Tragically, Robin Williams passed away Monday at the age of 63. With the unexpected death of such a comedy icon, the internet is filled to the brim with tributes to the beloved actor. Along with those tributes have come a number of, for lack of a better term, "lists of interesting facts about Robin Williams." That’s not surprising, of course, as numbered lists have become incredibly popular. However, I’ve noticed something distressing about them: They use a lot of the same “facts” that don’t appear to be verified at all, instead seemingly going under the theory of “Well, if Site X and Y are reporting it, I guess we can, too.” That’s pretty standard behavior for small independent websites, but I’m talking about The Huffington Post and CBS News.
Honestly, it looks like writers are just pulling items from the Internet Movie Database’s trivia page. The issue, of course, is that those “facts” are user-submitted and are often unsourced, leaving the truth behind them up in the air. One fact I’ve seen repeated a number of times over the past few days is that Williams ad-libbed so much of his dialogue as the Genie in Aladdin (a role that ended up causing him a lot of aggravation, as we covered in an earlier Movie Legends Revealed) that the film was ineligible for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Is that true?
A few common elements make my skeptic radar ping when it comes to “facts” on the internet. The most common one is what I mentioned earlier about lack of sources. If an interesting fact is just tossed out there without anything backing it up, it stands out as suspicious. Another major one is when the same fact is reported in numerous different ways. Here’s how I’ve seen it reported just this week:
- “Because Robin Williams ad-libbed so many of his lines, the script [for Aladdin] was turned down for a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award nomination.”
- “Again, it is thought that Williams ad-libbed a lot of his lines in Aladdin; so much so that producers ended up with over 16 hours’ worth of material, and the film could not be submitted for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars.”
- “Because Williams ad-libbed so many of his lines, the script didn’t get a nomination for best adapted screenplay at the Oscars.”
- “So much of Williams’ wild performance was improvised that the Academy turned down the film’s submission in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.” This quote from the Cleveland Plain Dealer was what the Huffington Post used as a citation for the following quote:
- “Apparently, the Academy Awards rejected the bid for “Aladdin” in the Best Adapted Screenplay category because so much of Williams role ended up being improvised.”
- “According to reports, the 1992 Disney film was turned down for a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award nomination because Williams had ad-libbed so many of his lines as the goofy but loyal Genie.” (Do you know what the “report” was for that last one? The IMDb trivia page for "Aladdin"!)
When you have that much variety, it’s often because there’s no true original source to go to so, there’s no consistency in how the story is reported.
So in checking to see whether this was true, I first read a number of Williams biographies and books about "Aladdin" and searched through contemporary news accounts of the time and found no evidence of the Academy denying "Aladdin" a nomination for the stated reason (I did come across an interesting opinion piece by Phil Rosenthal about how Williams deserved a Best Supporting Actor nomination for the role as the Genie).
Secondly, I considered the question: Was it even odd for "Aladdin" to not be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay? Not at in the least. In fact, no animated film had ever been nominated for a screenplay Academy Award. Not "Snow White," not "Bambi," not "Dumbo" and more importantly, not "The Little Mermaid" or "Beauty and the Beast" ("Aladdin‘s" contemporaries). Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture ("Aladdin" was not) and it still didn’t receive a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay ("Toy Story" became the first animated film to receive a nod in that category). So it was unsurprising that "Aladdin" was passed over for a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. However, it would’ve been surprising if it had received one.
So without any evidence that it was specifically denied an Oscar nod, and considering no other Disney animated film had been nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, it already seems highly unlikely this story is true.
But here’s the kicker: Improvised films are eligible for Best Screenplay! There are a number of examples of films with extensive ad-libbing that later received nominations in that category, including "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Shrek," but the most famous example is 2006's "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," which was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay despite the vast majority of the film being improvised (and not just one character’s dialogue).
With all of this factored in, I feel safe in saying that this legend is …
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com.
Copyright © 2014 Comic Book Resources. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
Let Streaming Genie help you.