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30 years ago: Robin Williams escapes from Ork in 'Moscow on the Hudson'

Thirty years ago, Robin Williams was best known to most people as "Mork from Ork." His breakthrough TV series, Mork & Mindy, ran from 1978 to 1982. And the big-screen opportunities that followed -- The World According to Garp and The Survivors -- were a mixed bag. So when Williams starred as a saxophone player in a Russian circus who defects while on a trip to New York City, movie fans weren't sure what to expect.

Was Moscow on the Hudson a comedy? A drama? A romance? A political thriller? To be honest, it was a little bit of everything. As it celebrates its 30th anniversary, here are five things you probably didn't know about Moscow on the Hudson.

1. To prepare for his role as Vladimir Ivanoff, Williams spent five hours a day for nearly a year learning to speak Russian. He also studied Soviet customs. He also spent months learning the play the sax.

2. Williams wasn't the only person who learned Russian for the movie. Director Paul Mazursky also took up to a year learning to speak it. Mazursky's grandfather was born in Kiev, Russia.

3. The script was written by Mazursky and Leon Capetanos and Paul Mazursky. The pair also wrote the Tempest (1982), Moon Over Parador (1988) and Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986).

4. Saveliy Kramarov, who played the KGB agent Boris, ironically was a real-life defector from the Soviet Union. A huge film star in his home country, he settled for smaller roles in the U.S., including parts in Armed and Dangerous, Morgan Stewart's Coming Home and Red Heat. He died in 1995.

5. Critic Roger Ebert loved the film, writing: "It is also a rarity, a patriotic film that has a liberal, rather than a conservative, heart. It made me feel good to be an American, and good that Vladimir Ivanoff was going to be one, too."