Princeton favorite "A Beautiful Mind" started strong last night with Jennifer Connelly's best supporting actress prize and nearly swept the Oscars, winning best adapted screenplay and best picture awards. Director Ron Howard received the award for best director, while star Russell Crowe failed in his Oscar bid.
The film, based on Sylvia Nasar's best-selling biography, is about mathematics professor John Nash GS '50 and his struggle with paranoid schizophrenia. Nash and his wife were at the 74th Academy Awards ceremony last night, and the cameras panned to them several times.
Among other accomplishments, Nash won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994 for his work on game theory.
After finishing his graduate work at Princeton, Nash went to teach at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Shortly thereafter, his mental illness struck, and it took him decades to overcome the disease, from which only 10 to 20 percent recover. As he improved, Nash returned to Princeton at the urging of friends here, and later took up teaching in the math department.
Because of Nash's many connections to the University, parts of "A Beautiful Mind" were filmed on campus last March and during the summer. Blair arch, Holder courtyard and the 'junior slums' are prevalent backdrops in the movie. Some Princeton students — chosen from the approximate 1,800 who answered last spring's campus casting call — appear as extras.
Perhaps the most notable event during the filming last March was Crowe's crude gesture — the display of his middle finger — to Meredith Moroney '02, who was taking a picture of the actor from her window in 1901 Hall. Moroney received countless requests for the resulting photo.
Since the movie's release, some have questioned the liberty screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and director Ron Howard took in adapting the movie from Nasar's book. Under particular scrutiny has been Goldsman and Howard's choice to leave particular details of Nash's life out of the movie, including a child he had before his marriage to Alicia Larde, or his later divorce.
Nasar herself has called the movie "a brilliant adaptation."
Other features, such as the Nobel Prize speech Nash gives in the film and the movie's portrayal of a Princeton tradition in which department heads give Nash pens as a sign of respect are fiction — Nash gave no speech, and the pen tradition does not exist.
The film's visual representation of schizophrenia — suggesting Nash actually saw, spoke with and interacted with imaginary characters — has also been called into question.
Nash is prevailingly reclusive declining most interviews. He still works in the University's math department. He and his wife, who remarried in 2001, live in Princeton.
Goldsman, Howard and Producer Brian Grazer thanked Nash and his wife in their acceptance speeches. Grazer said their story leads us to "a greater understanding of ourselves."
In other Oscar news, Denzel Washington and Halle Berry made history as, for the first time, both the best actor and best actress awards went to African Americans. The best supporting actor award went to "Iris" co-star Jim Broadbent, who also appeared in "Moulin Rouge" this year. "Gosford Park" took the trophy for best original screenplay.