Twenty-five years after the release of Mrs Doubtfire, Matthew Lawrence still finds it hard to explain how working on that film alongside Robin Williams, Sally Field and the entire cast and crew impacted him.
“Only those people understand the experience, you share that with them and it’s hard to really put it into words for anybody else just how much you learned and how much it affected your career and your life,” Lawrence recently told Page Six.
“Robin, I think, had this way; he is just so special that it was hard not to be completely affected by him and his work. As a person too, because he really, really cared about everybody.”
Lawrence was 12 years old when he was flown up to San Francisco to audition for the role of Williams’ son, Chris.
“We get there and there’s this weird feeling in the air … just a little tense in a good way,” Lawrence, 38, explained.
“There’s this couch in the middle of a little stage area and they sit me down on the couch and all of a sudden this elderly British woman sits next to me.”
Lawrence had no idea what was going on. He said the woman began wrestling with him and pinching him really hard. His reaction got a huge laugh, which he thinks landed him the role. Williams then revealed himself under the Mrs Doubtfire get-up.
“Even in person, it was so believable,” Lawrence, who’s been acting since he was four years old, explained. “I have yet to see an actor pull off something so extreme, so well in person, not just on film.”
According to Lawrence, Williams didn’t stop there. During filming, Williams would go on “experimental walks” on the streets of San Francisco, just to make sure the costume was convincing.
“He took me for a walk and nobody questioned that this was my British nanny. It was just amazing.”
Mrs Doubtfire took six months to film. The unforgettable dinner scene alone took two weeks, and according to Lawrence, Williams was putting in 18-hour days, showing up four-and-a-half hours before call time to get suited up as the title character.
“There were times that there were like 20-30 takes but nobody was sick of them,” Lawrence said. “In fact, sometimes all the crew, and I’ve yet to be on a project quite like this, the crew would come and stand around and watch every single take because with Robin on the set there (were) no bad takes. There was like 50 takes of something but they were all different. And all good.”
After filming wrapped, Lawrence said Williams, who died in 2014, would check in on him from time to time.
“He always told me to do my best to stay away from, you know, drugs,” he said.
“I’ll never forget it. He called me aside and this was not joking Robin, this is serious Robin. ‘Don’t do it Matthew.’ There are moments when that voice prevented me from doing anything wrong. He really impacted me on just that little thing.”
As for Sally Field, Lawrence said she’s always treated him like a son.
“As a 12-year-old and later on as a teenager, you don’t realise how special that is. But then, as you go on and continue to work, you realise that there aren’t a lot of people who are that invested.”
Lawrence recently wrapped filming in New Mexico on a western thriller filmed called The Dead Of Night. He is also in the midst of planning his wedding to Dancing With The Stars coach Cheryl Burke.
“I’m allowed an opinion, but I’m definitely taking Cheryl’s lead on (planning),” he said. “I want this to be her day.”