We know Robin Williams for his work on movies like Hook, Dead Poets Society, and Jumanji. While he was in a few great movies that were rated R, it’s rare to associate the actor with anything that isn’t PG-13 friendly. However, that was just what we’ve seen. The late actor was well-known for his improvisation. On the set of Mrs. Doubtfire, the director took special care to take full advantage of what Robin Williams could do. He set up multiple cameras to be sure he caught the expressions of the actors reacting to the unpredictable happenings on set. In the end, he wound up with enough footage for different versions of the movie. During one interview, the director claimed they put together four different cuts. Apparently, in the dusty vaults of a movie studio somewhere, there likely exists PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17 rated versions of the classic Mrs. Doubtfire.
In the end, director Chris Columbus and the studio released a PG-13 version of the movie. Most people have watched a Robin Williams with their families, and Mrs. Doubtfire often makes the cut. But what happened to the rumored NC-17 version? What in the world could Williams have said or done that would have created such a version? Well, the other actors in the movie have been asked about this story over the years. For instance, Mara Wilson played the five year old daughter in the movie. People asked her about these NSFW outtakes, whether she’s seen them, and what she remembers. She says that while she remembers laughing hysterically on set and having a great time with Williams, that must have happened when she wasn’t in the room. Williams himself had kids and has always been said to be good with children, so that’s likely to be expected.
Pierce Brosnan’s recollections support that these outtakes exist and that the kids were not in the room. Shortly after Robin Williams passed away in 2014, Pierce Brosnan was on the late night show with Conan O’Brien. In Mrs. Doubtfire, Williams plays a recently divorced man who has lost custody of his children. Sally Field plays his ex-wife. Wanting to spend more time with his kids, Robin Williams interviews to be the family’s new Scottish nanny. He spends the rest of the movie as Mrs. Doubtfire, hanging out with his kids, his unsuspecting ex-wife, and her new boyfriend, played by Pierce Brosnan.
In the interview, Brosnan recalls that when the kids left the room during a dining table scene, Robin Williams took to improv. He began explaining to the new boyfriend what kinds of things his ex-wife enjoyed in the bedroom. While this may not be the source of the NC-17 material, it does give us more of a hint at what went on during filming. Watch the clip with Brosnan below.
Director Chris Columbus should probably be considered a genius for setting up the multiple cameras and letting Robin Williams do his thing. While the NC-17 version may have only ever been seen by him and whoever he let into the editing room, trying to stop Williams from sharing his gift was said to be nearly impossible.
In his early career, Robin Williams had a guest spot on the classic television series Happy Days. This led to four seasons of his own television show, Mork & Mindy, where he got to play Mork, an alien from Ork. While he was hired for “acting a little bit crazy”, once they got the actor on set, they weren’t sure what to do with him. He couldn’t seem to stick to the script. Robin Williams was a great actor, but part of that was his comedy, and a lot of that was improvised on the spot. He just wasn’t at his best if he wasn’t shooting from the hip.
Eventually, the team learned to lean into this. They wrote notes in the script like “Mork goes off here”. This gave Robin Williams specific points during filming where he was free to use his creativity and helped him stay on script in other parts.
One of the most famous scenes in Good Will Hunting was improvised. If you watch the movie with the DVD commentary on, you can hear Ben Affleck and Matt Damon talk about how surprised they were when Robin Williams told a story about his fictional late wife. Audiences can see the frame shake as the cameraman laughs during the scene.
While we can take guesses at what happened in the NC-17 version of Mrs. Doubtfire, it seems unlikely we’ll ever get to see it. We can be sure though that it was likely hilarious, Robin Williams probably spoke impossibly fast, and there had to have been some work done on the sound quality to make Robin Williams audible over the sound of everyone laughing on set.