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Mentally Challenged Williams

It seems to be some kind of a touchstone for the dramatic actor. Dustin Hoffman did it in Rain Man. Sean Penn did it in I Am Sam. Even Leo DiCaprio took his turn at it in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Figured it out yet?

Now it's Robin Williams' turn to take on the role of a mentally handicapped character. David Duchovny (yes, the guy from X-Files) wrote and directed House of D, the story of a friendship between a mentally retarded man named Papas (Williams) and a young boy, Thomas, played by newcomer Anton Yelchin. As an extra twist, Thomas' love interest is played by none other than Williams' daughter, Zelda. No word yet on which Williams came first on the casting list.

Is the movie any good? Can David Duchovny write? Does Robin Williams know how to play a mentrally challenged character without sinking into Jim Carrey-ish schtick? Most of us will likely have to wait for the DVD release to find out. House of D is currently only showing in two theaters but has still managed to bring in nearly $40,000 (for you math whiz kids out there, that's $20,000 per theater, or $40 million if it had as good an opening in the more traditional 2000 theaters) . Reviews are scarce and mixed and there's no sign whether or not the film's release will expand.

Movie Web recently sat down with Williams to discuss the project. Then they asked him about Mork and Mindy. Nice touch. Scroll down for shamelessly copy/pasted selected questions or go to for the full blown intervew.

MOVIE WEB: What did it take to convince you to make this film?

Robin Williams: Not much, I just read it and said, "This is interesting". I met with David [Duchovny], he had written it, so I wasn't worried about how he was going to shoot it. When he said that we'd shoot in New York, I'm in. If you're going to do a movie about the Village, it's pretty nice to shoot in the village and not be in Toronto. Not that shooting in Toronto is bad…nice people, eh! Shooting in New York is the shiznit, if I may be so bold. It was great. New York is a character. People who live here know that.

MOVIE WEB: Did you stick straight to the script or was there a lot of improvisation?

Robin Williams: No, I had to stay pretty much to the script. Number one, being mentally handicapped, you can't riff very well. I couldn't go off to much. There are little things I would try, but he's slightly slower than the rest. There were a few things I'd try, the scenes where I could be playful with him. But it's playful as an eleven year old with a thirteen year old. He's the older brother, I'm bigger and stronger, it's not Mice and Men time, but not aware of that.

MOVIE WEB: How much did you prepare for the role?

Robin Williams: There are things to do. Physically he looks different. You want to find a different way of doing it. There have been a lot of characters who were mentally challenged. You've got everything going, but you try to pick one. There's specific ways, specific looks, specific levels of how well they function, verbally and socially. There's the high functioning challenged, that's difficult to do, then you get in areas like autism. He's had a tough life, but he can work. He can work with people. So, there's not a lot of riffing.

MOVIE WEB:How did you like working with your daughter?

Robin Williams: It was great to watch her. It was all so good, because being this character; I could just sit back and watch her. She was so possessed and poised, very aware and knowing what the character would and wouldn't do. People ask me if I was worried, not at all. She's thirteen. People who have a thirteen year old daughter know that stage. When she's acting she's concentrating and very nice. She treats people with dignity and respect. That's the other part of this business that you want her to have.

MOVIE WEB:Did you watch that "Behind the Scenes with Mork and Mindy" on TV?

Robin Williams: No, it's weird, if they're going to make a bad movie about your life then wait for the Cartoon Network. I knew something was up when I asked for a script and they said, "No, we don't have that".