Mercurial, talented actor made memories in Port Alberni shoot

Times Colonist Long before “selfie” became part of the modern lexicon, Robin Williams proved ahead of his time when he snapped a photo of himself with fans on Vancouver Island. It was in the spring of 2001, when the Oscar-winning actor and comedian, who died on Monday at age 63, was acting in director Christopher Nolan’s gritty crime thriller Insomnia in Port Alberni.

The mid-Island milltown was masquerading as Umkumuit, Alaska, during an intense threeday shoot at locations on Argyle Street, including the Somass Hotel and former Arrowview Hotel. Williams frequently turned heads while portraying an elusive murder suspect, as did Al Pacino as a sleep-deprived Los Angeles homicide detective whom he was blackmailing.

“It was a dangerous sequence to shoot, even for the stunt guys,” Williams said, recalling a climactic action scene shot in the log booming grounds of the former

Pacifica Papers mill, where Pacino chases Williams across slippery logs.

While Pacino was affable but often deep in concentration, Williams was restless and kept security personnel on their toes by wandering off, high-fiving autograph seekers and cracking jokes.

He was hard to miss as he moved through town wearing a royal-blue rain jacket.

“Ah, the last of the Cabbage Patch Kids!” the funnyman quipped, holding up an infant’s favourite doll at the Bread of Life soup kitchen.

Later, Williams cracked up cast and crew by saying “come to me, my little Dim Sim” while motioning to a pot-bellied pig