Mrs. Doubtfire

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Mrs. Doubtfire
Theatrical release poster
Directed byChris Columbus
Screenplay by
Based onMadame Doubtfire
by Anne Fine
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyDonald McAlpine
Edited byRaja Gosnell
Music byHoward Shore
Production
companies
Distributed by20th Century Fox[1]
Release date
  • November 24, 1993 (1993-11-24)
Running time
120 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[1]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$25 million[2]
Box office$441.3 million[2]

Mrs. Doubtfire is a 1993 American comedy-drama film directed by Chris Columbus and written by Randi Mayem Singer and Leslie Dixon, based on the 1987 novel Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine. Robin Williams, who also served as a producer, stars with Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Harvey Fierstein, and Robert Prosky. It follows a recently divorced actor who disguises himself as an elderly female housekeeper to be able to interact with his children. The film addresses themes of divorce, separation, and the effect they have on a family.

The film was released in the United States by 20th Century Fox on November 24, 1993.[3] It won the Academy Award for Best Makeup,[4][5] and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Robin Williams was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.

The film grossed $441.3 million on a $25 million budget, making it the second-highest-grossing film of 1993. Although the film received mixed reviews on release, its reception and popularity have since improved considerably, being placed 67th in the American Film Institute's "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" list and 40th on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies of All Time" list. The original music score was composed by Howard Shore.

Plot[edit]

Daniel Hillard is a freelance voice actor living in San Francisco. Although he is a devoted father to his three children: 14-year-old Lydia, 12-year-old Christopher (Chris), and 5-year-old Natalie (Nattie), his wife Miranda, a work-obsessed interior designer, considers him immature and unreliable. One day, Daniel quits his job following a disagreement over a morally questionable script and returns home to throw a chaotic birthday party for Chris despite Miranda's objections due to Chris' bad report card. This aggravates Miranda to the point where she files for divorce. At their first custody hearing, the court grants sole custody of the children to Miranda with Daniel having visitation rights every Saturday due to his unemployed and homeless status; shared custody is contingent on whether Daniel finds a steady job and a suitable residence within three months.

In order to rebuild his life, Daniel secures himself an apartment and a new job as a shipping clerk at a TV station, but learns that Miranda is seeking a housekeeper. Daniel secretly alters her classified ad form, then calls Miranda while using his voice acting skills to pose as a series of undesirable applicants. Daniel finally calls as "Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire", an elderly British nanny with strong credentials. Miranda is impressed and invites Mrs. Doubtfire for an interview. Daniel asks his brother Frank, a makeup artist, and Frank's domestic partner, Jack, to create a Mrs. Doubtfire costume, including a prosthetic mask to make him appear as an old woman.

Miranda hires Mrs. Doubtfire following a successful interview. The children initially struggle under her authority but soon come around and thrive while Miranda learns to become more easygoing and closer with the kids. Daniel becomes more responsible and learns several household skills as part of the role, further improving himself and earning Miranda's respect. However, this later creates another barrier for him to see the kids, as Miranda puts more trust in Mrs. Doubtfire than Daniel and cannot bring herself to dismiss her. Daniel also becomes increasingly jealous of Miranda's new boyfriend, Stuart "Stu" Dunmeyer, and his strengthening relationship with her and the kids. Helping Lydia study one night, Daniel-as-Mrs. Doubtfire excuses himself to use the bathroom. Chris walks in and sees Mrs. Doubtfire standing while urinating, and frantically instructs Lydia to call the police. Panicked, Daniel reveals that he is Mrs. Doubtfire, and, after a brief hesitation, Lydia and Chris agree to keep his secret so they can keep spending time with their father.

One day, the station's CEO, Jonathan Lundy, sees Daniel playing with toy dinosaurs on the set of a recently canceled children's show. Impressed by his voice acting, humor, and imagination, Lundy invites Daniel to discuss plans for a new show over dinner. However, the dinner meeting turns out to be at the same place and time as a planned birthday dinner for Miranda, to which Mrs. Doubtfire is invited. Unable to change either appointment, Daniel changes in and out of the Mrs. Doubtfire costume to attend both events. Becoming drunk, Daniel slips up when he accidentally returns to Lundy in his costume, but quickly says that Mrs. Doubtfire is his idea for the new show's host. After overhearing that Stu is allergic to pepper, Daniel sneaks into the kitchen and seasons Stu's order of jambalaya with powdered cayenne pepper. Stu chokes on his dinner, and Daniel, feeling guilty, administers the Heimlich maneuver as Mrs. Doubtfire. The action inadvertently causes the prosthetic mask to partially peel off Daniel's face, which to Miranda’s shock and outrage, reveals his identity, causing her to leave the restaurant with the kids.

At their next custody hearing, Daniel points out that he has met the judge's requirements ahead of schedule, then explains his actions and begs to still be allowed to see his children. The judge, noting Daniel's acting abilities, dismisses his words as another act, and, finding his role as Mrs. Doubtfire disturbing and unorthodox, grants Miranda full custody of the kids and further restricts Daniel's rights to supervised Saturday visits. This devastates Daniel, the children, and even Miranda, who begins to realize that her anger and hatred towards Daniel has been hurting the family. Without Mrs. Doubtfire, Miranda and the kids become miserable, acknowledging how much "she" improved their lives. They are then surprised to discover that Daniel, as Mrs. Doubtfire, is hosting a new show called Euphegenia's House, which becomes a nationwide hit.

Miranda visits Daniel on set after filming and admits that things were better when he was involved with the family. She then arranges joint custody, allowing Daniel as himself to take the kids daily after school. As Daniel leaves for the day with the kids, Miranda watches an episode of Euphegenia's House in which Mrs. Doubtfire answers a letter from a young girl named Katie McCormick, whose parents have separated, saying that no matter what arrangements families have, love will prevail.

Cast[edit]

Casting[edit]

Blake Lively unsuccessfully auditioned for the role of Natalie Hillard.[6]

Warren Beatty was Anne Fine’s first choice for the role of Daniel Hillard / Mrs. Doubtfire.[7]

Tim Allen was offered the roles of Daniel Hillard and Stu, but turned both of them down.[8]

Production[edit]

The San Francisco house used for exterior shots of the film, photographed in August 2014, several days after Robin Williams' death; a fan-made tribute to Williams can be seen at its front steps.

Production of the film was in San Francisco. Various locations in the city were used during filming. Parts were filmed at the studios of television station KTVU in Oakland. Street signs for the intersection near the "Painted Lady" home, Steiner, and Broadway, were visible onscreen.

The exact address, 2640 Steiner Street, became a tourist attraction for some time after the film's release.[9] Following Williams' death on August 11, 2014, the house became an impromptu memorial.[10] All interior filming for the home took place in a Bay Area warehouse converted for sound-stage usage. Williams' character, Daniel Hillard, lived upstairs from Danilo Bakery at 516 Green Street; his children attended a school at Filbert and Taylor.

The makeup for Mrs. Doubtfire's appearance took four hours to apply.[11] Williams later recounted how he used to walk through San Francisco dressed in full makeup and costume as Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, and on one occasion, visiting a sex shop to buy a large dildo and other toys.[12] Director Chris Columbus stated in a 2015 interview that they shot with multiple cameras at once like shooting a documentary to capture the cast members' reaction to Williams' improvisation.[13] The restaurant scene was filmed at Bridges Restaurant & Bar, in Danville, California.[14]

The score was composed, orchestrated, and conducted by Howard Shore.[15]

Release[edit]

The film was released in the United States on November 24, 1993, and was rated PG-13.[16]

When the film was released in the United Kingdom in January 1994, it received a certificate of 12 which, at the time, completely refused access to children under the age of 12 at cinemas (the 12A certificate did not exist until 2002). This resulted in cinemas requesting their local authorities to override the decision of the British Board of Film Classification, after having to turn down disappointed families. Later in February, The Independent reported that the censors refused to give the film a U or PG certificate, and gave it a 12 instead, which was due to 20th Century Fox refusing to remove three controversial lines.[17]

After the film's distributors requested the BBFC to reconsider, a compromise was reached and the film was rerated PG, with just one of the proposed three cuts implemented involving the removal of thirteen seconds featuring sexual innuendo (the other two cuts would have removed just some of the innuendo) and it was rereleased in May 1994. The cut version was also used in subsequent VHS and DVD releases in the United Kingdom. In November 2012 the distributors resubmitted the uncut version to the BBFC and the 12 certificate was reinstated for home video along with a 12A certificate for cinema release in 2014.[18][19] On March 4, 2013, the uncut version was released on Blu-ray and downloads in the United Kingdom.

In early 2021, several web articles claimed that there was an NC-17 cut of the film featuring extraordinarily vulgar ad libs by Robin Williams.[20][21] However, the claim was later debunked by director Chris Columbus and star Mara Wilson, with Columbus stating that Williams did film enough outtakes to make an R rated version, but that an NC-17 rating was absurd.[22] Wilson previously denied the claims of an NC-17 cut of the film in 2016 in her memoir Where Are They Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame.[23]

Deleted scenes[edit]

Over 30 minutes of scenes were omitted from the final cut of the film, some of which were featured in the 2008 DVD release of Mrs. Doubtfire called the "Behind-the-Seams Edition".[24] Had the scenes been included, the film would have run for 157 minutes. These include an entire subplot featuring Daniel's conflict with his nosy neighbor, Gloria Chaney (Polly Holliday), in which, after Daniel dresses as Mrs. Doubtfire, he fools Gloria into killing her flowers by spraying dog urine on them, and a final confrontation in which Gloria sees Daniel in his Mrs. Doubtfire bodycostume but without the face mask. There is also an extended scene at Bridges restaurant. In 2016, three scenes from the 2008 DVD release, which were also included in the aforementioned 2013 Blu-ray release, gained media attention to much fanfare and praise for Robin Williams.[25] These included a scene where Daniel and Miranda fight at Lydia's spelling bee competition and a confrontation scene with Miranda after Daniel's identity is revealed at the restaurant. He recovers later and comes back home to the family.

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Mrs. Doubtfire collected $20.4 million during its three-day opening weekend.[26] Within its first five days of release, it generated a total gross of $27.5 million.[27] The film earned $219,195,243 in the United States and Canada, and $222,090,952 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $441,286,195,[2] making it Fox's highest-grossing film internationally at the time and the highest-grossing cross-dressing film.[28][29] It became the second-highest-grossing film of 1993, behind only Jurassic Park.[30][31] Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 52.6 million tickets in the US.[32] It had a record opening for Fox in the United Kingdom with $5.8 million in 6 days (and the third best in the country after Jurassic Park and Bram Stoker's Dracula) and went on to gross $30.1 million, a Fox record.[33][28] It had the second biggest opening in Italy behind Jurassic Park with $2.9 million and also grossed a record for Fox in Italy with $15.6 million.[34][35][28] It also had record openings for Fox in France (with an opening week gross of $4.8 million and a total of $23 million), Belgium, Hungary and Denmark.[36][28] It grossed $29.6 million in Germany.[28] The film was number one at the Australian box office and Japanese box office for nine consecutive weeks.[37][38]

Critical reception[edit]

At the time of its release, several critics compared Mrs. Doubtfire unfavorably with Some Like It Hot (1959), and others who viewed the film favorably noted its similarity to Tootsie (1982).[39] On Rotten Tomatoes, Mrs. Doubtfire has a rating of 70%, based on 54 reviews, with an average rating of 5.90/10. The site's critical reception reads: "On paper, Mrs. Doubtfire might seem excessively broad or sentimental, but Robin Williams shines so brightly in the title role that the end result is difficult to resist".[40] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 53 out of 100, based on 16 critics, indicating 'mixed or average reviews'.[41] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[42]

Accolades[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
20/20 Awards Best Make Up/Hair Greg Cannom, Ve Neill, and Yolanda Toussieng Won
Academy Awards Best Makeup Won [43]
American Comedy Awards Funniest Actor in a Motion Picture (Leading Role) Robin Williams Won
Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Pierce Brosnan Nominated
Harvey Fierstein Nominated
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Top Box Office Films Howard Shore Won
Artios Awards Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film Casting – Comedy Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson Nominated [44]
Awards Circuit Community Awards Best Actor in a Leading Role Robin Williams Nominated
Best Makeup & Hairstyling Greg Cannom, Ve Neill, and Yolanda Toussieng Nominated
British Academy Film Awards Best Makeup and Hair Nominated [45]
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Won [46]
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Robin Williams Won
Golden Screen Awards Won
Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Movie Actor Robin Williams Won
MTV Movie Awards Best Male Performance Nominated
Best Comedic Performance Won
Nastro d'Argento Best Male Dubbing Carlo Valli (for dubbing Robin Williams) Won
People's Choice Awards Favorite Comedy Motion Picture Won
Favorite Actor in a Comedy Motion Picture Robin Williams Won
Young Artist Awards Best Family Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical Nominated [47]
Best Performance by a Youth Actor Co-Starring in a Motion Picture Matthew Lawrence Nominated
Best Performance by a Youth Actress Co-Starring in a Motion Picture Lisa Jakub Nominated

In 2000, the American Film Institute placed the film on its 100 Years...100 Laughs list, where it was ranked #67.[48]

Cancelled sequel[edit]

In 2001, Bonnie Hunt began to develop Mrs. Doubtfire 2. Anne Fine had not written a follow-up to Alias Madame Doubtfire, and writing for the sequel did not begin until 2003.[49] Robin Williams was set to return in disguise as the eponymous Mrs. Doubtfire. Re-writing began in 2006 because Williams was unhappy with the plot in the new script. The film had been anticipated for release in late 2007, but following further script problems, the sequel was scrapped in December 2006.[50]

In 2006, in an Newsday interview, Williams said the sequel was indefinitely scrapped, stating his reasons:

The script they had just didn't work. The sequel's story involved Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire moving close to Lydia's college, so he could keep an eye on her.[51]

Also, in December that year, during an interview on BBC Radio 1 by DJ Edith Bowman, Williams said that if it was not going to be done right, then it was not worth doing, and that there would not be a sequel with him in it.

In August 2010, on Alan Carr: Chatty Man, Williams again brought up the topic of a sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire. He blamed the script not being right as the reason why a sequel was not made. He claimed the script had been written three times and failed, and there was no mention of any ongoing work on the project. Furthermore, in December 2011, during an interview by Moviehole, Williams stated again that the chances of a sequel are "highly unlikely".

In 2011, Williams said:

They could never write it. They kept trying and it doesn't work... because at the end of the first one they reveal who [Mrs. Doubtfire] is. So it ends up being her for five minutes and then she transitions into some old Russian woman. They so far can't crack it.[52]

In 2014,[53] Chris Columbus stated, in turn:

We're talking about a sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire. We've [he and Williams] talked about it, and the studio is interested in it. The thing that fascinates me about a sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire is with most actors who create an iconic character like Mrs. Doubtfire, when you come back and do that character, well, you're twenty years older so, you're not going to look the same. The cool thing with Mrs. Doubtfire is there's a character, there's a woman, who is actually going to look exactly as she did in 1993.

In April 2014, a sequel was announced to be in development at 20th Century Fox. Williams and Columbus were expected to return, and Elf screenwriter David Berenbaum was hired to write the script.[54] Initial reception to the announcement was mixed, with some people fearing that the sequel will revive certain misgivings about the transgender community and set the LGBTQ awareness progress back two and a half decades, especially after an image of the character was used to mock the trans community at a medical insurance coverage reform in 2013.[55][56][57][58] Matthew Lawrence, Lisa Jakub, and Pierce Brosnan had expressed interest in reprising their respective characters for the sequel.[59][60][61][62] However, Mara Wilson, who played Natalie Hillard in the original film, expressed no interest in returning for the sequel.[63] Following Williams' death in August 2014, plans for a sequel were put on hold, and then again cancelled.[64][65][66]

In August 2014, shortly after Robin Williams' death, it was revealed that Williams had grown weary working on film sets because it tended to take him away from his family for extended periods of time and only signed on for the sequel "purely out of necessity."[67] In August 2015, Chris Columbus revealed that the sequel came to be after someone came up with a very interesting idea, and that his conversation with Williams about the subject was the last time he ever talked to the actor.[68] In December 2021, Columbus stated that a sequel is impossible without Robin Williams' involvement.[69]

Stage adaptation[edit]

Theatrical producer Kevin McCollum spoke in 2013 about the film's musical prospects, noting the plot was 'tailored for Broadway audiences'.[70] Following a 2015 plan going on hiatus,[71][72] McCollum assembled a different creative team in 2018: Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick composing the score, with John O'Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick writing the book, and Tony Award-winner Jerry Zaks directing.[73] The musical Mrs. Doubtfire premiered Seattle at the 5th Avenue Theatre on December 13, 2019. The production transferred to Broadway, with previews beginning on March 9, 2020, at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.[74] All Broadway productions were suspended three days later due to the coronavirus pandemic.[75][76] Eventually Mrs. Doubtfire resumed previews on October 21, 2021, and officially opened on December 5, 2021.[77]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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