1993 American comedy-drama film directed by Chris Columbus
Mrs. Doubtfire is a 1993 American comedy-drama film directed by Chris Columbus. It was written for the screen by Randi Mayem Singer and Leslie Dixon, based on the 1987 novel Alias Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine. Robin Williams, who also served as a co-producer, stars with Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Harvey Fierstein, and Robert Prosky. It follows a recently divorced actor who dresses up as a 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 on November 24, 1993. It won the Academy Award for Best Makeup 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.
It grossed $441.3 million on a $25 million budget, becoming the second-highest-grossing film of 1993 worldwide. Though the film received mixed reviews, it was 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”. The original music score was composed by Howard Shore.
Daniel Hillard is a freelance voice actor living in San Francisco. Though a devoted father to his three children, Lydia, Chris, and Natalie, his wife Miranda considers him unreliable. One day, Daniel quits his job after a disagreement over a questionable script and returns home to throw a chaotic birthday party for Chris, despite Miranda’s objections. This infuriates Miranda to the point where she files for divorce. At their first custody hearing, the court grants sole custody of the children to Miranda; shared custody is contingent on whether Daniel finds a steady job and a suitable residence within three months.
As Daniel works to rebuild his life, securing himself an apartment and a new job as a shipping clerk at a TV station, he learns that Miranda is seeking a housekeeper. He secretly alters her classified ad form, then calls Miranda while using his voice acting skills to pose as a series of undesirable applicants. He finally calls Miranda as “Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire”, a Scottish-accented 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 partner, Jack, to create a Mrs. Doubtfire costume, including a prosthetic mask to make him appear as an older woman.
Miranda hires Mrs. Doubtfire after a successful interview. The children initially struggle under Mrs. Doubtfire’s authority but soon come around and thrive and Miranda learns to become closer with her children. Daniel learns several household skills as part of the role, further improving himself. However, this later creates another barrier for him to see his children, as Miranda puts more trust into Mrs. Doubtfire than him and cannot bring herself to dismiss her. One night, Lydia and Chris discover that Mrs. Doubtfire is actually Daniel; thrilled to have their father back, they agree to keep his secret.
One day, the station’s CEO Jonathan Lundy sees Daniel playing with toy dinosaurs on the set of a poorly-rated children’s show. Impressed by his voice acting and imagination, Lundy invites Daniel for a dinner to discuss his plans for the show. Daniel discovers this is to be at the same place and time as a planned birthday dinner for Miranda by her new boyfriend Stuart Dunmeyer, 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 he quickly claims that Mrs. Doubtfire is his idea for the new show. 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 causes the prosthetic mask to partially peel off Daniel’s face, revealing his identity and horrifying Miranda, who storms out of the restaurant with the kids.
At their next custody hearing, Daniel points out that he has met the judge’s requirements, then explains his actions. The judge, while sympatheic, considers Daniel’s ruse as Mrs. Doubtfire unorthodox, and grants Miranda full custody, further restricting Daniel’s rights to supervised Saturday visits, which devastates him. Without Mrs. Doubtfire, Miranda and her children become miserable, acknowledging how much “she” improved their lives. They are then surprised to discover that Daniel, as Mrs. Doubtfire, is hosting a new children’s 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 children after school. As Daniel leaves with the kids, Miranda watches an episode of Euphegenia’s House in which Mrs. Doubtfire answers a letter from a young girl whose parents have separated, saying that no matter what arrangements families have, love will prevail.
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  Following Williams’ death on August 11, 2014, the house became an impromptu memorial. 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.became a tourist attraction for some time after the film’s release.
The makeup for Mrs. Doubtfire’s appearance took four hours to apply. 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. The restaurant scene was filmed at Bridges Restaurant & Bar, in Danville, California.
In January 1994, when released in the United Kingdom, the film 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.
After the film’s distributors requested the BBFC to reconsider a compromise, the film was re-rated PG, with the thirteen seconds of sexual innuendos cut, and it was re-released 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. On March 4, 2013, the uncut version was released on Blu-ray and downloads in the United Kingdom.
Over thirty minutes of deleted 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”. 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 spraying urine on her flowers, this ultimately results in the flowers’ death, and a final confrontation in which Gloria sees Daniel on his Mrs. Doubtfire bodycostume but without the face mask. and 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. 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.
The film earned $219,195,243 in North America, along with $222,090,952 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $441,286,195, making it the highest-grossing cross-dressing film. It became the second-highest-grossing film of 1993, behind only Jurassic Park.Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 52.6 million tickets in the US. It had a record opening for Fox in the United Kingdom.
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). On Rotten Tomatoes, Mrs. Doubtfire has a rating of 71%, based on 51 reviews, with an average rating of 5.69/10. 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”. On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 53 out of 100, based on 16 critics, indicating ‘mixed or average reviews’. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A” on an A+ to F scale.
In 2001, Mrs. Doubtfire 2 began being developed by Bonnie Hunt, even though Anne Fine had not written any follow-up novels to Alias Madame Doubtfire, but writing did not begin until 2003. Robin Williams was set to return in disguise as an old nanny. Due to problems with the script, re-writing began in 2006, because Williams was unhappy with the plot, and the sequel was again scrapped later that year. The film was expected to be released in late 2007, but following further script problems, the sequel was declared scrapped in December 2006.
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.
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.
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. However, after Williams’ death in August 2014, plans for a sequel were cancelled.
A musical adaptation of Mrs. Doubtfire was in the works in 2015, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by David Zippel, and a book by Harvey Fierstein. Producer Kevin McCollum had previously spoken to the New York Times in 2013 about the 1993 movie’s musical prospects, noting that the plot was ‘tailored for Broadway audiences’. However, three years later, Menken told that the project was put on ‘creative hiatus’, citing changes in the creative team as the problem. Nevertheless in 2018, McCollum revealed that the adaptation was still aiming for a Broadway bow, but with an entirely different creative team which includes Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick composing the score, and John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick writing the book. Tony Award-winner Jerry Zaks became the director of the show.
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