction. Unfortunately, Williams never got the chance to fulfill his dream.

Midnight Run

This buddy road comedy has become a classic, largely due to the chemistry between leads Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin. But Paramount wanted Williams for Grodin’s role and Williams auditioned for director Martin Brest. It didn’t work and even after the studio said they would pull their funding if Grodin got the job, Brest stuck to his guns with his original choice.


The story of politician and gay activist Harvey Milk had been in development for decades before Sean Penn won an Oscar for playing him.

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Williams courted the role heavily and was involved as far back as 1992, when Gus Van Sant was originally going to direct, taking over from the previously-attached Oliver Stone. Unfortunately, the movie got stuck in development hell and Williams missed his opportunity.

Cop Out

Williams was actually cast in this movie when it was called ‘A Couple Of Dicks’ and ended up suing the production company for £3.5million when the project was picked up by a different studio and he was let go. He lost – but the film was a complete turkey, so good riddance.

The Brothers Grimm

Williams was cast as one of the baddies alongside Jonathan Pryce in Terry Gilliam’s fantastical comedy, but dropped out before filming began.

Harry Potter

The star was a big Harry Potter fan and frequently expressed his desire to be a part of the movie franchise based on JK Rowling’s books. Of course, the author wanted an all-British cast which meant that Robbie Coltrane played Potter’s giant protector, rather than the studio’s original choice of Williams.


Because of the sensitive subject matter, it was initially thought that maybe a comedian would be a better foil for Tom Hanks’ character, so that the audience would find it easier to get into the film.

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However, while director Jonathan Demme toyed with Williams as Hanks’ attorney Joe Miller, he plumped for Denzel Washington.

The Shining

It’s difficult to imagine anyone other than Jack Nicholson playing the role of the crazed writer in Kubrick’s masterpiece, but Williams was one of the names bandied about when casting was taking place. A relative unknown at that time, it would have been a coup for Williams to score the part.

Howard The Duck

Actress Lea Thompson has said how Williams was one of the people the filmmakers were looking at to provide the voice of Howard. However, when they decided the vocals had to match the duck puppet’s jerky beak movements, a more straightforward actor was hired, rather than an improvisational comedian.

Photos: PA/Rex/Moviestore/Snap Stills/Miramax/Warner Bros./Everett/Universal