“Rain Man,” the hugely popular saga of an autistic genius and his hustler brother, captured Oscars on Wednesday night for best picture, actor, director and original screenplay during the 61st annual Academy Awards presentation at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
But no single movie dominated the evening, as Jodie Foster won the best actress award for playing a rape victim in “The Accused,” and supporting role awards went to Geena Davis for “The Accidental Tourist” and Kevin Kline for “A Fish Called Wanda.”
Dustin Hoffman, heavily favored in the pre-Oscar handicapping, received his second best actor Oscar for playing “Rain Man’s” numbers-crunching Raymond, an autistic savant who comes to terms with his younger brother, played by Tom Cruise.
“I’m supposed to be jaded by this point. . . . (But) I’m very honored,” the sparsely bearded, 51-year-old Los Angeles-born actor said as he was greeted with a standing ovation.
Hoffman has been nominated as best actor six times, and won his previous Oscar in 1980 for his portrayal of a father fighting for custody of his child in “Kramer vs. Kramer.”
“Rain Man” had a tumultuous production history. It evolved from a much re-written screenplay, originally conceived by Barry Morrow; ricocheted from one director to another before landing with Barry Levinson, and grew from a small, arty film into a big-budget star vehicle backed by the powerful Creative Artists Agency, which represents Hoffman and Cruise.
Morrow and Ron Bass, a lawyer-turned-screenwriter, shared the screenplay award.
“Rain Man’s” triumph Wednesday was particularly sweet for Lee Rich, Tony Thomopoulos and other deposed executives of MGM/UA Communications Co., who left the studio last year amid differences with Kirk Kerkorian, the company’s principal owner.
The film’s producer Mark Johnson, in accepting the best picture Oscar, called MGM/UA “a wonderful studio that really doesn’t exist any more.”
Foster, 26, paid tribute to her mother, who taught her that “cruelty might be very human, and it might be very cultural. But it’s not acceptable, and that’s what this film is about.”
“Dangerous Liaisons,” which had seven nominations, received statuettes for art direction, costumes and best screenplay derived from another medium.
“Mississippi Burning,” which also had seven nominations, received only one Oscar, for cinematography.
Although well-received by critics and audiences, the film had been excoriated by Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and various black groups for downplaying the role of blacks in the ‘60s civil rights struggle.
The film’s star, Gene Hackman, was among the best actor nominees. Other nominees in the category were Tom Hanks for “Big,” Max von Sydow for “Pelle the Conqueror” and Edward James Olmos for “Stand and Deliver.”
Davis won her supporting actress Oscar for portraying a wacky, sweetly aggressive dog-trainer in “The Accidental Tourist,” a film that won no other Oscars, despite four nominations, including best picture.
The 29-year-old actress, a first-time nominee, is a one-time model who made her acting debut in the 1982 hit, “Tootsie,” which starred Hoffman.
Kline, 41, another first-time nominee, received his supporting actor statuette for his portrayal of a quirky bandit in “A Fish Called Wanda.” The film, written by John Cleese of the Monty Python troupe, was a surprise hit for MGM/UA, even though it drew some fire for its comic portrayal of a character who stuttered.
On Tuesday, pickets outside MGM’s Culver City headquarters protested that aspect of the film, which to date has grossed more than $130 million.
Hoffman’s award--"Rain Man’s” first Oscar of the evening--came more than 2 hours and 30 minutes into the ABC program, which lasted 3 hours and 15 minutes. The telecast was beamed live throughout the world, including the Soviet Union for the first time.
Walt Disney’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” a startling combination of animation and live action, won awards for editing, sound editing and visual effects, as well as a special award for its animation director, Richard Williams. “Roger Rabbit” was a major hit, but didn’t receive nominations in any major category.
Produced by Allan Carr, the show opened with a 12-minute tribute to the recently closed Ambassador Hotel’s Cocoanut Grove, which had been a venue for the Academy Awards program in 1930, 1940, and 1943.
The evening, which appeared to come off without a major hitch, featured presentations by cleverly matched celebrity duos--including father-son team Kiefer and Donald Sutherland; Sean Connery and Roger Moore, both ex-James Bonds, and Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, who joked about their much-publicized love affair and her pregnancy.
In a signal change, celebrity presenters were instructed to say, “And the Oscar goes to . . .” rather than the customary “And the winner is. . . .”
The new formula was supposed to lessen the sense of competition among the stars.
Only Cher, who presented the best picture Oscar, slipped back into the old formula.
Outside the huge auditorium near USC, there were few snags, despite some small pockets of protest.
Striking Eastern Airlines pilots paraded nearby with placards protesting the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ choice of Continental Airlines as the official airline of the Oscar.
Both Eastern and Continental are owned by Texas Air Corp.
Conservative Christians led by Rev. R.L. Hymers had promised to picket the auditorium to protest Martin Scorsese’s best director nomination for his iconoclastic “The Last Temptation of Christ.” But no major demonstration developed.
Twentieth Century Fox’s “Working Girl,” which was nominated in several categories--including best picture, received only one statuette, for best original song, which was written by Carly Simon.
The best foreign language film was “Pelle the Conqueror,” a Danish-made movie about the ordeal of immigrant Swedes working on Danish farms a century ago.
French film-maker Marcel Ophuls won the best documentary award for his epic-length portrayal of a Nazi official, “Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie.”
Warner Bros.’ “Bird” won an Oscar for sound, the only category in which the Clint Eastwood-directed film about jazz great Charlie Parker was nominated.
As the show opened, Oscar officials scouted for guests carrying any of 40 tickets that had been picked up by a man claiming to be a 20th Century Fox publicity official.
Academy officials said they would press charges if it could be proven that any guest knowingly tried to use a stolen ticket.
Bill Jordan, head of security for the Shrine Auditorium, said “several of the legitimate ticket brokers” in Los Angeles claimed to have encountered some of the missing tickets. But Jordan did not know of any suspects in the theft.
It couldn’t immediately be learned if any guest had been stopped Wednesday for carrying a stolen ticket.
Despite tight controls by the Academy, scalped tickets reportedly sold for from $500 for balcony seats to $2,000 for the orchestra area.
As opposed to last year, when major snafus were experienced, traffic ran relatively smoothly around the auditorium Wednesday, thanks to an extensive traffic control plan that employed 60 officers. About 300 limousines converged on the auditorium.
This year the Academy chose not to present its Irving Thalberg Award, an Oscar that is periodically given for sustained excellence in film-making.
Last year, the statuette was given to Austrian-born writer and director Billy Wilder.