Movies - TV
Finding Robin Williams' Fisher King Co-Star Took Some Serious Casting Calculus
Terry Gilliam's 1991 Oscar-winning tragedy "The Fisher King" is a lighthearted, almost slapstick farce in certain scenes, but turns into heady themes of homelessness, mental illness, trauma, and guilt on a dime. However, Gilliam found that the hardest part of directing the movie was casting the right actor to go head to head with Robin Williams’ Parry.
The balance of the two lead characters was more delicate than Gilliam initially realized. Parry had to be funny and charming, but his mental illness and hallucinations had to seem unsettling. Meanwhile, shock jock Jack Lucas had to be capable of doing and saying horrible things but still be appealing.
"I said it's got to be an actor who doesn't work on the same level as [Williams]; he can't be a funny man, he can't be clever," Gilliam said of the casting dilemma. In the end, he chose Jeff Bridges to portray Jack because, as Gilliam put it, “People like Jeff; you like him no matter how awful he is, there's something about him that'll drag you along.”
Furthermore, Gilliam said that casting Bridges was also vital to striking the right balance on set. He explained, “To me then the biggest thing was to make sure Robin and I didn't float off into the ether there. We just could wind each other up brilliantly and just get extremely silly. Jeff was the anchor, that's why Jeff was so important; he became the anchor to keep the whole film, Robin, myself grounded."