Nathan Lane Recalls 'Generous' Robin Williams on 'The Birdcage' Set

Nathan Lane reflects on impactful moments and honors

by Zain ul Abedin
Nathan Lane Recalls 'Generous' Robin Williams on 'The Birdcage' Set
© Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

At the 2024 Drama Desk Awards, Nathan Lane, a veteran of both stage and screen, reflected warmly on his experiences filming the 1996 hit comedy, "The Birdcage," particularly his time with co-star Robin Williams. The film, noted for its vibrant portrayal of a gay couple navigating comedic and touching scenarios, remains a beloved classic.

For Lane, memories of working with Williams are especially poignant. Lane, 68, shared that the project was pitched to him as a gathering of congenial talents. "[Director] Mike Nichols wanted a cast of nice people, and indeed, he assembled a group that was not only pleasant but exceptionally gifted," Lane recounted.

At the center of this ensemble was Williams, whom Lane described as "the dearest and sweetest guy in the world, and so talented." Williams' generosity on set was a highlight for Lane, who felt supported by his co-star throughout their collaboration.

The chemistry between Lane and Williams was pivotal for "The Birdcage," as they convincingly played a couple orchestrating a humorous yet intricate ruse to impress their son's conservative future in-laws. This role was a significant turning point in Lane’s career, earning him a Golden Globe nomination in 1997.

He credits Williams as a supportive presence, particularly during the film’s press tour.

Lane's Profound Theater Legacy

Lane's admiration for Williams extended beyond their professional life. He recalled an episode during a joint appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," where Williams tactfully shielded him from having to discuss his s-xuality before he was ready.

Lane, who was not yet publicly out at the time, appreciated Williams’ sensitivity, noting, "Robin ensured we steered clear of personal topics I wasn't ready to address." In addition to his reflections on "The Birdcage," Lane was honored at the Drama Desk Awards with the Harold S.

Prince award for lifetime achievement in theater. With a career spanning over four decades and roles in nearly 40 Broadway productions, Lane regards the theater as his true home and the space where he feels most free as an actor.