1990 Nominated BAFTA Film Award Best Actor Dustin Hoffman
1990 Nominated BAFTA Film Award Best Editing Stu Linder
1990 Nominated BAFTA Film Award Best Screenplay – Original Ronald Bass & Barry Morrow
BMI Film & TV Awards
1989 Won BMI Film Music Award Hans Zimmer
Berlin International Film Festival
1989 Won Golden Berlin Bear Barry Levinson
1989 Won Reader Jury of the "Berliner Morgenpost" Barry Levinson
César Awards, France
1990 Nominated César Best Foreign Film (Meilleur film étranger) Barry Levinson
David di Donatello Awards
1989 Won David Best Foreign Actor (Migliore Attore Straniero) Dustin Hoffman
1989 Won David Best Foreign Film (Miglior Film Straniero) Barry Levinson
Directors Guild of America, USA
1988 Won DGA Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Barry Levinson | Gerald R. Molen (unit production manager) (plaque) | David McGiffert (first assistant director) (plaque) | Cara Giallanza (second assistant director) (plaque) | Cherylanne Martin (second second assistant director) (plaque)
The story behind the making of this film is rather atypical for Hollywood: the script hadn’t been completed when production was scheduled to begin, so director Barry Levinson was forced to shoot the scenes in chronological order. In the event, what started as a production process born out of necessity turned out not only to facilitate the work of the actors, but also coincided well with the development of Ronald Bass’s and Barry Morrow’s gradually unfolding story. Rain Man - the title is a mispronunciation of the name “Raymond” - is basically a road movie. It is the story of two mismatched brothers, who begin to truly relate to each other while together out on the open road.
Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) is a fast-talking con man who lives in debt - in every respect of the word. Following the death of his father, whom he didn’t particularly care for, Charlie finds out that he has an older brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman). Born autistic, Raymond was put in a home during his early childhood years. According to the terms of their father’s will, Raymond is to inherit the entire family fortune in the form of a trust fund, whereas Charlie has to make do with a sleek ‘49 Buick Road Master convertible and nothing else. More than disappointed and up to his neck in debt, Charlie decides to kidnap his handicapped brother in order to somehow get his hands on a portion of the three million dollar inheritance. Raymond, who can sometimes behave quite obstinately on account of his condition, refuses outright to get on board an airplane. So the two brothers set out to drive from Cincinnati to Los Angeles in dad’s Buick.
In the course of the trip, Charlie gradually develops genuine feelings for the quietly mumbling, introverted Raymond. Charlie, with the help of his girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golino), even briefly succeeds in penetrating the mental barrier that Raymond puts up against everything that goes on around him. Raymond never ceases to amaze Charlie, proving time and time again that a highly intelligent man with extraordinary talents lies behind the quiet facade. For instance, he can memorize a seemingly infinite series of numbers, list off at the drop of a hat all the plane crashes that have taken place over the last few years and, should someone drop an open match-box, instantly knows just how many sticks have hit the ground. Some of Raymond’s other peculiarities really put Charlie’s nerves to the test: he insists on always having his special flavor pudding, wearing a particular brand of underwear and never missing his favorite TV show. Should Raymond’s demands not be met, he’ll throw a temper tantrum. Raymond requires a lot of attention and concern. Charlie has to learn to be more patient, which suits Susanna just fine: she soon finds a place in her heart for Raymond and, in one touching scene, even teaches him to dance.
With Dustin Hoffman as Raymond and Tom Cruise in the role of a guy who’s down on his luck, the film couldn’t have been better cast. Both stars made big efforts behind the scenes to make sure that they could do justice to the project, which was filled with initial complications. Hoffman studied up on autism and crafted his role with the precision typical of a method actor. Raymond’s ticks and talents were born out of the collective things Hoffman observed in mental clinics specializing in this illness, as the act of counting the falling matches at lightning speed attests… His performance was highly praised, even by people living with autism, and he won an Oscar for it. During a press conference after the German premiere at the 1989 Berlin Film Festival, Hoffman boasted that he was practically predestined for the part: “My wife seems to think that there isn’t all that great a disparity between this role and my own personality…,” he joked to the crowd of gathered journalists.
Hoffman’s accomplishment seems particularly noteworthy, because he does so much more than portray Raymond as an oddball with child-like streaks. He also infuses the role with fairly negative traits, allowing the filmgoer to relate to Charlie’s often fed-up reactions, so the viewer sympathizes with both characters. Although at times it looks as though director Levinson is tugging a little hard on the heartstrings, the story never spirals down into sentimentality. The film is well balanced with an array of funny scenes, which often blend comedy and drama. This, along with the achievements of two immensely versatile actors, is the reason for the enormous success of the film, which went far beyond all expectations. The director himself voiced his original fears that the film would only reach a special interest audience because of its lack of so called “spectacular ingredients.”
Before Levinson came on board, three prominent directors had already bailed ship. Martin Brest left for artistic reasons. Steven Spielberg wanted to jump in, but had already committed to another project. Sydney Pollack was the next person to take the helm. He had two authors rewrite the existing script and reset the story against an urban backdrop. In spite of going to this trouble, he kept banging his head up against a brick wall with the difficult subject matter and made it clear to the actors that he would rather not complete the project.
Round about that time Dustin Hoffman happened to meet Barry Levinson. After a long, arduous telephone conversation with his friend Pollack, Levinson agreed to take on the project. While talking to Pollack on the phone in his car en route to Palm Springs, Levinson came upon a vast sea of wind turbines. This remarkable stretch of land appears on screen in one of the first scenes of the film and serves as a bit of personal allusion on the part of the director. It is a reminder of the volatile background to the film, and the act of embarking on what at the time was a truly risky venture.
During a press conference, Dustin Hoffman remarked that it only became clear to him after the film’s completion why so many directors had had difficulties with the script’s plot: “How can you make a fim with just two people, a car and a telephone booth…?”
Charlie: When I was a little kid and I got scared, the Rain Man would come and sing to me.
Susanna: Rain what?
Charlie: Oh you know, one of those imaginary childhood friends.
Susanna: What happened to him?
Charlie: Nothing, I just grew up.
Susanna: Not so much.
Susanna: When I touched him, he pulled away.
Vern: Don't take it personal. He never touched me and I'm closer to him than anyone in the world, known him for nine years. It's not in him. If I left tomorrow without saying goodbye, he probably wouldn't notice.
Susanna: He wouldn't notice if you left?
Vern: I'm not sure but I don't think people are his first priority.