Los Angeles Times
The final light cast by a star
‘ Boulevard’ filmmaker, colleagues remember Robin Williams in his last starring role.
Sometimes during long night shoots on the indie drama “Boulevard,” Robin Williams would want to go on walks with the film’s director, Dito Montiel. The role, which turned out to be the actor’s final starring part, clearly meant a lot to him.
“When we would have an hour break, we would walk around the streets of Nashville just to talk about the next scene,” Montiel said. “It is one of those special things, when somebody who has that much acclaim and doesn’t need to be there wants to spend an hour just talking about the next scene and making sure they have every little nuance.”
“Boulevard” finds the Oscarwinning actor (“Good Willing Hunting”) and groundbreaking comedian in a subdued dramatic role. Williams’ Nolan is a closeted 60- year- old married bank employee whose life changes dramatically when he picks up a young, handsome hustler named Leo ( Roberto Aguire).
The film opened last weekend in Los Angeles, a little less than a year after Williams committed suicide on Aug. 11 at age 63. Themovie received mixed reviews in very limited release, taking in about $ 27,000 in three Los Angeles theaters; it will expand to other cities starting
For Montiel, Williams was the only choice to play Nolan. “He was an Academy Award- winning actor,” he said.“We grew up on him. We have seen him as a guy who knows how to pull back [ like] in ‘ Dead Poet’s Society.’ ”
Montiel, best known for his 2006 film, “The Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,” noted that he was so in awe of Wiliams that he sounded like a “dumb fan” when they initially began talking on the phone about the project.
“It sounds corny to say, but he was really a nice person to me,” said Montiel, who filmed “Boulevard” in 2013. “He cared. You think, like, he didn’t need the acclaim or money, because there was no money in this film. So when a guy like him says hewants to do it, it’s because hewants to be there.”
Though the shooting schedule was intense, Montiel said that Williams would occasionally show his zany side, even performing some comedy routines during one of the night shoots on the streets of Nashville.
Kathy Baker, who plays Nolan’s wife, Joy, recalled that Williams was “maybe a little quiet, but that didn’t seem so unusual for doing his kind of part.”
One of the film’s most powerful sequences occurs when Joy confronts Nolan about his relationship with Leo. “That was a really hard scene to do,” Baker said.
She and Williams never discussed the scene prior to filming. “We just sort of did it,” she said. “Sometimes that happens with actors who would rather do it than talk about it. The scene had to be done right, and I think we did our best. After a scene was over, he would always ask me if I got what Iwanted or if Iwanted to do more.”
For Aguire, working with Williams was a master class in acting as he observed how Williams built his character and lived “so viscerally and emotionally.”
Wiliams “gave 120% whether the camera was on himor was onme, regardless of whether we had a 12- hour day or itwas the first hour of the day,” Aguire said.
His death shocked and saddened everyone.
“It’s been very sad that such a genius isn’t going to be showing us his mastery,” said Aguire, adding that everybody who worked on “Boulevard” was “very proud thatwe have this little treasure he left behind.”
For Montiel, “making movies is like a circus. You get together with all of these people for a couple of months, and you’re attached at the hip closely for those months.” At the end of the production, “everyone says, ‘ I’ll see you later.’ You hope you run into them on the streets or when the movie comes out. Life is tricky — you never knowwhat’s going to happen.”