How much is a three-minute Robin Williams comedy routine worth? A few million so far, according to the producer of the movie, "Can I do It Till I Need Glasses?"
The R-rated movie, which has prompted a legal action from Williams, opened Friday at 40 Los Angeles-area theaters with the comedian billed above the title: "Star of 'mork and Mindy' in his FIRST screen role."
Williams' "role," for which he was paid $150, was edited out when the movie was first released in September 1977, said Michael Callie, who co-wrote, produced and independently financed it.
Since the advent of "mork and "mindy," the film has been "re-edited," the ad campaign has been "redesigned" and the movie has grossed $3.5 million (on a $750,000 investment) in 700 play dates across the country, Callie claimed, adding, "It's what you call a case of gold on the cutting room floor. It's a joke movie -- 70 jokes in about 80 minutes.
There's no story line; we took the best of the dirty jokes and acted them out in vignettes," Callie said.
Williams and his management firm of Rollins, Joffe, Morra & Brezner called it "false and misleading advertising" in a legal action initiated Wednesday against Callie and the movie's distributor, National American Entertainment Corp.
Williams, who was reportedly "extremely upset" about his billing, sought to enjoin Callie and National American from using advertisements that implied Williams was the star of the movie. In a Los Angeles Superior Court hearing Thursday, Callie agreed to "modify" the newspaper and TV ads which have been appearing for the past week. Among other things, he will drop Williams' name below the movie's title, Callie said.
At the time the movie was filmed in December 1976, Williams was an unknown performing at one of Callie's clubs in the Los Angeles area. "Robin was an actor who was paid to do a job and who signed a release. I didn't stick a camera in his bedroom window and film his wedding night. And I didn't read in the release a clause that said, "This release becomes invalid upon stardom,'" said Callie, defending his action. He described Williams' role as "G-rated material in an R-rated movie.
It's very easy to get movie deals when you have a giant hit series," Callie continued, But there were no guarantees when I put up my personal assets to make this movie -- I wasn't banking on Robin Williams then."
Callie said that Williams' recent stardom was, "a tremendous windfall for us" and conceded that the billing, "might have given the impression' that Williams was the star of the movie.
"But it's no more deceptive than billing Marlon Brando as the star of 'Superman' for a four-minute performance or billing him as the star of 'Apocalypse Now' for a 10-minute appearance."
Callie recalled the Friday night last December when, after two weeks of sorting through 125,000 feet of film in mislabeled cannisters, he and director I. Robert Levy, found the excised Williams footage: "Suddenly, we knew exactly how John Sutter felt," he said. (Sutter was the prospector who first discovered gold in California.)
The two men immediately put the piece of film in a safety deposit box for the weekend. "We got very paranoid for no reasons," Callie said. "It was like we'd found the key to Fort Knox, and all these secret agents were trying to get ti back from us."
Can I Do It Till I Need Glasses?," is a "follow-up" to the 1975 film "If You Don't Stop It, You'll Go Blind," which has grossed $15 million to $20 million, according to Callie.