Thai Actress Jintara Sukaphatana Remembers Robin Williams
Today a household name in Thai cinema and television, Jintara Sukaphatana was only 22 years old and rather inexperienced as an actress when she was cast as Robin Williams’ Viet Cong-connected love interest Trinh in the iconic 1987 movie, Good Morning, Vietnam. FJI’s Far East Correspondent Thomas Schmid talks to Jintara about her experiences with the recently deceased actor.
Absolutely. He was funny both on set and off set, constantly joking with everybody on the cast and crew. And everybody loved him for it. He certainly never displayed episodes of being overly serious, sad or depressed as far as I can tell. Robin was very friendly with everyone, always mingling with the crew and cast during shooting breaks.
(Jintara and Williams during a shooting break)
And sometimes Robin would fire off his lines so rapidly that Levinson asked him to calm down and advised him to repeat them slower, otherwise the audience would not be able to follow.
I think the one almost at the end of the movie, where Robin’s character has to return to the United States and must say good-bye to my character [Trinh], in whom he had a love interest, though unrequited. It becomes clear that she [Trinh] also had developed feelings [for Cronauer], but that she couldn’t give in to them because of the prevailing cultural and also political differences. She and him, they were worlds apart despite their attraction to one another.
(The good-bye scene, Jintara's favorite)
Unfortunately, we lost contact after shooting and I never touched base with him again. You have to understand that Robin already was a big star back then. On the other hand, I was just 22, a very young, quite inexperienced and practically unknown actress even in my own country with only two domestic movies to my name prior to Good Morning, Vietnam. To be frank, I didn’t dare to get in touch with Robin afterwards, as I feared I might bother him, although we had fostered a truly wonderful relationship during filming - and despite my practically non-existent command of English at the time.
Yes, Good Morning, Vietnam was my first Hollywood movie, but also my last [Jintara laughs]. I was subsequently invited to audition for another foreign production [to be shot in Thailand], but eventually was not cast. I’ve never told that to anyone, because I didn’t want anybody to know unless I had actually been awarded the role. My professional mainstay today is in Thai movies and television series. I am currently shooting a period drama for [local] Channel 3.
(Jintara on a Thai magazine cover after the movie's release)
My personal favorite is Mrs. Doubtfire. I think Robin accomplished a terrific job and was absolutely credible as the cross-dressing title character, who resorts to very unusual means to keep in touch with his kids. But I also love him in “Dead Poets Society”, “What Dreams May Come”, and “Good Will Hunting”. There are so many great movies with Robin Williams. His body of work is so diverse, which goes to show again what a versatile actor he was. Oh, and there always will be Mork and Mindy, of course, which after all hooked me on him in the first place [Jintara giggles].
*All photos courtesy of Jintara Sukaphatana