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

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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 stand-up school, in 1987 the actor won his passport to the heights of Hollywood thanks to the success of the film by Barry levinson. After having started in the cinema by the flop of Popeye of Robert altman and to have stood out in the adaptation of World according to Garp by George Roy Hill, Williams landed here the first cult role in a long list that would grow for nearly three decades.

Good Morning Vietnam will return to Arte on Sunday. Mainly known at the time as a television actor thanks to the sitcom Mork & Mindy, in which he played an alien, Robin williams Here plays radio host Adrian Cronauer, a disc jockey based in Saigon where he hosts a radio program 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 Comedic Actor, he also landed the first of his four Oscar nominations for the role that established him as a comedy star on the big screen.

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As for Adrian Cronauer’s story, it is inspired by a story, that of the real Cronauer, whose Levinson film partially traces the experiences in Vietnam in the 1960s. But who was he?

Born in Pittsburgh on September 8, 1938, Adrian Cronauer, son of a stagehand and a teacher, very early on discovered an affinity with radio. He made his debut on the air at the age of twelve on a local radio station, in a special program aimed at 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 exercising in Greece, on the island of Crete.

In 1965, the US Air Force staff offered him the choice between returning to the United States to participate in the filming of educational films for the army or to be 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 is at the time widespread among military radio presenters), it imposes a different style, a mixture of enthusiasm and sharp realism with off-putting broadcasts and does not hesitate to go against the positions of the staff although it was shown to be less corrosive than the portrait drawn by it Robin williams on the screen.

Following his return from Vietnam, he worked for a while as a JT host in Ohio before heading up a TV channel in Virginia then moving to 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, offered to write the story of their common memories. This gives a first version of the scenario of Good Morning Vietnam, which 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 fails on the producers’ desk Larry Brezner 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. “Each year, they renewed the option on film rights. About four years later, they called me back and said, ‘We decided to throw everything away and start over.’ There have been more than five versions in all. I gave some suggestions to add, remove or modify certain points; some were accepted, most were ignored“, recalls Cronauer in an interview in 2005. Many passages of the intrigue, including Cronauer’s friendship with a Vietnamese terrorist or his dismissal before the end of his engagement, are notably completely fictitious.

Although at the origin of the project, Adrian Cronauer will never meet Robin williams on the set, a decision made by Barry Levinson who wanted to prevent the actor from being influenced by his model. Levinson had indeed given free rein to Williams, who shot most of his scenes without the slightest script and indulged in the craziest improv and imitation numbers during the filming. “Those who have been in the military know that if I had acted in real life as in the movie, I would still be serving my sentence at Fort Leavenworth Military Prison.“, confided Cronauer in 2006.

The two men will not meet in the end until the filming is finished 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, takes advantage of the tidy sum he receives. offers the triumph of Good Morning Vietnam ($ 130 million in revenue for $ 12 million in the budget) to retrain as a lawyer. At the time of Robin Williams’ death in August 2014, he returned to their friendship born thanks to Good Morning Vietnam : “Robin and I met before the movie was shown in New York. We shook hands and he said, ‘I’m happy to finally meet you.’ And I replied: ‘I’m happy to finally meet me’. We’ve been on good terms ever since. We were sending 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 was assigned to the local radio station of the American armed forces in Saigon in 1965. His job, to program light music every morning to maintain the morale of the troops. But the restless Adrian swings on the waves waves of unbridled rocks, coarse “valves” interspersed, under a scathing humor, with some truths. It is not to the taste of its chiefs, but it quickly becomes the idol of the American soldiers.

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