It is inconceivable now that any Marvel movie could end up being a box office bomb, but if we go back to 1986 then we come across not only the movie that introduced Marvel movies to the big screen but almost killed off any chance of any other Marvel films ever being made again. I’m talking of course about Howard the Duck, the now cult classic that was one of the biggest box office duds of all time. One little known fact about the movie recently discussed by Chip Zien, the actor who voiced Howard in the movie, is how Robin Williams was originally cast as the feathered hero, but quit after just three days.
Chip Zien provided the voice for Howard in the movie, and recalled with The Hollywood Reporter how he came to take the role. “She asked me if I considered auditioning because I sound a little bit like a duck,” the actor said. “I was kind of offended. 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.”
The late Robin Williams was originally meant to be the voice of Howard, but as the character was a part-animatronic puppet, Williams very quickly became frustrated by the syncing of his voice. Williams was a unique actor, ad-libbing at will, talking at the pace many could never keep up with and therefore being completely inappropriate to make the role work. The very early animatronic effects were simply nowhere near as advanced, and Williams wasn’t someone who could contain himself to simply read out a script. Williams quit within the first week of recording, and that was when Zien received a call.
He recalled, “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.’ 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.”
Quite appropriately, the idea of Robin Williams voicing the character and what that could have brought to the movie is something that will have fans asking What If…? While we are about to see the current iteration of Howard appear in the new animated Marvel series, we can only imagine what could have been if Howard the Duck had been around 20 years later and Williams’s enthusiastic vocals could have been accommodated by technology. It would have deprived those who love the 1986 movie of the movie that exists today, but it could also have given us so much more. This news originated at The Hollywood Reporter.
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