IMDb > I Am Sam (2001)
I Am Sam
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I Am Sam (2001) More at IMDbPro »

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I Am Sam -- Sam Dawson has the mental capacity of a 7-year-old and works at a Starbucks. He has a daughter with a homeless woman; she abandons them as soon as they leave the hospital.
I Am Sam -- A mentally retarded man fights for custody of his 7-year-old daughter, and in the process teaches his cold-hearted lawyer the value of love and family.


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Down 5% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Writers (WGA):
Kristine Johnson (written by) &
Jessie Nelson (written by)
View company contact information for I Am Sam on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
25 January 2002 (USA) See more »
love is all you need
A mentally handicapped man fights for custody of his 7-year-old daughter, and in the process teaches his cold hearted lawyer the value of love and family. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Nominated for Oscar. Another 9 wins & 9 nominations See more »
User Reviews:


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Sean Penn ... Sam Dawson

Michelle Pfeiffer ... Rita Harrison Williams

Dakota Fanning ... Lucy Diamond Dawson

Dianne Wiest ... Annie Cassell

Loretta Devine ... Margaret Calgrove

Richard Schiff ... Mr. Turner

Laura Dern ... Randy Carpenter
Brad Silverman ... Brad (as Brad Allan Silverman)
Joseph Rosenberg ... Joe

Stanley DeSantis ... Robert

Doug Hutchison ... Ifty

Rosalind Chao ... Lily

Ken Jenkins ... Judge Philip McNeily

Wendy Phillips ... Miss Wright
Mason Lucero ... Conner Rhodes

Scott Paulin ... Duncan Rhodes

Bobby Cooper ... George
Kit McDonough ... Ms. Davis

Kimberly Scott ... Gertie

Michael B. Silver ... Dr. Jaslow

Caroline Keenan ... Rebecca

Eileen Ryan ... Estelle Dawson

Mary Steenburgen ... Dr. Blake

Marin Hinkle ... Patricia
Chase MacKenzie Bebak ... Willy Harrison
Rafer Weigel ... Bruce
Emiko Parise ... Nurse

Pamela Dunlap ... Grace

Brent Spiner ... Shoe Salesman

David Nathan Schwartz ... Principal

Kathleen Robertson ... Big Boy Waitress

Karen Bankhead ... Rita's Colleague
Janet Adderley ... Obnoxious Mom

Katie McGloin ... Cristina

Steven Maines ... Collin
Dennis Fanning ... Vice Cop
David Poynter ... Cafeteria Worker

R.D. Call ... Cop at Park

John Paizis ... Starbucks Father

Russ Fega ... Starbucks Angry Man
Erinn Seaghda Rice Goletz ... Starbucks Barista

Julie Claire ... Starbucks Customer
Marnie Martin ... Starbucks Woman

Tony Abatemarco ... Court Clerk

Will Wallace ... Bill Carpenter
Scott Weintraub ... Scarecrow

Nicholas Mele ... Booking Cop
Brian Bialick ... Brian

Molly Gordon ... Callie
Nora Kroopf ... Sara
Allison Thormahlen ... Lucy Infant
Jillian Thormahlen ... Lucy Infant
Ryan Williams ... Lucy 6 Months
Felicity Ann Forbes ... Lucy 18 Months
Makindra Sherry Forbes ... Lucy 18 Months

Elle Fanning ... Lucy 2 Years
Amanda Lehaf ... Lucy 4 Years
rest of cast listed alphabetically:

Roma Maffia ... First Family Court Judge (uncredited)

Michael McElroy ... (voice) (uncredited)

Clara Soyoung ... Girl in Elevator (uncredited)

Directed by
Jessie Nelson 
Writing credits
Kristine Johnson (written by) &
Jessie Nelson (written by)

Produced by
Michael De Luca .... executive producer
Lisa Demaine .... associate producer (as Lisa Campbell)
Barbara A. Hall .... co-producer
Marshall Herskovitz .... producer
Jessie Nelson .... producer
Claire Rudnick Polstein .... executive producer
David Rubin .... executive producer
Richard Solomon .... producer
Edward Zwick .... producer
Original Music by
John Powell 
Cinematography by
Elliot Davis 
Film Editing by
Richard Chew 
Casting by
Mary Gail Artz 
Barbara Cohen 
Production Design by
Aaron Osborne 
Art Direction by
Erin Cochran 
Set Decoration by
Jennifer M. Gentile 
Garrett Lewis 
Costume Design by
Susie DeSanto 
Makeup Department
Erin Braus-Guth .... assistant makeup artist (as Erin M. Braus)
Alan D'Angerio .... hair stylist: Ms. Pfeiffer (as Alan Dangerio)
Denise Fischer .... key makeup artist
Elisabeth Fry .... makeup department head
Annette Lorant .... makeup artist
Bunny Parker .... hair department head
Ronnie Specter .... makeup artist: Ms. Pfeiffer (as Ronnie Spector)
Lynda Kyle Walker .... hair assistant
Production Management
Barbara A. Hall .... unit production manager
Frank Salvino .... post-production supervisor
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Lisa Demaine .... first assistant director (as Lisa Campbell)
Frederic Roth .... second assistant director (as Fredric Roth)
Andrew Ward .... second second assistant director
Art Department
Ruben Abarca .... drapery foreman
George Amaroso .... swing
Mychael Bates .... property master
Robert Bernard .... graphic designer
Conrad Chitwood .... construction coordinator (as Harry Conrad Chitwood)
Lilly Frank .... on-set stand-by painter
Stephanie J. Gordon .... set designer
Peter N. Griffith .... props
Robert Hale .... head paint foreman
Hyunjin Jo .... art department assistant (as Hyunjin)
Hyunjin Jo .... origami artist
Sean Langdon .... set dressing gangboss
Brynn McQuade .... art department coordinator
Richard 'Rocky' Nichols .... assistant property master
Michael O'Donnell .... crew head
John 'Johnny O' Ornelas .... assistant property master
Gregori Renta .... lead man
Steve Rice .... greens foreman
Glenn Rivers .... set designer
Chad Vachter .... props
Greg Wyszynski .... on-set dresser/swing
Michael Caccamise .... art department assistant (uncredited)
George Davis .... art department coordinator (uncredited)
Chela Fiorini .... on-set dresser (uncredited)
Sound Department
Rick Ash .... sound re-recording mixer
Douglas Axtell .... production sound mixer
James Bailey .... foley artist
Michael Camello .... sound assistant
Paul Timothy Carden .... supervising sound editor
Eric Flickinger .... sound recordist
Kevin Globerman .... ProTools engineer
Scott Jacobs .... boom operator
Adam Jenkins .... sound re-recording mixer
Darren T. Knaus .... assistant sound editor
Manny Leyva .... sound utility
Cynthia Merrill .... foley artist
Joe Milner .... supervising sound editor: effects
Nick Neutra .... foley mixer
Thomas O'Neil Younkman .... first assistant sound editor
Sarah Payan .... sound editor
Perry Robertson .... sound editor
Gregg Silk .... second engineer
David Stanke .... assistant sound editor
Greg Steele .... adr mixer
Nancy MacLeod .... foley editor (uncredited)
Special Effects by
Ron Bolanowski .... special effects supervisor
Visual Effects by
Marla Carter Barrett .... title compositor (as Marla Carter)
Robert Stromberg .... matte painting
Patrick Zentis .... matte artist
Mimi Gilbert .... stunt double: Lucy
Troy Gilbert .... stunt coordinator
Andy Gill .... stunt coordinator
Jack Gill .... stunt coordinator
Joel Kramer .... stunt coordinator
Lane Leavitt .... stunts
David Loitz .... precision driver
Patricia M. Peters .... stunt double: Rita (as Tricia Peters)
Jimmy Romano .... stunt coordinator
Erik Stabenau .... stunt double: Sam
Camera and Electrical Department
Art Bartels .... key grip
Ted Caloroso .... first assistant camera: "b" camera
Bruce Chimerofsky .... best boy grip
James F. Cornick .... rigging gaffer
Andrae Crawford .... film loader
Jim Duggan .... company grip (as James Duggan)
Jenifer Galvez .... set lighting technician
Lamarr Gray .... rigging best boy
Bill Greenberg .... electrician
Michael Gulbin .... grip
Ted Lewis .... company grip
Chris Lombardi .... camera operator: "b" camera
Dayton Nietert .... gaffer
Jeremy Antonio Oliver .... electrician
Brendon Phillips .... rigging electrician
David D. Scott .... video assist operator
Lorey Sebastian .... still photographer
Sean Shinneman .... company grip
Cricket Sloat .... assistant chief lighting technician
Christopher A. Zwirner .... electrician
Val Sklar .... loader (uncredited)
Casting Department
Sandra Kuker .... extras casting
Leanna Sheldon .... casting associate
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Lynda Foote .... costume supervisor
Jennifer Morrison Holyfield .... costumer: Ms. Pfeiffer (as Jennifer Holyfield)
Jo Kissack .... set costumer
Editorial Department
Colby Enders .... apprentice editor
Adrian Kays .... editor: end title montage
Dan Muscarella .... color timer
Mark Yoshikawa .... first assistant editor
Music Department
Julian Bratolyubov .... music preparation
Paul Broucek .... music executive
David Carpenter .... featured musician: bass (as Dave Carpenter)
Sandy DeCrescent .... orchestra contractor
Terry Delsing .... music editor
George Doering .... musician
Steve Erdody .... featured musician: Solo cello
Michael Fisher .... featured musician: percussion
Bruce Fowler .... orchestrator
Gavin Greenaway .... conductor
Tod Holcomb .... additional music editor
Mark Kaufman .... music clearance executive
Malcolm Luker .... score recordist
Malcolm Luker .... scoring mixer
James McKee Smith .... assistant to composer
Alan Meyerson .... music scoring mixer
Yvonne S. Moriarty .... orchestrator (as Suzette Moriarty)
Heitor Pereira .... featured musician: Ukes & guitars
Joel J. Richard .... music assistant
Joel J. Richard .... music programmer
Erin Scully .... music executive
Lori Silfen .... music business affairs
Curt Sobel .... temp music editor
Terry Wilson .... music editor
Hans Zimmer .... original music producer
Transportation Department
Jeff Couch .... transportation captain
Julie E. Furnas .... transportation production assistant
J. Armin Garza II .... driver: camera car
Alan Kaminsky .... transportation co-captain
Brian Kay .... production van driver
'Wild Bill' Laczko .... transportation
A. Welch Lambeth .... transportation coordinator (as Welch Lambeth)
Jan Overson .... driver: honeywagon
Harold L. Woods .... driver
Other crew
Nellie Adami .... production coordinator
Diana Adams .... production accountant (as Diana Olsen)
Derek Avila .... assistant location manager
Cassandra Barbour .... rights and clearances: post-production
Buffy Beyer .... assistant: Mr. Rubin
Bianca Bezdek-Goodloe .... legal services
Kayce Brown .... set assistant: Ms. Pfeiffer
Scotty Brown .... assistant location manager
Jan Cerwonka .... studio teacher
Scott Cler .... production assistant
Judy Heinzen Culotta .... assistant location manager (as Judy Heinzen)
Marlena De Fabrizio .... production assistant
Russ Fega .... location manager
Dusten Gazzola .... production assistant
Juliandra Gillen .... stand-in: Rita
Lina Godouse .... stand-in: Lucy (as Lina Godhouse)
Josh Gummersall .... assistant: Marshall Herskovitz
Giselle Gurza .... production assistant
Jason Gutierrez .... production assistant
Trent Hara .... assistant production coordinator
Debbie Hayn-Cass .... production executive
Pete Ibarra .... production assistant
Marc Jacobs .... production resources
Caren Kaplow .... assistant: Ms. Pfeiffer
Kristi Kasubaski .... first assistant accountant
Katrina Kincaid .... production assistant
Linda Klein .... medical technical advisor
Graham Larson .... assistant: Mr. Zwick
Christopher Lee .... location scout
Steven Maines .... stand-in: Sam
Sato Masuzawa .... assistant: Mr. Penn
Andrew Matthews .... financial advisor
Sara Mayer .... set production assistant
Michael McElroy .... adr loop group
Brian McMillan .... animal trainer
David Mendoza .... production assistant
Kristi Mujica .... first assistant accountant
Jason Novak .... assistant: Rick Solomon
Elion Olson .... set production assistant
Jennifer Pedevilla .... payroll accountant
John M. Pisani .... unit publicist
Wonder Fortune Serra .... assistant: Mr. Nelson
Laura Sevier .... rights and clearances: post-production
Steve Solomon .... animal trainer
E. Michael Stankevich .... production secretary
Travis Taylor .... production assistant
Scout Taylor-Compton .... adr loop group
Tyrel Ventura .... set assistant: Mr. Penn
Brenda K. Wachel .... script supervisor
Art Wolff .... dialogue coach: Dakota Fanning
Garson Yu .... title designer
Ronald C. Briggs Jr. .... inventory services (uncredited)
Robert Foulkes .... co-location manager (uncredited)
Robert Hampton Frazier IV .... production assistant (uncredited)
Gary Rodriguez .... stand-in (uncredited)
Jesse Wagler .... production assistant: yU+Co. (uncredited)
Lynne Finkelor .... thanks
Debbie Nelson .... thanks
Yoko Ono .... thanks
Michael Rhode .... thanks
Cameron Taylor-Brown .... thanks
Susan Wilder .... thanks

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
Rated PG-13 for language
132 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

Dakota Fanning's character is named Lucy Diamond from The Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". Michelle Pfeiffer's character's name is Rita Harrison, from the song "Lovely Rita" and the last name of Beatle George Harrison. Sam, Lucy, and Sam's friends walking across the street with the balloons is a tribute to the case cover of "Abbey Road". Sean Penn wanted the soundtrack to be all Beatles music, but was unable to get the rights, so he asked various artists to cover the Beatles songs he wanted to use. And in order for the re-recorded music to fit into the movie, each of the artists had to use the same tempo as the original Beatles songs.See more »
Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): When Annie is teaching Sam when to feed Lucy and they are talking about what "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is about, Annie says "But John Lennon said, it was about a friend of his son Julian Lennon's from school - Lucy O'Connell". The real girl's name was "Lucy O'Donnell".See more »
[making fun of Lucy's dad]
Conner Rhodes:Sorry, Mr. Egg.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Golden SlumbersSee more »


I am confused by the ending. Who wins custody of Lucy?
See more »
36 out of 68 people found the following review useful.
Author: Rod-88 from Dallas TX

This movie has flaws, but this movie touched me. Maybe its because I'm a father of a six year-old girl, but I was moved by the love between father and daughter, Sam and Lucy. Sean Penn plays Sam, a mentally challenged man that instantly becomes a single parent, when the mother immediately abandons them when they leave the hospital. He some how raises her with help from a neighbor, played by Diane Wiest. On her eighth birthday, child protective services take her away from Sam. It has become apparent that Lucy surpassed her father in intelligence, and she is struggling to cope with classmates and friends making fun of Sam. Can Sam adequately care for Lucy? The whole time I was watching, the answer was, no. This is where the movie fails. It did not convince me that this mentally challenged man that could not even eat at a Kip's Big Boy without freaking out because they did not have French pancakes, could raise this child by himself.

I am sure that Sean Penn's will get some accolades for his performance. However, I felt that I had seen it before, and I had seen it done better. He was adequate in the role, but Leonardo DiCaprio did it better in `What's Eating Gilbert Grape', and I even think that Mickey Rooney did it better in `Bill'. Penn's downfall could have been the character's lack of dept. Maybe if we had seen his childhood, his relationship with his mother, or the relationship with Lucy's mother, it would have created a more believable role. He does do well to show his love for Lucy. The chemistry between Lucy and Sam is touching. You had better take some tissue.

The newcomer, Dakota Fanning, as Lucy, was wonderful. Lucy is cute and loveable. She is the only thing right in Sam's life. She is hope. She is beautiful. She is everything to Sam. When she is taken away, your heart will break.

Michelle Pfeiffer, as Rita the lawyer, was a pleasant surprise. Rita is so vain that she takes Sam's case just to save face in front of her colleagues. She is too busy, even for her own family. All she cares about is winning. She is heartless. However, she blossoms during the movie. Sam opens her eyes. She is like the butterfly that Lucy does a report on in school. She is the true hero of the movie.

The music in the movie was great. If you are a fan of the Beatles, which most everyone is (even if you may not realize it), you will appreciate this movie. The Beatles' songs convey a feeling of safety and comfort. The songs are familiar and soothing. In Sam's chaotic world, the Beatles come through with a calming effect. One of my all time favorite songs, Across the Universe, is used as well.

Overall, I think this movie comes through with heartfelt messages. However, you will have to suspend belief and let yourself go with it. Laura Dern also pops up with an excellent performance. The final scenes were fresh and unexpected. Thank God this movie did not stay in the courtroom!


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