For in-flight viewing, several airlines deleted the sequence in which Raymond reels off statistics on airline accidents, except Qantas. They even promoted one of the movie's writers to first class once when he travelled on their airline.
Dustin Hoffman spent a lot of time with savant Kim Peek, the inspiration for the character of Raymond. Rain Man writer Barry Morrow first met Peek in 1986, and on winning an Oscar for the screenplay for this movie in 1989, gave his Oscar trophy to Kim Peek. Hoffman made Kim's father (the main caregiver) a promise that he would "share Kim with the world." For nearly twenty years until his death, Kim Peek went all over the world impressing people with his incredible memory and ability to recall minute details from centuries of history.
During filming, Dustin Hoffman was unsure of the film's potential and his own performance. Three weeks into the project, Hoffman wanted out, telling Barry Levinson, "Get Richard Dreyfuss, get somebody, Barry, because this is the worst work of my life." Hoffman would nab his second Best Actor Academy Award for his work.
The scene in the motel room where Charlie remembers his older brother, and why he called him "Rain Man", was shot in one take. This was done well into filming when the actors had both found a natural rhythm together.
The elderly man in the waiting room who talks on and on about the Pony Express is Byron P. Cavnar, an eighty-nine-year-old local who was in the waiting room when the crew arrived to film there. He got to talking on his favorite subject, the Pony Express, and Director Barry Levinson got such a kick out of it, that he let Cavnar keep on talking as the cameras rolled. All his dialogue was spontaneous and not scripted.
Dustin Hoffman was originally hired to play the part of Charlie Babbit, but after being moved to tears seeing a savant named Leslie Lemke (who is blind, mentally handicapped, and has cerebral palsy) play full concertos on the piano by ear, he decided to play the part of Raymond instead.
The film first opened with a disappointing six million dollars in revenue. However, in the following weeks, it generated great word of mouth amongst movie viewers, allowing the movie to steadily climb up to the number one slot.
Dustin Hoffman spent a year working with autistic men and their families to understand their complex relationships. Also, when he was a jobbing actor, he had worked in a psychiatric care home, and drew from his experiences then for the film.
Dustin Hoffman's former New York City roommate, Gene Hackman, was vying with him for Best Actor for Mississippi Burning (1988). When Hoffman won, he hugged Hackman as he left his seat on the way to the podium where he affectionately mentioned Hackman in his acceptance speech. He failed to mention Tom Cruise, but made up for it later in the show. When they returned to the stage together to present the Best Actress award to Jodie Foster for The Accused (1988), Hoffman thanked his co-star, telling him, "Tom Cruise, you are my brother."
At one point, this movie was the biggest grossing Best Picture Oscar winner. It was subsequently surpassed by Forrest Gump (1994), which had been put into development at a rival studio at roughly the same time.
Sir Michael Caine has revealed that Tom Cruise's performance in "Rain Man" was one of his personal favorites of all he'd ever seen on film. Caine found out somewhat late in his adult life that he had a brother he'd never been told about, who had lived most of his life in Cane Hill Mental Hospital, with a debilitating diagnosis of epilepsy. With great sincerity he said "Tom's performance was beautifully done." He went on to say that "Dustin had the 'showy' part." Tom's required great discipline and a responsibility to draw the viewer into Raymond's point of view, as well as portray the painful acceptance of the limitations his brother's condition placed on their level of familial intimacy.
When Dustin Hoffman's Best Actor Oscar was presented to him by Michael Douglas, the words that preceded the announcement of Hoffman's name were, "...and the Oscar goes to..." which, for the first time, had replaced the traditional line, "...and the winner is...", et cetera. The Academy had made the switch for discretionary purposes, and the practice has been in effect ever since 1989.
The diner scene where Raymond counts toothpicks after the waitress spills them on the floor was filmed at Pompilio's Restaurant in Newport, Kentucky. Today, Pompilio's has a "bas relief" mural on one wall, which features velvet-sewn figures of Raymond and Charlie in their Buick Roadmaster, parked in front of the restaurant. The actual bronzed toothpicks that Dustin Hoffman counted in the scene are attached to the mural.
Director Barry Levinson admitted that Ray's comment about Qantas being the only aircraft company to never have had a fatal crash was made up, and that he didn't know if this was true. In reality, Qantas has had eight crashes, all prior to the making of the film, but they were all propeller-driven planes, not jets.
Screenwriter Barry Morrow chose the name of the film by reading through a book of names, deciding which sounded most interesting when mispronounced. He eventually narrowed it down to four names, including "Rain Man" for Raymond and "No-Man" for Norman. Marrow decided that "Rain Man" was the best. In order to see if this instinct was correct, he asked his children which of the four they preferred and all agreed with his choice.
Dustin Hoffman said the "hot water burn baby" bathtub scene was one he dreaded filming because he was unsure of how to play it. Ultimately, he channelled his anger and frustration about doing the scene to convey the emotions of Raymond.
The radio station slogan that Raymond is so fond of repeating, "97X - Bam! - The future of rock and roll", was from a real independent Ohio radio station, WOXY at 97.7 FM in Oxford, Ohio. In 2004, it moved to internet broadcasting only and shut down completely in 2011.
In the movie, when Charlie removes Raymond from Walbrook, we see them walking down a long oak tree lined driveway. In 2007, many of these oak trees had become diseased, forcing their removal (replacements were to be planted). Before the trees were cut down, several people came to the grounds of the convent and re-created the scene where Raymond and Charlie walk down the drive.
The part of Susanna had originally been written as a WASPish blonde woman. By having a foreigner play the role, whose native tongue wasn't English, it allowed for Tom Cruise's character to do a lot of exposition.
Steven Spielberg considered directing. He began making notes in order to prepare for the project. The reason he backed out is because his friend George Lucas needed him to start work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). So Spielberg left the project and gave his notes to Barry Levinson. Sydney Pollack was the next director to work on the film. He ditched an action sequence in which Charlie saves Raymond from some thugs, but he wasn't keen on the idea of a road movie.
Warner Brothers had, at one point, the opportunity to make both this movie and Forrest Gump (1994) but ended up with neither because of concerns they were too similar. Peter Guber and Jon Peters' production company, which had picked up the script for this movie, had a first look deal with the studio. However, Roger Birnbaum, an executive with the production company, felt that because Warner Brothers was also developing Forrest Gump (1994), they would likely let this movie die if they were to pick it up, because of the script's perceived similarity. So, reportedly, he purposely gave a weak pitch to the studio in the hopes that they would reject it and allow it to be pitched to another studio. This did in fact occur, and United Artists ended up making the film. After the movie's enormous success, Warner Brothers decided to pass on Forrest Gump (1994), because they felt that audiences would be unlikely to go to a movie with such a similar theme as this movie. Forrest Gump (1994), which most people would consider to be an entirely different type of film than this movie, ended up being made by Paramount Pictures and became one of the most successful movies of all time, grossing just over three hundred thirty million dollars in the U.S.
J.T. Walsh was originally supposed to play the psychiatrist at the end of the movie. When he couldn't, Barry Levinson filled in, after Dustin Hoffman suggested it. Levinson said if he didn't like the way it looked, he would have someone else film it. He ad-libbed repeatedly to "push Michael Caine's buttons".
The Blackjack dealer at Caesars Palace is named Nick Mazzola. He was also the War dealer in the movie Vegas Vacation (1997), as well as a dealer in the movie Casino (1995). In real-life, Nick was a Blackjack dealer at Caesar's Palace in the 1970s and 1980s.
The first blackjack dealer in Las Vegas is the same blackjack dealer in Casino (1995). Star of that film Robert De Niro has co-starred with Dustin Hoffman in Sleepers (1996) and Wag the Dog (1997), also directed by Barry Levinson.
Raymond states that his underwear is from the K-Mart on Oak and Burnet. This address is actually for the Vernon Manor Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio, the hotel where Charlie, Raymond, and Suzanna stay in the beginning of the movie.
There were two classic 1949 Buick Roadmasters that were used for filming. The rear suspension on the cars were modified to accommodate the extra weight of the camera equipment as well as the cameraman who shot the action from the trunk.
Early in the film, when the lawyer is reading the will to Charlie, Charlie says "I definitely got the rose bushes, I have definitely got the rose bushes." This foreshadows Raymond's extensive use of the word "definitely" later on.
The script originally called for two farm kids, but after Catherine Dougherty brought six of her seven sons to audition for the part, the script was re-written to include the six boys. The boys also have an older brother and one younger sister.
Ronald Bass' first involvement with the film (when Martin Brest was attached) all took place over the phone as he was suffering from adult chicken pox at the time. As Brest's and Dustin Hoffman's wives were pregnant at the time, no one actually wanted to sit down for a face-to-face meeting with him.
At one point Sydney Pollack let his friend Barry Levinson read the screenplay. Levinson was much taken with it. One evening, whilst driving across the desert, he saw a cluster of windmills on the horizon. He turned to his wife and said that it would make a perfect backdrop for a scene with Charlie and his girlfriend. Seven weeks before shooting, Pollack called Levinson and told him that he should make the movie. With a writers' strike looming, Levinson had to agree immediately.
The Amarillo, Texas motel scene was actually filmed at the Big 8 Motel in El Reno, Oklahoma. The motel maintained the sign used in the film that read: "Amarillo's Finest".Before the motel closed down, guests sometimes requested to stay in the same room where Raymond and Charlie stayed, room #117. The motel has since been demolished.
Dr. Bruner says that he is trustee of Raymond's inheritance fund, but the hospital receives nothing from that. His medical bills including Walbrook are most likely paid for by Medicaid. Raymond qualifies because he has a severe mental disability. His personal items and needs are taken care of by the fund.
Dustin Hoffman suffered injuries to his hand while shooting the scene of the nighttime car accident. Shooting was suspended for several hours while he was transported to a local Kentucky hospital to remove a piece of glass from his hand and get stitches. The reason for the accident is he was telling a joke to the crew between scenes that required him to run as a part of the joke. He slipped and cut his hand on the glass from the scene.
Hans Zimmer's musical score lasts less than twelve minutes. It consists of two tracks, Leaving Wallbrook/On The Road and Las Vegas/End Credits, the first of which appears at various intervals throughout the film.
The movie playing on the hotel television, when Charlie and Susanna are making love, is Sweet Smell of Success (1957), which was also referenced in Barry Levinson's Diner (1982) (by a character who recited dialogue from the movie).
Several of the Las Vegas casinos, seen in the film, have been replaced (The Algiers and Stardust, for example). But the original 1966 Caesar's Palace tower is still there. Over the years, it has been remodelled to match the newer towers on the property.
Early in the film, Charlie tells Susanna that his falling out with his father happened when he was arrested for supposedly stealing his father's car, when he was caught driving the Buick Roadmaster on Columbia Parkway. Later in the film, after Charlie and Raymond stop for pancakes, Charlie is driving the now inherited Buick on Columbia Parkway.
Reni Santoni is the voice of the baseball broadcaster in the game that Raymond watches on his portable television as he and Charlie drive through Las Vegas. Santoni had previously appeared as a baseball broadcaster Brewster's Millions (1985).
The scene where Charlie takes Raymond to the doctor in Guthrie, Oklahoma, was filmed at the intersection of Division Street and Oklahoma Avenue. The sidewalk Dustin Hoffman freezes in crosses Oklahoma Avenue. The "Guthrie Clinic" is located in the building on the Northeast corner of the intersection with the lettering being on the window over the door on the diagonal face of the building looking Southwest.
Hans Zimmer, a newcomer on the film music scene at the time, was hired after Barry Levinson's wife heard Zimmer's music for A World Apart (1988) and was impressed with it. She presented it to her husband and Levinson, liking what he heard, decided to hire Zimmer.
Gene Hackman who was Dustin Hoffman's former New York City roommate, co-starred with Hoffman in Runaway Jury (2003). Hackman also co-starred with Tom Cruise in The Firm (1993). Both films were adapted from novels written by John Grisham.
In the restaurant scene Bonnie Hunt offers Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman coffee. Hunt also offers Cruise coffee in Jerry Maguire (1996), in which Cruise also plays the title character, just like Hoffman plays the title character in this movie. The slight difference is Hoffman played Raymond Babbitt, so the words "Rain Man" sound like "Ray Mond".
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Dustin Hoffman fought for the ending where Raymond goes back to Wallbrook, even though the screenwriters both wanted him to end up with Charlie. Hoffman thought it wouldn't be true to Raymond's character if they had him stay.