Altered States (1980)
William Hurt ... Professor Eddie Jessup
Blair Brown ... Emily Jessup
Bob Balaban ... Arthur Rosenberg
Charles Haid ... Mason Parrish, Professor of Endocrinology at Harvard Medical School
Thaao Penghlis ... Prof. Eduardo Eccheverria at University of Mexico
Miguel Godreau ... Primal Man
Dori Brenner ... Sylvia Rosenberg
Peter Brandon ... Alan Hobart
Charles White-Eagle ... The Brujo, Hindris Indian
Drew Barrymore ... Margaret Jessup
Megan Jeffers ... Grace Jessup
Jack Murdock ... Hector Orteco
Francis X. McCarthy ... Obispo (as Frank McCarthy)
Deborah Baltzell ... Schizophrenic Patient
Evan Richards ... Young Rosenberg
Altered States is a 1980 science fiction film adaptation of a novel by the same name by playwright and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. It was the only novel that Chayefsky ever wrote, as well as his final film. Both the novel and the film are based on John C. Lilly's sensory deprivation research conducted in isolation tanks under the influence of psychoactive drugs like LSD.
The film was directed by Ken Russell and starred the yummy William Hurt in his screen debut. It also starred Blair Brown (as Emily Jessup), Charles Haid and Bob Balaban. It additionally featured the film debut of Drew Barrymore. The film score was composed by classical composer John Corigliano (with Christopher Keene conducting) and was nominated for an Academy Award. The film also received an Oscar nomination for Sound, losing to The Empire Strikes Back.
Russell claims the film was first offered to Spielberg, Kubrick, Sidney Pollack, Robert Wise, Welles, Scorsese, Fred Zimmerman, Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, de Palma, Bertolucci, Boorman, Tarkovsky, Irwin Kirshner, Coppola, Polanski, Dick Lester, Michael Winner, Sidney Lummet, Dick Donner, George Lucas, Roeg, Schlesinger, Truffaut, Zeffirelli, Bryan Forbes then Ken Russell.
The film's original director was Arthur Penn, who resigned after a dispute with Chayefsky. Special effects expert John Dykstra also resigned. Chayefsky later withdrew his name from the project; film critic Janet Maslin, in her review of the film, thought it "easy to guess why":
It's easy to guess why he and Mr. Russell didn't see eye to eye. The direction, without being mocking or campy, treats outlandish material so matter-of-factly that it often has a facetious ring. The screenplay, on the other hand, cries out to be taken seriously, as it addresses, with no particular sagacity, the death of God and the origins of man.
Film critic Richard Corliss attributed Chayefsky's disavowal of the film to distress over "the intensity of the performances and the headlong pace at which the actors read his dialogue."
This one has everything: sex, violence, comedy, thrills, tenderness. It's an anthology and apotheosis of American pop movies: Frankenstein, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Nutty Professor, 2001, Alien, Love Story. It opens at fever pitch and then starts soaring—into genetic fantasy, into a precognitive dream of delirium and delight. Madness is its subject and substance, style and spirit. The film changes tone, even form, with its hero's every new mood and mutation. It expands and contracts with his mind until both almost crack. It keeps threatening to go bonkers, then makes good on its threat, and still remains as lucid as an aerialist on a high wire. It moves with the loping energy of a crafty psychopath, or of film makers gripped with the potential of blowing the moviegoer's mind out through his eyes and ears. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Altered States.
Academy Awards, USA
1981 Nominated Oscar Best Music, Original Score John Corigliano
1981 Nominated Oscar Best Sound Arthur Piantadosi Les Fresholtz Michael Minkler Willie D. Burton
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA
1981 Won Saturn Award Best Make-Up Dick Smith Tied with Dick Smith for Scanners (1981).
1981 Nominated Saturn Award Best Director Ken Russell
1981 Nominated Saturn Award Best Science Fiction Film
1981 Nominated Saturn Award Best Writing Paddy Chayefsky (as Sidney Aaron)
Golden Globes, USA
1981 Nominated Golden Globe New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture - Male William Hurt