It’s been widely known that Robin Williams was courted for and auditioned for Willard Huyck’s 1986 misfire “Howard the Duck,” but it turns out the iconic comedian booked the role and quit after only a week. Voice actor Chip Zien revealed as much in a new interview for The Hollywood Reporter to mark the movie’s 35th anniversary. Zien voiced the eponymous anthropomorphic duck and was originally offended when his agent first brought him the role.
“She asked me if I considered auditioning because I sound a little bit like a duck,” Zien said. “I was miffed. And I told my agent. He said, ‘Oh, my God! Someone came to you about ‘Howard the Duck?’ Chip, it’s huge! This is a great thing! I am going to call right away.’ And then I became aware that everyone in the world was auditioning for it, from big names to people like me.”
Robin Williams was cast over Zien, but according to The Hollywood Reporter’s interview: “Zien [revealed Williams] left the project within the first week out of frustration over syncing his voice to the duck’s animatronic bill. An actor to voice Howard had not been cast during production, so all of Howard’s lines were read on set by the puppeteers, and the bill moved to fit their bland delivery, rendering Williams’ wild improvisational style moot in post production.”
“What I was told was by the third day, Robin said, ‘I can’t do this. It is insane. I can’t get the rhythm of this. I am being confined. I am being handcuffed in order to match the flapping duck’s bill.’” Zien said. “So, on Memorial Day 1985, I got a call from my agent who said, ‘You have to get right to the airport! Robin Williams just quit and you’re now Howard the Duck. You need to get there tonight. There is a ticket waiting for you at the counter.’ I was incredibly excited.”
“Howard the Duck” was an infamous critical and commercial bomb when it opened in theaters, although it has earned a cult following in the decades since release. Head over to The Hollywood Reporter’s website to read more from Zien on the film’s 35th anniversary.