We take a look back at Rain Man, one of the biggest early hits of Tom Cruise’s career and an Oscar winner for Dustin Hoffman.
Many people think Tom Cruise dancing around in his underwear to Bob Seger in Risky Business is his most iconic scene. Others think it’s his saying that he needs speed in Top gun, or his infiltration of the vault in the Mission Impossible. Or, “I want to know the truth!” or “show me the cash!” But for me, the scene that best defines Tom Cruise as a cool movie star is his entrance into Barry Levinson’s Rain Man. We see the smog of Los Angeles while a Lamborghini is flying across the screen. The soundtrack is filled with The Belle Stars’ cover of “Iko Iko”. Tom Cruise’s Charlie Babbit inspects the car in a car lot. Hans Zimmer, who reteamed up with Cruise for Mission Impossible 21001010, couldn’t resist riffing on this moment by adding another cover of “Iko Iko”, as Cruise’s Ethan Hunt performed the world’s most terrifying rock climbing. Tom Cruise is a legendary movie star but his acting skills are often overlooked. Some of his dramatic performances, such as in Born on the Fourth of July, Magnolia,
The Last Samurai and many others, put to shame many of the more acclaimed performances of their respective years, but his talent is taken for granted. It could be because he makes everything look effortless. Many critics viewed him as a pretty boy of the 1980s. His performance in TheColor of Money had won over a few, but no one took him seriously until he paired up with Dustin Hoffman for Barry Levinson’s Rain Man. In the film, Cruise plays an egotistical Los Angeles yuppie, who discovers he has a long lost brother, Raymond, whose estate was left to him by their father. Raymond is autistic, and has spent most of his adult life in an institution. Charlie takes him in to custody to access his father’s funds, but it is difficult to bring him back to L.A. as Raymond will not fly. Charlie and his brother embark on a classic journey, but Qantas is the only airline that will fly them. They make a stopover in Vegas to help his brother win big at poker to pay off his debts. Hoffman’s performance is the main focus of discussion when people talk about Rain Man . He has the more prominent role and won an Oscar for it. Cruise should have received a nomination. Re-watching the movie, it is clear that Hoffman supports Cruise, not the opposite. The critics were swept away by Cruise’s flawless performance, complete with ray-bans, a great 80s haircut, and an impeccably tailored suit. Cruise is a charismatic hustler, not the cold-blooded shark he should be. It’s a terrific part, and the story of how Rain Man came to be made is fascinating.Initially, Steven Spielberg was set to direct but needed to start work on
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Sydney Pollack, who had made Tootsie with Hoffman, was also considered, but the job went to Barry Levinson in the end. The Baltimore-born director had just made a huge hit with Good morning Vietnam
. The screenplay for the film was written by Ron Bass, Barry Morrow and both won an Oscar. Morrow was inspired to write the screenplay by two real-life geniuses, Kim Peek & Bill Sackter. The movie’s biggest problem was the idea of making Raymond both a Savant and autistic. The public’s perception was distorted, as autism was a completely separate condition and the odds that someone would have both autism and savant were small. The movie made it seem like it was commonplace.Nevertheless, Hoffman spent a year preparing for his role and was plagued with self-doubt throughout the filming, begging Levinson to replace him with Bill Murray. Cruise and Hoffman would reportedly rehearse their parts and trade them off in between filming. The two became close on set. Hans Zimmer’s electronic score, which is his usual, was used for the first time in RainMan. This earned him an Oscar nomination. It was the first score he composed without Stanley Myers, his regular collaborator. It launched his career. He scored Black rain in the following year, and became one of the most sought-after composers. Interestingly, it opened at second place at the box office behind a movie it shared several similarities with, Twins
. In the end, the Rainman won the Oscars with Hoffman taking best actor and Levinson best director. The film also took home best picture and screenplay. In the autism community the film’s legacy is mixed. The film led to the stereotype that people with autism have savant abilities. The movie also increased awareness about the disorder. The film led people to believe that card-counting was illegal in Las Vegas. While Cruise’s performance was not widely praised, actor Michael Caine cited it as his favorite screen performance. Caine’s decision to praise Cruise’s performance was based on a personal experience. He discovered late in life that he had a long lost brother who spent most of his adult life in an institution. He maintains that Hoffman’s part is the one with the most show, while Cruise’s requires the most discipline. It remains one of Cruise’s best performances. Cruise may have felt a little stung by Dustin’s Oscar win, but he knew that in his next movie, he would be playing the “showy” role and proving to himself and others that he is a great dramatic actor when he chooses to be.