Christopher Nolan Broke A Huge Robin Williams Trend For His First $100 Million Success



  • Christopher Nolan’s 2002 film Insomnia helped Robin Williams break free from his comedic roles, showcasing his talent as a dramatic actor.
  • Williams delivered a career-defining performance as the villainous Walter Finch in Insomnia, receiving widespread praise for his chilling portrayal.
  • While Williams’ performance in Insomnia is impressive, his role as Seymour Parrish in One Hour Photo takes his career to the next level, showcasing his emotional range and complexity as an antagonist.



While Christopher Nolan has had plenty of box office hits, his 2002 psychological thriller, Insomnia, will always be considered one of his most memorable as his first $100 million success helped Robin Williams break a huge trend. Before Williams starred alongside Al Pacino in Insomnia, the actor was mainly known for his comedic films and television roles. Characters, like the titular alien in Mork & Mindy, Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning, Vietnam, and Genie in Disney’s Aladdin, were often considered some of Williams’ best and funniest roles as they often allowed him to show off his amazing improv skills.

Williams also proved himself to be a talented drama actor as he won an Academy Award for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting and gained nominations for the dramas, Dead Poets Society and The Fisher King. Considering his versatility and acting prowess, it’s not at all surprising that Nolan was quick to recruit him for Insomnia as he would certainly help him double his box office budget. However, what he didn’t expect was for Williams to put in a career-defining performance for his role was unlike anything he had ever done before.

Christopher Nolan Turned Robin Williams Into A Villain For Insomnia – And It Was Great

An image of Al Pacino and Robin Williams sitting next to one another in Insomnia

Given Al Pacino often portrayed villainous characters (such as Michael Corleone in The Godfather Trilogy and Tony Montana in Scarface) and Williams was usually associated with the hero, a lot of people assumed that this would likely be the dynamic that followed. However, after the trailer dropped, it was quite clear that this wasn’t the case. In Insomnia, Nolan cast Williams as the villainous Walter Finch – a crime fiction writer turned murderer, who blackmails Pacino’s cop character, Will Dormer, after he witnessed him kill his partner.

Although Pacino got the most screen time, Williams’ performance seemed to have stolen the show as he was widely praised by critics and audiences alike. Where he was once seen as the hilarious, kind, and family-friendly man, Nolan managed to break Williams out of this stereotype as Finch was a lot darker and creepier. There was also something chilling about the way Williams portrayed the predatory killer, especially when audiences can see he showed no remorse for his actions and was extremely conniving.

Insomnia Or One Hour Photo: Which Robin Williams Villain Performance Is Better?

An image of Robin Williams looking serious in Insomnia and One Shot Photo

Although Williams’ performance in Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia is quite chilling and provided his fans with a glimpse of his great emotional range, his role as Seymour Parrish in One Hour Photo took his career to the next level. Directed by Mark Romanek (and released in the same year as Insomnia), One Hour Photo followed the life of Williams’ character, Seymour, who initially works as a photo technician in a department store and finds great pleasure in his job. However, his love for photography soon goes down a dark path as he begins to stalk and become obsessed with a wealthy family.

Like his performance in Insomnia, Williams takes on another antagonistic role here that is just as dark and unsettling. However, what makes him stand out more here is the fact that the audience gets to see the villainous role in a bit more depth (along with all the complexities that come with it). If fans of Williams are looking for an interesting character study, then One Hour Photo is definitely the best pick as he manages to both evoke sympathy and terror.