Good Morning Vietnam: Adrian Cronauer, the man who inspired Robin Williams

Good Morning Vietnam: Adrian Cronauer, the man who inspired Robin Williams

Discover the real radio host who inspired Barry Levinson’s film.

Good Morning Vietnam marked a turning point in the career of Robin Williams. Trained on the boards and at the school of stand-up, the actor won his passport to the heights of Hollywood in 1987 thanks to the success of the film by Barry Levinson. After making his film debut with the flop of popeye of Robert Altman and having stood out in the adaptation of the World according to Garp by George Roy Hill, Williams landed here the first cult role of a long list that would grow for nearly three decades.

Good Morning Vietnam will return this evening on France 5, a few days before its 35th birthday: he was released precisely with us on September 7, 1988. Mainly known at the time as a television actor thanks to the sitcom Mork & Mindyin which he embodied an extraterrestrial, Robin Williams here embodies radio host Adrian Cronauer, a disc jockey based in Saigon where he hosts a radio show for soldiers stuck in the Vietnam War. A crazy, rebellious and uncontrollable presenter role that seems written for Williams, who gives free rein to his talents as an improviser with a few anthology monologues. Crowned with the Golden Globe for best comic actor, he also picked up the first of his four Oscar nominations for this role which established him as a star of comedy on the big screen.

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Adrian Cronauer’s story, meanwhile, is inspired by a real-life radio host, whose experiences in Levinson’s film partly trace the experiences in Vietnam in the 1960s. But who was he?

Born in Pittsburgh on September 8, 1938, Adrian Cronauer, son of a machinist and a teacher, discovered an affinity for the radio very early on. He made his debut on the airwaves at the age of twelve on a local radio station, in a special program for children. During his studies, he joined the local public radio station (the Public Broadcasting System) before joining the US Air Force in 1962, where he joined the communications and media operations division, initially working in Greece, on the island of Crete.

In 1965, the staff of the US Air Force offered him the choice between returning to the United States to participate in the filming of educational films for the army or being transferred to South Korea or Vietnam. Cronauer chooses Vietnam and settles in Saigon, the starting point of Good Morning Vietnam. If he is not the only one in the exercise (the Gooooood Morning Vietnam! by way of introduction was widespread among military radio presenters at the time), he imposed a different style, a mixture of enthusiasm and sharp realism with the off-putting retransmissions and did not hesitate to go against the positions of the general staff, although it proved to be less corrosive than the portrait painted Robin Williams on the screen.

Following his return from Vietnam, he worked for a while as a newscaster in Ohio before heading a TV channel in Virginia and then settling in New York where he worked for the New York Times radio station. . It was at this time, in 1979, that his friend Ben Moses, whom he met in Vietnam, asked him to write the story of their shared memories. This gives a first version of the scenario of Good Morning Vietnamwhich was first imagined as a television series before being refused by all American channels, despite the enormous popularity of MASH, the series adapted from the film by Robert Altman.

Good Morning Vietnam therefore becomes a film script that ends up on the producers’ desk larry brazner And Mark Johnson in 1982, before the project caught the eye of Robin Williams himself. Nevertheless, the script of Cronauer and Moses will be almost entirely rewritten by the screenwriter Mitch Markowitz. “Every year they renewed the option on the film rights. About four years later, they called me back and said, ‘We decided to throw it all away and start from scratch. There have been more than five releases in all. I gave some suggestions to add, remove or modify certain points; a few were accepted, most were ignored“, recalls Cronauer in an interview in 2005. Many passages of the plots, including Cronauer’s friendship with a Vietnamese terrorist or his dismissal before the end of his engagement, are in particular completely fictitious.

Although at the origin of the project, Adrian Cronauer will never meet Robin Williams on the set, a decision taken by Barry Levinson who wanted to avoid the actor being influenced by his model. Levinson had indeed given carte blanche to Williams, who shot most of his scenes without any script and indulged in the craziest improvisation and imitation numbers during filming. “Those who have been in the military know that if I had acted in real life like in the movie, I would still be serving my sentence at Fort Leavenworth military prison.“, confided Cronauer in 2006.

The two men will finally meet once the filming is over and will remain friends while Cronauer, a convinced Republican who took part in the presidential campaigns of Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2004, benefits from the tidy sum that he offers the triumph of Good Morning Vietnam (130 million dollars in revenue for 12 million budget) to retrain as a lawyer. When Robin Williams died in August 2014, he returned to their friendship born thanks to Good Morning Vietnam : “Robin and I met before the film was shown in New York. We shook hands and he said, ‘I’m happy to finally meet you’. And I answered him: ‘I am happy to finally meet me’. We have remained on good terms ever since. We sent each other Christmas cards“.

Adrian Cronauer died on July 18, 2018, at the age of 79.

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The story of Good Morning Vietnam : Disc jockey, Adrian Cronauer is assigned to the local radio station of the American armed forces in Saigon in 1965. His job, to program pieces of light music every morning to maintain the morale of the troops. But the stirring Adrian throws waves of unbridled rock on the waves, coarse “valves” interspersed, under a biting humor, with a few truths. It is not to the taste of its leaders, but it quickly becomes the idol of the American soldiers.

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