Robin Williams’ scariest movie is 20 years old today

Cameron Frew
Robin Williams in One Hour Photo

It’s been 20 years since Robin Williams delivered his most terrifying performance. “Pretend this is all pretend.”

Williams is one of the most beloved entertainers of all time, enshrined in everlasting legend with every generation that discovers Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin, Dead Poets Society, Flubber, and more.

He was an unrivalled comic, with a knack for chuckles no matter his audience’s age. However, the late star was a fierce dramatic force when he chose to be, whether it’s playing a methodical murderer in Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia or a psychiatrist comforting a teenager with a story about his wife waking herself up with a fart in Good Will Hunting. In his own words: “That’s the good stuff.”

Twenty years ago, he took on a film with a character completely against type, one where all his family-friendly hallmarks have a chilling, pervasive undercurrent: One Hour Photo.

Robin Williams’ One Hour Photo is 20 years old today

One Hour Photo stars Williams as Sy Parrish, a lonely, mentally unstable photo developer in a department store. He takes a shine to the Yorkin family, who’ve been regular customers since the birth of their son, but this fondness soon becomes a dangerous, disturbing obsession.

While it didn’t achieve the box office figures of his biggest hits, it was still a success, and critics praised Williams’ performance as his “finest hour.”

Roger Ebert wrote: “Robin Williams plays Sy, another of his open-faced, smiling madmen, like the killer in Insomnia. He does this so well you don’t have the slightest difficulty accepting him in the role.”

Robin Williams always wanted a movie like One Hour Photo

In an earlier interview, the actor spoke about how he’d always wanted a role like One Hour Photo, but Hollywood wouldn’t give it to him.

He said: “Hollywood goes for what sells and what sells is warm and happy… good and fun! But when I got this, I was like, ‘God this is great. Thank you!'”

“This is satisfying because it’s like running a marathon – that you created something so intense – and that it achieves its purpose. It creeps people out in a way and makes them examine things.

“That’s satisfying, but it’s hard work. It’s like 18 hours a day. But could I keep playing that type of character all the time? Naw. I don’t want to creep people out.”

One Hour Photo is available to stream on Disney+.

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