Robin Williams Goes Pscho in 'Photo'

ByABC News
September 6, 2002, 12:01 PM

Sept. 6 -- It was so hard for Robin Williams to become a bad guy he could tell you about the pain one follicle at a time.

The hirsute comic tired of all the feel-good, Patch Adams roles tries for the third time this year to achieve bad-guy credibility in One Hour Photo. The movie has been out in limited release and goes nationwide this week.

The role of Sy Parrish, an outwardly meek, inwardly obsessed photo processor at a discount store, required Williams to undergo a complete character change not to mention a dye job and a shave.

Bring on the Weed Whacker

Williams' generous amount of body hair visible at times even when he's not in summer attire has disappeared.

"It's hard to think of, isn't it?" Williams says, joking with reporters. "Just to think of the depilatory alone. Three guys with Weed Whackers going, 'I've got to give up, Robin. I can't do your arms anymore!'"

The sacrifice was more than necessary. Williams' face is no longer familiar, and the new look, designed by Cheri Minns, fits the film's dark aesthetic.

"She had a photo lab that she could work on pictures of me and then just started removing hair and changing and blonding my hair out so that I could blend in with the whole store."

As the lonely, anonymous photo clerk, Parrish knows the regular customers all too well because he develops their film. Some are pet-crazy old ladies, who have 20 pictures of their toy poodle for every snapshot of a human. Some are amateur pornographers.

Unable to deal with real humans, Parrish lives through his customers' photos.

"He's very awkward, human skills way down, except to do his job and then he puts on that, 'How are we today?' kind of face and can deal," Williams says. "The moment people leave, he almost shuts down."

Parrish becomes so attached to the Yorkins a married couple played by Connie Nielsen and Michael Vartan that he starts to think of himself as Uncle Sy to their young boy.

From ceiling to floor, a wall of his home is wallpapered with the Yorkins' home photos. Who asked for the extra set of prints? Parrish did. Secretly.