Bobcat Goldthwait interview: World’s Greatest Dad, stand-up with Robin Williams and Police Academy sequels

As his superb comedy, World’s Greatest Dad, arrives on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK, we catch up with writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait for a chat…

Stand-up comedian, actor, writer and director, Bobcat Goldthwait’s earliest and most prominent movie role was as the hyperactive gang leader, Zed, in Police Academy 2, and later he went on to make appearances in such movies as Scrooged alongside Bill Murray, and Burglar, with Whoopi Goldberg and John Goodman.

More recently, Goldthwait has embarked on a successful filmmaking career, writing and directing the transgressive, sharply observed Sleeping Dogs in 2006, and the superb World’s Greatest Dad, an equally contentious comedy that explored incredibly dark themes with a sensitive, intelligent lightness of touch.

One of our favourite films of last year (even making our top ten list of the most underrated movies of 2010), World’s Greatest Dad makes its debut on DVD and Blu-ray on the 31 of January. To celebrate its release, we spoke to Bobcat about the making of the film, the writing process, and casting Robin Williams…

Ad – content continues below

Sleeping Dogs was about bestiality, at least in part, while World’s Greatest Dad is about autoeroticism. Do you deliberately choose premises that are difficult to market?

[Laughs] Yeah! I have a fisting movie coming up next. I don’t mean to. You’d think I was some kind of pervert. But I’m branching out. I have a film in development with Ray Davies of the Kinks. There’ll be no bestiality in that.

Did Robin Williams go for his role in World’s Greatest Dad straight away, or did he take a bit of convincing?

Well, he’s one of my old friends, so he asked to read the script. And I found out later that he wanted to read the script because he was going to help me out. Like, he was going to find a small role and attach himself. And then, when he read it, he asked if he could play Lance, the lead.

That changed everything, obviously. It meant that we’d have to find permits while we filmed. I usually work pretty down and dirty!

It changed other things too, because he’s one of the best actors out there, you know? I was really excited.

Where did the story for World’s Greatest Dad come from? Was it inspired by anything in particular?

Ad – content continues below

Well, it just kind of appeared. I wanted to write a comedy about a middle-aged man, but also about a guy who struggles in relationships. I didn’t want it to be a movie where the lead character has a series of bad relationships with women. I didn’t want it to become misogynistic. So, I thought it could be about a bad relationship in a family, between a parent and a kid.

Did you worry, when you came up with the script, that people would assume from its premise that the film would be more crass than it is? The film’s actually really sensitively handled. Were you worried that audiences might think the opposite?

Yeah, and also, with my involvement, I thought it might be a hurdle. You know, with Robin Williams, and the guy who was in Police Academy, people might have thought it was a different kind of comedy.

When I write stuff at this point in my life, I really don’t want to think, “Can I get this made?” I just write the stuff that comes out of me, and then after that I try to get it made. But I don’t think, “Will I get the money?” and “Who’s this made for?”

Marketing movies is hard. I just finished a spree killer screenplay, and I think, again, people may think it’s a body count movie, but it’s not. It’s something else.

How difficult was it to cast the character of Kyle? Daryl Sabara did a great job, I thought, in a really tough role.

Ad – content continues below

Yeah. He came to audition, but he was supposed to be trying out for the role of the nice boy, and he lied and said he was there for Kyle because he’d got hold of the wrong script [laughs]. And so, when I saw him, I knew the movie would work for me, at least, because he was so convincing as a horrible person.

I was a little concerned that he really was this horrible kid, so after he left, I tried to call and find out. I made out I was calling for another audition, but I was really just trying to find out if he was an asshole or not. [laughs]

I noticed in the credits that the film was produced by Darko Entertainment. Was Richard Kelly particularly instrumental in getting the film financed?

His company was. The whole group over there was really supportive. It was very strange, because they said they liked the idea and wanted to make the movie. I was like, “Wow!”

I saw the film a few months ago and both you and Robin Williams introduced it. I was really struck by what a good double-act you made on stage. Have you ever thought of doing a stand-up tour together?

We have already performed on the same night, so we’ve shared the same stage together. But maybe we should do that!

Ad – content continues below

Definitely! Are you both planning to work together on another film soon?

Yeah, definitely. I have a thing I wrote with him in mind, and he liked it, so we’ve got that. But I do stand-up and appear in films here in the States, and I write a lot, which is really important to me.

I was kind of like Lance in the movie, in that I stopped writing for the wrong reasons, and now I just write.

Is your next film with Robin Williams likely to be as contentious as the topics in World’s Greatest Dad?

No, actually, when I finished it and showed it to my wife, she looked at me, and from her face I thought she didn’t like it. Then she said, “You wrote a family picture!” She was shocked.

I try not to stick to any one thing, you know. That’s always been important to me. As long as there’s a strong theme that I can identify with, that’s what makes me interested in writing.

Ad – content continues below

You mentioned acting just now – would you ever be interested in returning to the Police Academy movies? You could even write and direct one, perhaps.

[Laughs] It’d be very funny if I wrote a screenplay for a Police Academy movie.

I think that’d be pretty awesome.

It would be a very dark, dark Police Academy. [laughs] The guy who makes the funny noises would be found dead within the first couple of minutes. [More laughter] They really should make one.

Have you been happy with the way World’s Greatest Dad‘s been received?

I’m happy that folks seem to have liked it as much as they have. That’s really great.

Ad – content continues below

When I make these movies, they’re pretty small, so I don’t ever have an idea that I’m gonna kick Megamind‘s ass, you know?

Bobcat Goldthwait, thank you very much.

World’s Greatest Dad will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on 31 January.

Follow Den Of Geek on Twitter right here.