Saturday, December 24, 2005
From the Vault: Bonnie Hunt
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED DEC. 10, 1995
Working with Robin Williams can go one of two ways: watching a one-man show or joining him at play. Thank goodness actress Bonnie Hunt's similar improvisational background (she started at Chicago's Second City) made her a ready partner for Williams, whether it be entertaining their young co-stars with routines of Jodie Foster's Nell character ordering food at a drive-through window or creating an alternate version of their new film Jumanji starring Mo and Tony, affectionately known as "the trailer park couple."
Hunt, who may be a more familiar face than name, has appeared in the Beethoven movies as well as last year's Only You. She also stars, produces and writes a CBS comedy called The Bonnie Hunt Show, which earned glowing reviews but is currently residing in hiatus land. The series is the second Hunt has attempted on CBS with David Letterman as executive producer.
"Dave's my pal. He's a dear friend of mine, like a brother to me and a wonderful business partner. The one thing we suffer from is the political agenda. It doesn't seem to be our nature."
Currently, Hunt's mind is on a different type of game — Jumanji, a sinister board game that is also the title of her new movie. When Hunt was growing up with her six siblings in Chicago, their games were Chutes and Ladders and Mousetrap, not a game that unleashes stampedes, monkeys and monsoons on a small, unsuspecting New England town.
"When I read the script, it reminded me a lot of The Wizard of Oz. I was so involved in it; my imagination was going crazy reading it. I thought it'd be nice to be involved in a film that's nice for the whole family to see."
Speaking of family, when Hunt briefly referred to her real-life husband, another reporter asked if he was in show business to which she replied, "Oh no — he's a good man." Co-starring with Hunt and Williams are two young performers — 13-year-old Kirsten Dunst (Interview With the Vampire, Little Women) and 10-year-old Bradley Pierce. Dunst was the main audience for the Nell impressions, and Pierce gave Hunt a bit of a realization about being an actress.
"To have children on the set, you realize that if a 10-year-old can do it, who are you kidding? It humbles you."
The playfulness she had with Williams was made evident when Williams interrupted the interview to play Tony to Hunt's Mo. Hunt said there's a different Jumanji that exists with the Tony and Mo characters. In order to keep Williams in character, director Joe Johnston agreed to give him one last take of each scene to go wild. That's where Tony and Mo came from.
"When you walk on a set with Robin, it's like you're at a barbecue in his back yard. He really is a joy."
What also pleased Hunt about Williams was his attitude, or lack thereof.
"Robin makes a lot of money. He's been around a long time, and people are so in awe of him when they see him walk down the street, but he just keeps it humble. You don't have to assume the star position in order to be treated like one."
The process of making Jumanji, as difficult as it could be involving special effects and the two weeks it took to film a storm scene, was relatively stress-free for Hunt.
"I found it probably one of the easiest jobs I've ever had because I love to improvise. To me, it's easier than doing the written word."