The scenes featuring the orphanage were filmed at the Northampton State Hospital, an abandoned mental asylum in Northampton, Massachusetts.
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One of the attractions of adapting this movie for author John Irving was that he wanted his son, Colin Irving, to play Wally Worthington. However, as the development process took over a decade, eventually his son was too old for the part, and was not known enough to be considered for it in any event. However, the role of Major Winslow did ultimately provide Colin Irving a part in this movie.
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John Irving made a brief cameo as the St. Cloud stationmaster.
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Sir Michael Caine used John Huston as the basis for his New England accent.
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The orphan, that gets into the pie dough, and eats all of it, and is shown throwing up all over the orphanage, is named "Steerforth". Steerforth is the name of one of the main character's friends, in the Charles Dickens book "David Copperfield", which Homer reads to the children, in their bedroom.
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Leonardo DiCaprio, Ethan Hawke, Edward Norton, Ryan Phillippe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Franco, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Walker, Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck were considered for the role of Homer Wells, until Tobey Maguire got the part.
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John Irving subsequently wrote two novels - "Until I Find You" (2005) and "Last Night In Twisted River" (2009) which feature characters who win the 1999 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, that Irving won for this movie. Irving also wrote a non-fiction book, "My Movie Business: A Memoir", about his experience with, and opinions on his books that have become movies, with a particular focus on The Cider House Rules.
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This movie has the unusual distinction of been given a 12 certificate by the British censor, and an 18 certificate by his Irish counterpart. As the two territories share the Northern Ireland border, there would have been the anomaly that a seventeen-year-old in Dundalk wouldn't have been able to see it, while a twelve-year-old in Newry fourteen miles up the road could have bought a ticket with no difficulty.
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This movie was originally to be directed by Phillip Borsos, but he died before financial backing could be secured.
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The exterior of the orphanage was shot at the Ventfort Hall estate, in Lenox, Massachusetts.
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At one point, Matthew Broderick and Max von Sydow were announced as the leads for this movie.
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Three of the actors and one actress went on to become superheroes, and one played someone close to the superhero. Tobey Maguire portrayed Spider-Man. Charlize Theron was Mary, in Hancock (2008). Paul Rudd played Ant-Man, and Michael Caine was Alfred in The Dark Knight trilogy. J.K. Simmons played J. Jonah Jameson with Toby Maguire in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy and Commissioner Gordon in the DC Extended Universe.
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The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year to be nominated for Best Art Direction.
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Michael Winterbottom was once set to direct, but pulled out, due to his impatience with the lengthy development process.
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Dr. Larch's repeated line "Goodnight, you Princes of Maine, you Kings of New England." may come from the Book of Micah 3:1 "Hear...O heads of Jacob, and ye Princes of the house of Israel".
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