Cronauer mourns man who brought his life to big screen

Posted August 12, 2014 5:00 p.m. EDT
Updated August 13, 2014 11:45 a.m. EDT

— Adrian Cronauer used to wonder who would play him in the movie of his life. Who would embody the young disc jockey who shook up Armed Forces Radio during the conflict in Vietnam?

Cronauer hit the jackpot when "Good Morning, Vietnam" was made. Robin Williams played him in a landmark performance.

On Tuesday, Cronauer reflected on the life and death of the comedian and actor. "He's a very big name, a very funny guy."

The two never met during filming, but after the movie was complete, they got together to compare notes.

"It was never intended to be a point-by-point biography," he said. "It was always intended to be a piece of entertainment.

"He was playing a character named Adrian Cronauer, but what he was really doing was being Robin Williams, and he was good at it. I was gobsmacked."

Cronauer said Williams' suicide Monday, at age 63, was a premature end to a career that touched so many. 

"He just seemed like he had so much more to do, so much more to give, so much happiness to spread around, and now he can't," Cronauer said.

Cronauer said the Williams he knew was always playing to the audience, no matter how small. 

"Getting to know Robin was almost impossible, because he was always on," he said. "You walked up and said hello, and he started doing a routine for you."

The movie turned Cronauer's story into a fable of change and proved to be one of Williams' more memorable performances. 

"It's put some money in my pocket," Cronauer said. He used the royalties to attend law school and now lives in Roanoke, Va.

"More importantly, he was a good friend," Cronauer said.