BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Bobcat Goldthwait already counts his latest movie starring buddy Robin Williams a success, no matter how well it does at theatres.
That’s because World’s Greatest Dad star Williams landed a slot to promote the film on NBC’s The Tonight Show, where Goldthwait once burned his own bridges by setting a chair on fire during an appearance with Jay Leno.
In an interview shortly before Williams’ Tonight Show gig, Goldthwait marveled at the fact that the low-budget black comedy he wrote and directed would get airtime on one of Hollywood’s premier publicity venues.
“I truly, not in a bitter way, am not too concerned about box office, because trust me, when I sat down and wrote this screenplay, I never thought that would happen,” Goldthwait, 47, said over coffee alongside Williams. “He’s going to go on The Tonight Show and talk about a movie I made. I’m banned from The Tonight Show.”
World’s Greatest Dad continues Goldthwait’s tradition of truly twisted humour, which he also showcased in Sleeping Dogs Lie, an indie comedy about a woman whose impromptu sex act with her dog causes havoc years later after she and her boyfriend adopt a policy of complete honesty.
The new movie stars Williams as a high-school poetry teacher whose dream of becoming a famous writer finally happens after publicity surrounding a bizarre family tragedy snowballs into a national outpouring.
The story leaves Williams’ single dad caught in a deception that serves his personal ambitions while sugarcoating the truth about his malignantly surly teenage son (Daryl Sabara of the Spy Kids flicks).
Williams, 58, has been friends with Goldthwait for nearly 30 years. He appeared in Goldthwait’s 1991 directing debut, Shakes the Clown. That movie starred Goldthwait as a boozy clown framed for murder, Williams signing on for a bit part as a favour to his pal.
“I went, ‘Alcoholic clown movie. Yes, I want that in my resume,”’ wisecracked Williams.
Goldthwait sent the World’s Greatest Dad script to Williams to get his opinion, not thinking his friend might star in the film, which opened last week in New York City and expands to more cities starting Friday.
Williams thought he might be able to help Goldthwait out as he had on Shakes the Clown, figuring “maybe there’s a small part to play. Then I read it and I went, ‘Uh, you know the main guy?”’
Goldthwait, who recalled how his budget was so tight on Sleeping Dogs Lie that he broke into a stranger’s garage to film a scene, said he had anticipated a similarly bare-bones production for World’s Greatest Dad.
After Williams came on board, the film took on a bigger life, Goldthwait said.
“The idea that he would do the movie just suddenly changed it, and watching him in these scenes, I was sitting there and I was getting goose bumps. It was so exceeding my expectations of what this movie was when I wrote it.”
In the 1980s, Goldthwait parleyed his jittery, demented standup act into a big-screen career, mostly in forgettable comedies such as Hot to Trot, Burglar and several Police Academy movies, which he mockingly calls “Police Lobotomy.”
He generally gave up on acting in the mid-1990s, around the time of his Tonight Show fire-starter moment. “I jokingly say I retired from acting the same time they stopped hiring me, so it worked out really well,” Goldthwait said. “I go out and do standup, and I’m starting to enjoy it again, but I go out and do that to pay bills so I can keep making these really tiny personal movies. “