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The film's opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. The picture ends with the following statement: "Nash's theories have influenced global trade negotiations, national labor relations, and even breakthroughs in evolutionary biology. John and Alicia Nash live in Princeton, New Jersey. John keeps regular office hours in the Mathematics Department. He still walks to campus every day." In the closing credits, the producers express thanks to many individuals and institutions, including Princeton University, Apple Computers and Graydon Carter. The closing credits include the following rights statements: "The work 'Oval with Points' has been reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation" and "'Autoportrait with 7 Fingers' by Marc Chagall copyright 2001, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris." According to a July 2001 New York Times item, sportscaster Warner Wolf appears in the film during the scene in which Nash wins the Nobel Prize.
In 1998, Sylvia Nasar published her book about schizophrenic mathematics genius John Forbes Nash, Jr., A Beautiful Mind. According to a August 31, 1998 Daily Variety article, many studios expressed interest in the story, which bears similarities to the hit 1998 film Australian film Shine, but the book's agent, Robert Bookman of CAA, refused to sell the story without the approval of Nash. Although Universal Pictures first wanted the property for Martin Brest to direct, by the time Nash agreed to the story's sale, Imagine Entertainment had teamed with Universal to buy the rights for $1 million. In September 2000, Hollywood Reporter stated that DreamWorks had entered into "a 50-50 co-financing and co-production agreement" with Imagine and Universal and would handle the film's international distribution, with Universal managing domestic distribution. Although Hollywood Reporter reported in February 2000 that Robert Redford wanted to direct and Tom Cruise was considering starring in the film, by April 2000, a Daily Variety item announced that Imagine Entertainment partner Ron Howard would direct.
As depicted in the film, Nash, who was born in 1928, entered Princeton University's graduate school of mathematics in 1947, and two years later wrote a paper originating the mathematical principles of game theory, which eventually led to his winning the 1994 Nobel Prize in Economics. From 1951 through 1959, he taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he developed a number of important theorems and met graduate student Alicia Larde, who became his wife in 1957. In 1959, his lifelong struggle with schizophrenia began, haunting him with paranoid hallucinations and precipitating repeated hospitalizations. As Nash wrote in Les Prix Nobel in 1994, "In the later 60's I became a person of delusionally influenced thinking but of relatively moderate behavior and thus tended to avoid hospitalization." According to an March 11, 2002 Newsweek article, "Like fewer than one in 10 individuals who suffer from chronic schizophrenia," the hormonal changes of aging helped alleviate Nash's illness. In many sources, the filmmakers asserted that A Beautiful Mind is not a biography but, according to an interview given by Howard to countingdown.com, "a synthesis of many aspects of Nash's life." Other sources noted that the film does not cover some of the less flattering details about Nash's life, including an arrest early in his career, rumored homosexuality and anti-Semitism, and his 1963 divorce from Alicia, whom he remarried on June 1, 2001. The criticism, much of which was leveled at the film during the Academy Awards voting period, prompted supporters at that time to decry what they consdiered unethical competitive tactics. Nasar published a March 13, 2002 Los Angeles Times article to "correct the record," in which she stated that Nash "is not gay," lived with Alicia throughout most of the years during which they were divorced, and made anti-Semitic comments only while experiencing extreme paranoid delusions.
Although a June 2001Entertainment Weekly item noted that Crowe limited his real-life interaction with Nash, in the countingdown.com interview, Howard stated that he videotaped Nash teaching his theorems and used some of his formulae in the film. According to the countingdown.com interview with screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, Crowe contributed to the development of the character of "John Forbes Nash, Jr." and to the story in general, and John and Alicia Nash approved of the script, stating that it was "really true to the spirit of our lives." On the same website, director of photography Roger Deakins described using a different film stock in the beginning of the film than in the end, in order to lend the scenes at Princeton a "more golden feel" that became grittier as Nash's mental illness developed. In addition, editor Mike Hill noted that Howard shot the film in continuity, an unusual choice made "because of the makeup and the aging process." A December 2001 Entertainment Weekly news item reported that a brief love scene between Crowe and Jennifer Connelly ("Alicia Nash") was deleted from the final film.
According to several news items and the Hollywood Reporter production charts, the film was shot at several locations in New York and New Jersey, including Princeton University and the Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne. An October 2001 Hollywood Reporter item announced that although Universal had planned to release the film nationally on December 25, 2001, the studio now planned for a limited Christmas debut and a wide release on January 4, 2002. The New York and Los Angeles release was subsequently moved up to 21 December 2001.
Reviews of A Beautiful Mind consistently praised Crowe's performance. Connelly was selected by AFI as Featured Female Actor of the Year. In addition, the film received the following AFI nominations: film of the year, Male Actor of the Year in a motion picture for Crowe and Screenwriter of the Year for Goldman. Although Deakins was selected as AFI's Cinematographer of the Year, it was for his work on the film The Man Who Wasn't There (see below). Screenwriter Akiva Goldman and writer Sylvia Nash were awarded USC's Scripter Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. A Beautiful Mind won Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture Drama, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Connelly), Best Actor (Crowe), and received the following Golden Globe nominations: Best Director and Best Original Score. The film won an Academy Award for Best Film, Best Screenplay based on material previously produced or published, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress (Connelly) and was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Actor (Crowe), Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Best Original Score.