When looking back at the late Robin Williams movie career, comedy and the occasional drama filled his ledger. You would also see some fantasy, animation, and even an attempt at a thriller or two. The one thing you would not see if you checked out his resume is an all-out superhero flick. Not that he didn’t try.
Back in early 1979 (yes, that long ago) a gentleman by the name of Jim Shooter was presented with a challenge. He was approached by Marvel’s in-house VP of Business Affairs, Alice Donenfeld, to create their own super-heroine/singer character. Um, okay?
Alice wanted to set up a joint venture between the comic book company and a record company where Marvel would produce the comics (naturally) and the record company would produce the music much like what was done with The Archies back in the day.
Shooter went to work on the project that almost included Robin Williams, using some of his co-workers to help with ideas surrounding a superhero singer. They eventually settled on Alison Blaire and the Dazzler. She would first appear in the X-Men #130 comic. That was that.
Until it wasn’t. The big wigs were excited and brought Shooter into a meeting. He was told that Casablanca Records was interested in not only the record portion of the collaboration, but they wanted to also make a half-hour animated special. Nice.
Shooter was given carte blanche as to which writer he could bring on. While they suggested Harlan Ellison, they also wanted the treatment in four days. Shooter took on the assignment himself.
When he presented the treatment, it was immediately decided, this isn’t a half-hour special, this is a feature film which could very well star Robin Williams. When the animated special was first brought up, Casablanca Records leader Neil Bogart wanted a number of Marvel heroes as well as stars he had under contract to provide voices for the non-Marvel characters.
Therefore, names like Robin Williams, Cher, Donna Summer, Rodney Dangerfield, Lenny and Squiggy (of Happy Days fame), the Village People, and KISS were included. In fact, taking a look at Shooter’s 14-page treatment, he planned on using each suggested name.
His cast of characters read thusly – Cher would be playing the Witch Queen, Robin Williams would be Tristan, Donna Summer as the Queen of Fire, Rodney Dangerfield as Dewey, Cheetham, and Howe, and as Lord Chaos, Lenny and Squiggy would be the Jesters, The Village People would be the Stompers, and KISS would arrive as the Dreadknights. Sold!
Also, at the bottom of the cast of characters, Shooter had included Disco Dazzler, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Avengers as themselves. All of them hanging out with Robin Williams? How did this not get made?
While there never was an official script, just Shooter’s treatment, he did go into detail as to what fans could have seen. How about battle troops riding unicorns that pull hollowed-out VWs as chariots? Or Datsun (haha) pick-ups being pulled by dark lizards?
Robin Williams was brought in as the “sexy love interest” Tristan but even back in 1979, not sure if “sexy” could describe Williams, as talented as he was.
Cher, as the Witch Queen, is up to no good with her security crew, KISS’s Dreadknights. Robin Williams vs. KISS? Shooter broke down in his treatment just what the Dreadknights superpowers would be – Gene Simmons was called the Demon and he had super strength and could breathe fire. Paul Stanley was Starchild and could fire rays from his starred eyes. Ace Freely was Space Ace with the ability to teleport short distances. Peter Criss was the Cat, blessed with catlike agility and speed. Again, how did this not get made?
If that isn’t enough, Shooter goes on to break down The Village People’s Stompers and their very specific superpower.
Along the way, we also get appearances by The Avengers which, according to Shooter, include Iron Man, The Falcon, The Scarlet Witch, The Beast, and The Wasp. Jarvis makes an appearance as does Mary Jane Watson. Shooter leaves no stone unturned.
With all those big names set to star in Dazzler, we would be bereft if we didn’t mention the Dazzler herself, Mary Collins. Well, you may better know Ms. Collins as Bo Derek. Ms. Derek was just coming off an eye-opening turn as Jenny Hanley opposite the late Dudley Moore in the hilarious Blake Edwards film 10. She was as hot as can be and somehow, she was convinced to play the part of the Dazzler alongside Robin Williams.
The first thing that began to doom the project was that while Shooter’s vision is what sold the project, the treatment was handed over to screenwriter Leslie Stevens, who promptly ignored all the fun Shooter had laid out in his treatment.
The second thing that happed, what truly killed the project, was when Bo was hired, she was bound and determined to have her husband, John Derek, attached as the film’s director.
Anyone who knows of John Derek and his time in Hollywood as a director knows he wasn’t the man to direct Bo Derek, Robin Williams, or anyone else. Pretty much any directing job. Good actor, horrible behind the camera. If you don’t believe us, go check out his Tarzan the Ape Man movie he made with Bo. Horrible is a nice way of describing it.
Bo’s demands were not met, and she eventually walked from the film. Daryl Hannah (before she was even remotely big) was briefly attached to take Bo’s place but by then excitement for the project waned and eventually faded into the abyss. So much for Robin Williams and his shot at a superhero movie. Who knows where his career would have gone had the Dazzler hit the big screen?
As for the Dazzler, she went on to be a force within the X-Men. Her solo comic debuted in 1981 and ran for 42 issues. Her character also, many years later, would make her big-screen debut in X-Men: Dark Phoenix with Halston Sage (Prodigal Son) playing the singing mutant.
Do yourself a favor and read Shooter’s treatment. Then try to imagine Robin Williams as Tristan, the Dazzler’s sexy love interest. Can you?