A controversy flared last week around “A Beautiful Mind,” director Ron Howard’s film about mathematician John Forbes Nash.
Howard never claimed the pic was a by-the-numbers account of Nash’s life, but it’s been assailed by a handful of critics and gay rights groups for omitting key elements from the award-winning book by Sylvia Nasar on which it’s based.
Nasar alleged that Nash had several affairs with men and fathered an illegitimate child who landed in foster care.
Howard sidestepped these events, prompting New York Times critic A.O. Scott to accuse him of “historical revisionism on the order of ‘JFK’ or ‘Forrest Gump.'”
But it doesn’t bother Nash, who apparently never much cared for the book.
“We like the movie very much,” Nash’s wife, Alicia, said through her lawyer, Andrew P. Hurwitz. “We think it’s a very sympathetic treatment of mental illness. But we reject and have from the beginning rejected certain elements of the life story as portrayed in the Sylvia Nasar book.”
Even Nasar said in an interview that the pic, “while far from a literal retelling, is true to the spirit of Nash’s story.”
Universal Pictures, which is distributing the pic in the U.S., has been through this thicket before: Critics accused “Hurricane” and “Erin Brockovich” of veering from the historical record.
But “Mind” screenwriter Akiva Goldsman says the historical record on Nash — who dropped off the radar for years — is especially elusive.
“This was never a biopic,” Goldsman says. “I wanted to try to create some sense in the mind of the audience, what it might feel like to be touched by this disease in order to create more sympathy and empathy.”