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This article was prepared for the December 19, 2001 edition
of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
At the Movies
Universal Pictures has joined the ranks of those
who call John Forbes Nash Jr. "a living legend." Nash,
denizen of the Princeton University campus, was awarded the Nobel
Prize in 1994 for his inspired, youthful work on game theory which
overturned 150 years of economic wisdom.
Here in Princeton, his legendary status grew over decades. Students
in the 1960s knew him as "Woody," an odd, middle-aged
who could be spotted striding aimlessly across campus, often dressed
in more than one plaid and wearing brightly colored sneakers, who
used tree trunks to knock the ash off his cigar.
"A Beautiful Mind," a feature film that claims only to be
"inspired by events in the life of mathematician John Forbes Nash
Jr.," opens on Tuesday, December 25, at the Garden Theater. A
benefit showing for Mercer affiliate of the National Alliance for
the Mentally Ill (NAMI) will take place on Sunday, January 6, and
includes an award dinner honoring Nash (call 609-777-9766).
The film’s creative team, producer Brian Grazer and director Ron
had spent years looking for a project that would allow them to tell
the story of a brilliant individual who battles and conquers mental
illness. Nash’s unlikely story of a math genius struck down at 30
by paranoid schizophrenia, who yet recovered to work again, first
came to Grazer’s attention by way of a Vanity Fair article by Sylvia
Nasar, author of the Nash biography, "A Beautiful Mind,"
Although the film’s writer, Akiva Goldsman, took the broad outline
of Nash’s life from the Nasar’s book, he constructed a fictional
of maths and mathematicians of the post-World War II era. The choice
of Russell Crowe, star of immensely successful "Gladiator,"
to play the embattled mathematician is a sure touch of poetic justice.
Jennifer Connelly plays his equally heroic wife, Alicia Larde Nash,
to whom many attribute Nash’s eventual recovery. Also featured in
the cast are Ed Harris, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Judd Hirsch,
Josh Lucas, Anthony Rapp, and Christopher Plummer.
The film, which takes the audience from Nash’s arrival in Princeton
in 1947 to the Nobel Prize award ceremony almost 50 years later, was
shot here over three months this spring. Other New Jersey sites
the Garden State Cancer Center, Military Ocean Terminal in Bayonne,
Fairleigh Dickinson University, and the New Jersey Performing Arts
Center. The MIT section of the story was shot at sites in New York
that included Bronx Community College and Manhattan College.
John and Alicia Nash were first married in Washington in 1957, but
divorced in 1963 as a result of Nash’s illness. They were married
for the second time on June 1, 2001, at a ceremony performed by Mayor
Carole Carson in West Windsor, where they have lived together since
1970. They are the parents of 42-year-old John Charles Martin Nash
(known as Johnny), also of West Windsor. A born mathematician, he
earned a Ph.D. from Rutgers in 1985 without receiving a high school
or college diploma. Nash is also the father of John David Stier, born
in 1953 to a woman with whom Nash had a relationship when he was on
the MIT faculty.
Nash’s own view of his mental illness is contained in
a brief autobiography he wrote upon receiving the Nobel Prize and
included in "The Essential John Nash," edited by Princeton
University mathematician Harold W. Kuhn, a longtime friend of Nash,
and biographer Sylvia Nasar, and published this year by Princeton
"The mental disturbances originated in the early months of 1959
at a time when Alicia happened to be pregnant. And as a consequence
I resigned my position as a faculty member at M.I.T. and, ultimately,
after spending 50 days under `observation’ at the McLean Hospital,
traveled to Europe and attempted to gain status there as a refugee.
"I later spent times of the order of five to eight months in
in New Jersey, always on an involuntary basis and always attempting
a legal argument for release . . . In the later ’60s I became a person
of delusionally influenced thinking but of relatively moderate
and thus tended to avoid hospitalization and the direct attention
Nash continues his academic pursuits. "Statistically, it would
seem improbable that any mathematician or scientist, at the age of
66, would be able through continued research efforts, to add much
to his or her previous achievements," he wrote in 1994.
I am still making the effort and it is conceivable that with the gap
period of about 25 years of partially deluded thinking providing a
sort of vacation my situation may be atypical. Thus I have hopes of
being able to achieve something of value through my current studies
or with any new ideas that come in the future."
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