With Toy Story 4 projected to be released in 2017,
Rain Man was, in some ways, responsible for bringing autism to the national consciousness. The road film, starring Tom Cruise as an arrogant car dealer and Dustin Hoffman as his autistic brother, took home 4 Academy Awards, including a Best Actor statue for Hoffman.
Here are 11 things to know about the film and its history…
1. During filming, Dustin Hoffman was unsure of the film’s potential and his own performance. Three weeks into the project, Hoffman wanted out, telling director Barry Levinson, “Get Richard Dreyfuss, get somebody, Barry, because this is the worst work of my life.”
2. Hoffman was originally to play the part of Charlie Babbit (Tom Cruise), but after being moved to tears seeing a savant named Leslie Lemke (who is blind, mentally handicapped, and has cerebral palsy) play full concertos on the piano by ear, he decided to play the part of Raymond instead.
3. Hoffman spent a year working with autistic men and their families to understand their complex relationships. Also, when he was a jobbing actor, he had worked in a psychiatric care home, and drew from his experiences then for the film.
4. The scene in the airport was cut by most airlines on their plane trips… except Qantas. They even promoted one of the movie’s writers to first class once when he traveled on their airline.
5. Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman said the “farting in the phone booth” bit was improvised when Hoffman actually passed gas while the scene was being filmed. Hoffman said it was his favorite scene ever.
6. The elderly man in the waiting room who talks on and on about the Pony Express is Byron P. Cavnar, an 89-year-old local who was in the waiting room when the crew arrived to film there. He got to talking on his favorite subject, the Pony Express, and director Barry Levinson got such a kick out of it that he let Caunar keep on talking as the cameras rolled; all his dialog was spontaneous and not scripted.
7. Tom Cruise wearing Ray Bans boosted sales of that style 15%.
8. Steven Spielberg considered directing. He began making notes in order to prepare for the project. The reason he backed out is because his friend George Lucas needed him to start work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. So Spielberg left the project and gave his notes to Barry Levinson. Sydney Pollack was the next director to work on the film. He ditched an action sequence in which Charlie saves Raymond from some thugs but he wasn’t keen on the idea of a road movie.
9. Director Barry Levinson appears as a psychiatrist in the film.
10. Dustin Hoffman insisted that Raymond Babbitt should be an autistic savant, instead of being merely retarded. His insistence was largely responsible for director Martin Brest quitting the project.
11. Hoffman’s former New York roommate, Gene Hackman, was vying with him for Best Actor for Mississippi Burning. When Hoffman won, he hugged Hackman as he left his seat on the way to the podium where he affectionately mentioned Hackman in his acceptance speech. He failed to mention Tom Cruise, however.