A Beautiful Mind (film)

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A Beautiful Mind
A Beautiful Mind Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ron Howard
Produced by Ron Howard
Brian Grazer
Screenplay by Akiva Goldsman
Based on A Beautiful Mind 
by Sylvia Nasar
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Edited by Daniel P. Hanley
Mike Hill
Distributed by Universal Pictures
(United States)
DreamWorks Pictures
Release dates
  • December 13, 2001 (2001-12-13) (Beverly Hills premiere)
  • December 21, 2001 (2001-12-21) (United States)
Running time 135 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $58 million[1]
Box office $313,542,341[1]

A Beautiful Mind is a 2001 American biographical drama film based on the life of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics. The film was directed by Ron Howard, from a screenplay written by Akiva Goldsman. It was inspired by a bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-nominated 1998 book of the same name by Sylvia Nasar. The film stars Russell Crowe, along with Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Judd Hirsch, Josh Lucas, Anthony Rapp, and Christopher Plummer in supporting roles. The story begins in the early years of a young prodigy named John Nash. Early in the film, Nash begins to develop paranoid schizophrenia and endures delusional episodes while painfully watching the loss and burden his condition brings on his wife and friends.

The film opened in the United States cinemas on December 21, 2001. It went to gross over $313 million worldwide and won four Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. It was also nominated for Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup, and Best Original Score.

It was well received by critics, but has been criticized for its inaccurate portrayal of some aspects of Nash's life, especially his other family and a son born out of wedlock. However, the filmmakers have stated that the film was not meant to be a literal representation.


In 1947, John Nash (Crowe) arrives at Princeton University. He is co-recipient, with Martin Hansen (Lucas), of the prestigious Carnegie Scholarship for mathematics. At a reception, he meets a group of other promising math and science graduate students, Richard Sol (Goldberg), Ainsley (Jason Gray-Stanford), and Bender (Rapp). He also meets his roommate Charles Herman (Bettany), a literature student.

Nash comes under increasing pressure to publish, but he refuses until he finds a truly original idea. His inspiration comes when he and his fellow graduate students discuss how to approach a group of women at a bar. Hansen quotes Adam Smith and advocates "every man for himself", but Nash argues that a cooperative approach would lead to better chances of success. This leads to a new concept of governing dynamics which Nash develops and publishes. On the strength of this he is offered an appointment at MIT where Sol and Bender join him.

Some years later, Nash is invited to the Pentagon to crack encrypted enemy telecommunication. Nash is able to decipher the code mentally, to the astonishment of other decrypters. He considers his regular duties at MIT uninteresting and beneath his talents, so he is pleased to be given a new assignment by mysterious supervisor, William Parcher (Harris) of the United States Department of Defense, to look for patterns in magazines and newspapers in order to thwart a Soviet plot. Nash becomes increasingly obsessive about searching for these hidden patterns and believes he is followed when he delivers his results to a secret mailbox.

Meanwhile a student, Alicia Larde (Connelly), asks him to dinner, and the two fall in love. On a return visit to Princeton, Nash runs into Charles and meets Charles' young niece Marcee (Vivien Cardone), whom he adores. With Charles' encouragement he proposes to Alicia and they marry.

Nash begins to fear for his life after witnessing a shootout between Parcher and Soviet agents, but Parcher blackmails him into staying on his assignment. While delivering a guest lecture at Harvard University, Nash attempts to flee from what appear to be foreign agents, led by Dr. Rosen (Plummer). After punching Rosen in an attempt to flee, Nash is forcibly sedated and sent to a psychiatric facility. He believes the facility is run by the Soviets.

Dr. Rosen tells Alicia that Nash has schizophrenia and that Charles, Marcee and Parcher exist only in his imagination. Alicia investigates and finally confronts Nash with the unopened documents he had delivered to the secret mailbox. Nash is given a course of insulin shock therapy and eventually released. Frustrated with the side-effects of the antipsychotic medication he is taking, he secretly stops taking it. This causes a relapse and he meets Parcher again.

After an incident where Nash endangers his infant son and accidentally knocks Alicia and the baby to the ground (thinking he's stopping Parcher from killing her), she flees the house in fear with their child. Nash steps in front of her car to prevent her from leaving. He tells Alicia, "She never gets old", referring to Marcee, who although years have passed since their first encounter, has remained exactly the same age and is still a little girl. With this, he finally accepts that they are part of his hallucinations. Against Dr. Rosen's advice, Nash decides not to restart his medication, believing that he can deal with his symptoms in another way. Alicia decides to stay and support him in this.

Nash approaches his old friend and rival, Martin Hansen, now head of the Princeton mathematics department, who grants him permission to work out of the library and audit classes. Years pass and as Nash grows older, he learns to ignore his hallucinations and earns the privilege of teaching again.

In 1994, Nash is honored by his fellow professors for his achievement in mathematics, and goes on to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his revolutionary work on game theory. The movie ends as Nash and Alicia leave the auditorium in Stockholm; Nash sees Charles, Marcee, and Parcher standing to one side and watching him.



Producer Brian Grazer first read an excerpt of Sylvia Nasar's book A Beautiful Mind in Vanity Fair magazine. Grazer immediately purchased the rights to the film. He eventually brought the project to Ron Howard, who had scheduling conflicts and was forced to pass. Grazer later said that many A-list directors were calling with their point of view on the project. He eventually focused on a particular director, who coincidentally was only available at the same time Howard was available. Grazer was forced to make a decision and chose Howard.[2]

Grazer then met with a number of screenwriters, mostly consisting of "serious dramatists", but he chose Akiva Goldsman instead, because of his strong passion and desire for the project. Goldsman's creative take on the project was to not allow the viewers to understand that they are viewing an alternate reality until a specific point in the film. This was done to rob the viewers of their feelings in the same way that Nash himself was. Howard agreed to direct the film based only on the first draft. He then requested that Goldsman accentuate the love story aspect.[3]

Dave Bayer, a professor of Mathematics at Barnard College, Columbia University,[4] was consulted on the mathematical equations that appear in the film. Bayer later stated that he approached his consulting role as an actor when preparing equations, such as when Nash is forced to teach a calculus class, and arbitrarily places a complicated problem on the blackboard. Bayer focused on a character who did not want to teach ordinary details and was more concerned with what was interesting. Bayer received a cameo role in the film as a professor that lays his pen down for Nash in the pen ceremony near the end of the film.[5] Greg Cannom was chosen to create the makeup effects for A Beautiful Mind, specifically the age progression of the characters. Russell Crowe had previously worked with Cannom on The Insider. Howard had also worked with Cannom on Cocoon. Each character's stages of makeup were broken down by the number of years that would pass between levels. Cannom stressed subtlety between the stages, but worked toward the ultimate stage of "Older Nash". It was originally decided that the makeup department would merely age Russell Crowe throughout the film; however, at Crowe's request, the makeup purposefully pulled Crowe's look towards the facial features of the real John Nash. Cannom developed a new silicone-type makeup that could simulate real skin and be used for overlapping applications, shortening the application time from eight hours to four hours. Crowe was also fitted with a number of dentures to give him a slight overbite throughout the film.[6]

Howard and Grazer chose frequent collaborator James Horner to score the film because of familiarity and his ability to communicate. Howard said, regarding Horner, "It's like having a conversation with a writer or an actor or another director." A running discussion between the director and the composer was the concept of high-level mathematics being less about numbers and solutions, and more akin to a kaleidoscope, in that the ideas evolve and change. After the first screening of the film, Horner told Howard: "I see changes occurring like fast-moving weather systems." He chose it as another theme to connect to Nash's ever-changing character. Horner chose Welsh singer Charlotte Church to sing the soprano vocals after deciding that he needed a balance between a child and adult singing voice. He wanted a "purity, clarity and brightness of an instrument" but also a vibrato to maintain the humanity of the voice.[7]

The film was shot 90% chronologically. Three separate trips were made to the Princeton University campus. During filming, Howard decided that Nash's delusions should always first be introduced audibly and then visually. This not only provides a visual clue, but establishes the delusions from Nash's point of view. The real John Nash's delusions were also only auditory. A technique was also developed to visualize Nash's epiphanies. After speaking to a number of mathematicians who described it as "the smoke clearing", "flashes of light" and "everything coming together", the filmmakers decided upon a flash of light appearing over an object or person to signify Nash's creativity at work.[8] Two night shots were done at Fairleigh Dickinson University's campus in Florham Park, NJ, in the Vanderbilt Mansion ballroom.[9]

Many actors were considered for the role of John Nash, including Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, John Travolta, Tom Cruise,[10] John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, Robert Downey, Jr., Nicolas Cage, Johnny Depp, Ralph Fiennes, Jared Leto, Brad Pitt, Alec Baldwin, Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, Guy Pearce, Matthew Broderick, Gary Oldman and Keanu Reeves. Ron Howard ultimately cast Russell Crowe.

The producers had not originally thought of Jennifer Connelly for the role of Alicia. Portia de Rossi, Catherine McCormack, Meg Ryan, Rachel Griffiths and Amanda Peet were among the many actresses who lobbied for the role of Alicia.

Divergence from actual events[edit]

The narrative of the film differs considerably from the actual events of Nash's life. The film has been criticized for this, while the filmmakers insisted that the film was not meant to be a literal representation.[11]

One difficulty was in portraying stress and mental illness within one person's mind.[12] Sylvia Nasar stated that the filmmakers "invented a narrative that, while far from a literal telling, is true to the spirit of Nash's story".[13] The film made his hallucinations visual and auditory when, in fact, they were exclusively auditory. Furthermore, while in real life Nash spent his years between Princeton and MIT as a consultant for the RAND Corporation in California, in the film he is portrayed as having worked for the Pentagon instead. It is true that his handlers, both from faculty and administration, had to introduce him to assistants and strangers.[8] The PBS documentary A Brilliant Madness attempts to portray his life more accurately.[14]

Few of the characters in the film, besides John and Alicia Nash, corresponded directly to actual people.[15] The discussion of the Nash equilibrium was criticized as over-simplified. In the film, schizophrenic hallucinations appeared while he was in graduate school, when in fact they did not show up until some years later. No mention is made of Nash's supposed homosexual experiences at RAND,[13][16] which Nash and his wife both denied.[17] Nash also fathered a son, John David Stier (born June 19, 1953), by Eleanor Agnes Stier (1921–2005), a nurse whom he abandoned when informed of her pregnancy.[18] The film also did not include Alicia's divorce of John in 1963. It was not until Nash won the Nobel Memorial Prize that they renewed their relationship, although she allowed him to live with her as a boarder beginning in 1970. They remarried in 2001.[16]

Nash is shown to join Wheeler Laboratory at MIT, but there is no such lab. He was appointed as C.L.E. Moore Instructor at MIT.[19] The pen ceremony tradition at Princeton shown in the film is completely fictitious.[8][20] The film has Nash saying around the time of his Nobel prize in 1994: "I take the newer medications", when in fact Nash did not take any medication from 1970 onwards, something Nash's biography highlights. Howard later stated that they added the line of dialogue because it was felt as though the film was encouraging the notion that all schizophrenics can overcome their illness without medication.[8] Nash also never gave an acceptance speech for his Nobel prize because laureates do not do that as portrayed in the film; the award ceremony is conducted without any such speeches. [21]


Critical response[edit]

A Beautiful Mind received a limited release on December 21, 2001, receiving positive reviews. It was later released in the United States on January 4, 2002. Rotten Tomatoes showed a 77% approval rating among critics, stating: "The well-acted A Beautiful Mind is both a moving love story and a revealing look at mental illness."[22] Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four out of four stars.[23] Mike Clark of USA Today gave three-and-a-half out of four stars and also praised Crowe's performance, calling it a welcome follow-up to Howard's previous film, The Grinch;[24] however, Desson Thomson of Washington Post found the film to be "one of those formulaically rendered Important Subject movies."[22] The mathematics in the film were praised by the mathematics community, including John Nash himself.[5]

Box office performance[edit]

During the five-day weekend of the limited release, A Beautiful Mind opened at the #12 spot at the box office,[25] peaking at the #2 spot following the wide release.[26] The film went to gross $170,742,341 in the United States and Canada and $313,542,341 worldwide.[1]

Home media[edit]

A Beautiful Mind was released on VHS and DVD in the United States on June 25, 2002.[27] The DVD set includes audio commentaries, deleted scenes and documentaries. The film was also released on Blu-ray in North America on January 25, 2011.[28]


In 2002, the film was awarded four Academy Awards, for Best Adapted Screenplay (Akiva Goldsman), Best Picture (Brian Grazer and Ron Howard), Best Director (Ron Howard) and Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Connelly). It also received four other nominations for Best Actor (Russell Crowe), Best Film Editing (Mike Hill and Daniel P. Hanley), Best Makeup (Greg Cannom and Colleen Callaghan), and Best Original Score (James Horner).[29] At the 55th British Academy Film Awards the film won Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role to Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, respectively. It also nominated the film for Best Film, Best Screenplay and the David Lean Award for Direction.[30]

At the 2002 AFI Awards, Jennifer Connelly won for Best Featured Female Actor.[31] In 2006, it was named No. 93 in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers. In the following year, it was nominated for AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition).[32] The film was also nominated for Movie of the Year, Actor of the Year (Russell Crowe), and Screenwriter of the Year (Akiva Goldsman).[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "A Beautiful Mind (2001)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved November 8, 2010. 
  2. ^ "A Beautiful Partnership: Ron Howard and Brian Grazer", from A Beautiful Mind DVD, 2002.
  3. ^ "Development of the Screenplay", from A Beautiful Mind DVD, 2002.
  4. ^ "Dave Bayer: Professor of Mathematics". Barnard College, Columbia University. Retrieved May 8, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "Dana Mackenzie 'Beautiful Math'". Swarthmore College Bulletin. 2002.
  6. ^ "The Process of Age Progression", from A Beautiful Mind DVD. 2002.
  7. ^ "Scoring the Film", from A Beautiful Mind DVD, 2002.
  8. ^ a b c d A Beautiful Mind DVD commentary featuring Ron Howard, 2002.
  9. ^ "Fairleigh Dickinson University turned into a 'different place'". CountingDown.com. April 30, 2001. Retrieved May 10, 2009. 
  10. ^ "A Beautiful Mind Preview", Entertainment Weekly, October 24, 2001 
  11. ^ "Ron Howard Interview". About.com. Retrieved September 27, 2012.
  12. ^ "A Beautiful Mind". Mathematical Association of America. Retrieved 13 October 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "A Real Number". Slate Magazine. Archived from the original on August 24, 2007. Retrieved August 16, 2007. 
  14. ^ "A Brilliant Madness". PBS.org. Archived from the original on July 14, 2007. Retrieved August 16, 2007. 
  15. ^ Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind, Touchstone 1998.
  16. ^ a b Nasar, Sylvia (1998). A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Forbes Nash, Jr. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-81906-6. 
  17. ^ "Nash: Film No Whitewash". CBS News: 60 Minutes. March 14, 2002. Archived from the original on August 7, 2007. Retrieved August 16, 2007. 
  18. ^ Goldstein, Scott (April 10, 2005). "Eleanor Stier, 84". The Boston Globe. Retrieved December 5, 2007. 
  19. ^ "MIT facts meet fiction in 'A Beautiful Mind'". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Archived from the original on July 12, 2007. Retrieved August 16, 2007. 
  20. ^ "FAQ John Nash". Seeley G. Mudd Library at Princeton University. Archived from the original on July 16, 2007. Retrieved August 16, 2007. 
  21. ^ "FAQ John Nash". Seeley G. Mudd Library at Princeton University. Archived from the original on July 16, 2007. Retrieved August 16, 2007. 
  22. ^ a b "A Beautiful Mind". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved August 14, 2007. 
  23. ^ Ebert, Roger. "A Beautiful Mind". Chicago Sun-Times (RogerEbert.com). 
  24. ^ Clark, Mike (December 20, 2001). "Crowe brings to 'Mind' a great performance". USA Today. Retrieved August 27, 2007. 
  25. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for December 21–25, 2001". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved May 22, 2008. 
  26. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for January 4–6, 2002". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved May 22, 2008. 
  27. ^ "A Beautiful Mind". FilmCritic.com. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  28. ^ "A Beautiful Mind (2001)". ReleasedOn.com. Retrieved July 24, 2011. 
  29. ^ "74th Academy Awards". Oscars.org. Archived from the original on August 24, 2007. Retrieved August 27, 2007. 
  30. ^ "A Beautiful Mind (2001) – Awards and Nominations". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved August 27, 2007. 
  31. ^ "AFI Awards 2001". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved August 27, 2007. 
  32. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
  33. ^ "AFI Awards 2001: Movies of the Year". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved August 27, 2007. 

Additional reading[edit]

External links[edit]