Awakenings (1990) Poster



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When filming the scene where Dr. Sayer and the security guards attempt to restrain Leonard, Robin Williams accidentally hit Robert De Niro in the face with his elbow, breaking De Niro's nose. De Niro later commented that his nose had been broken before, in the opposite direction, and this injury actually straightened it back out.
Dr. Sayer treats the comatose Leonard with a drug called Levodopa (L-DOPA). This was the same drug used to treat Robin Williams' own Parkinson-like symptoms shortly before his death in August 2014.
Based on a nonfiction book by Oliver Sacks, with the character of Sayer based closely on Sacks himself.
For the movie Robert De Niro filmed a scene with "Lillian T.", the only surviving patient from Oliver Sacks' book, "Awakenings". She was also said to have been the most outspoken patient in the 1973 documentary about the patients, also called "Awakenings".
Prior to filming, the actors portraying patients studied films of Dr. Oliver Sacks' actual post-encephalitis patients, and Robert De Niro and Robin Williams spent time with Sacks in the hospital observing him and his patients.
Famed jazz saxophonist Dexter Gordon who portrayed Rolando in the film passed away 8 months before the films release.
Penny Marshall at first wanted Bill Murray to play Leonard Lowe, who was interested in the project, but she decided against it because she didn't want audiences expecting a comedy.
At one point a film Steven Spielberg considered directing, before passing it on to Penny Marshall. The time he spent on the project did yield one useful outcome for him: Steven Zaillian's script took several short chapters, each about different patients, and put them together into a linear whole. This brought Zaillian to Spielberg's attention, and he offered Zaillian the similar task of adapting Schindler's List (1993), which ended up winning Oscars for both of them.
One of Robin Williams' favorite films of his own.
The name that Leonard spells out on the Ouija board is German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and the poem that Dr. Sayer quotes in the arboretum is "The Panther."
The rock that Robert De Niro is standing on in the water is named Killy Rock. It is located in Edgewater Park, a small waterfront community in The Bronx.
Vin Diesel's film debut.
The lullaby that Leonard's mother sings to him at the hospital is called "Slumber Boat".
Oliver Sacks has been fictionalized into an American neurosurgeon named Malcolm Sayer. However, Robin Williams's portrayal actually bears a very close physical resemblance to the real Dr. Sacks, as he was in the 1960s. (Contributed on the day of Dr. Sacks' passing.)
Robin Williams and Max von Sydow would appear together one more time in What Dreams May Come (1998).
Robin Williams and Robert De Niro were both with John Belushi the night before he fatally overdosed at the Chateau Marmont. Penny Marshall was also going to direct Joy of Sex (1984), that was going to be Belushi's next starring vehicle.
Final credited acting role of Jan Saint.
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The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Robin Williams and Robert De Niro; and two Oscar nominees: Dexter Gordon and Max von Sydow.
In the scene where the patients all awaken, Nurse Costello charges through the door into Dr. Sayer's office where he is asleep, she calls, "Dr. Sayer". He jumps up and says, "What is it ?", whereupon she says, "It's a fucking miracle". However in recent years, almost all screenings of the film delete the obvious word, leaving, "It's a miracle". In it's own way, the unsanitised version sounds more realistic and true to life.
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The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

Dr. Malcolm Sayer, is a fictionalized version of Dr. Oliver Sacks, who both wrote a book and made a documentary film on the effects of L-Dopa on his patients. In this movie, Sayer eventually overcomes his shyness and accepts a date with Eleanor; in his 2015 autobiography On the Move, Dr. Sacks says that (like his fictional counterpart) he was very shy when he was younger, but he was (and is) also gay.

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