“I mean, I don’t have any scientific proof of this—that if you make a movie about somebody, they’re going to come out of their shell—but I think ‘Rain Man’ did more than win an award. I think it left the door open on the possibility that nobody is ever written off, and that change is always possible,” said Oscar-winning screenwriter Barry Morrow. His musings were shared with students at University of California, Santa Barbara when, as part of the Carsey-Wolf Center’s “Script to Screen” series, he was featured alongside a screening of “Rain Man” at the Pollock Theater on Wednesday, Jan.30. His engaging Q&A immediately followed the screening. Prior to the screening of “Rain Man,” the audience watched a clip of the documentary titled “The Real Rain Man,” which displayed the origin of the movie and the man that inspired Dustin Hoffman’s character, Kim Peek.
“Rain Man” stars Hoffman as a genius autistic savant called Rain Man, and Tom Cruise as the egocentric Charlie Babbitt who had no idea of the existence of Rain Man, who happens to be his brother, until after their father’s death. In hopes of getting a share of their father’s $3 million dollar inheritance, Babbitt kidnaps Rain Man, which jumpstarts an adventure that the pair will never forget.
After the showing of the film, Morrow answered a series of questions from “Script to Screen” host Matt Ryan.
When asked about the origin of the film, Morrow said, “When I was just out of college I ran into a man who had spent 50 years at a mental institution. He was a pot scrubber where my wife was a cocktail waitress in a country club. Every night I would be parked in the back of this country club, and every night this fella would be looking down at me from the kitchen and I would wave and he would wave. Finally there was a Christmas party, and I got to go inside and I met him. Next day I found myself getting him toothpaste and the next day it was hairspray. I took care of him then, until the day he died. It was just something for me that was hard to get out of. It’s just like for Tom Cruise—people grow on you. So I was volunteering for these organizations just as a way to kind of honor Bill, and then I bumped into Rain Man. I mean. his name wasn’t Rain Man. It was Kim Peek. I spent like, a day or two with him and his father and as I flew home from Arlington, Texas, and I couldn’t get this character out of my mind.” Morrow added, “My agent and my manager and all the people who tell you what you should or shouldn’t do for your career said, “Do not do another thing about handicapped people.” Because I had been a television writer and I’ve done several TV movies and they all had these characters, these damaged characters. Which I found more interesting than the slightly damaged executives that I was always working with, and so I just said no, I’m gonna do one more. And it was this, and I’m glad I did it.”
The UCSB Koegel Autism Center, which co-sponsored the event, said that they are extremely glad Morrow decided to write the movie. Lynn Kern Koegel told the audience that “Rain Man” helped change the way the world views autism and how it’s treated. The inspiring night ended with autographs and personal advice from Morrow to aspiring screenwriting students.
For more information on the “Script to Screen” series and to watch prior events from this year and last year, visit http://www.carseywolf.ucsb.edu/pollock/script-screen. For more information on UCSB Koegel Autism Center, visit http://education.ucsb.edu/autism/index.html.