About The Production
The original story, "The Bicentennial Man," written by Isaac Asimov, was intended to be part of a science fiction anthology to be released in 1976, the year of the American bicentennial. As Asimov himself describes in his book The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories, he was approached in January 1975 to be a participating writer for the anthology. It was to be a very limited edition, containing original works by ten of the top science fiction writers of the day. The stories could be about anything at all provided that they could seem to have risen out of the phrase "The Bicentennial Man." Asimov completed his work ahead of his April
1975 deadline but at nearly twice the length requested, the
longest story he had ever written below the level of a novel in 17 years.
According to records, the robot, also known as Andrew Martin, was powered up on the stages at Treasure Island in San Francisco, California. As the production evolved from a written page to a cinematic story, so too did a feeling among the hundreds of craft workers, artisans and technicians creating the elements of this story. It was the knowledge, an all but unspoken truth, that what was being created here was something very special. The story which begins in the near future, spans the next two centuries. Only one figure is constant throughout, the character of Andrew Martin, played by Robin Williams.
Due to a variety of complications, the anthology never came to fruition and the Asimov story was eventually transferred to Judy-Lynn del Rey's anthology of original stories entitled Stellar Science Fiction #2 which appeared in February 1976. Asimov liked the story so much that it became the title piece in his own collection of short stories.
The road to the big screen was a long one for Andrew Martin. Asimov first sold the screen rights for the story to Chicago-based producer Neal Miller in November 1986, a decade after its original publication. "I was looking for good stories that might be adapted to the screen," Miller remembers. "A friend suggested that I read 'Bicentennial Man' and I fell in love with it. It was a parable of what it means to be human."
The challenge of bringing together the myriad elements required to adapt the Asimov story and bring it to fruition as a major motion picture rested with venerable producers Gail Katz and Wolfgang Petersen. "The project had been sitting dormant for a number of years," recalls producer Katz. "Wolfgang and I read the short story, and loved it. We immediately decided to develop it into a film."
Katz and Petersen, along with producer Laurence Mark, hired screenwriter Nick Kazan to write the screenplay. "I think Nick [Kazan] absolutely captured the story," says Katz. "In my mind, he actually went beyond it in terms of also creating a love story. We developed a screenplay that ultimately attracted Academy Award-winning actor Robin Williams and director Chris Columbus."
The teaming of Robin Williams with Chris Columbus was a natural. Having worked together on two previous films they had an established relationship that performed brilliantly in comedy. But the challenges beyond the humor are what brought them together for this story.
"The appeal to me," says Williams, "is the way the story deals with artificial intelligence and human behavior. It's the idea of a robot, an assembly line creature, an NDR-114. There are thousands of them in the beginning, but there's something unique about this one. He has curiosity, a sense of fascination."
As Columbus describes, "It's really like nothing I've ever done before. It's a story spanning two hundred years, that follows the life of a single family for several generations. The film's cast of supporting characters was continu
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