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Trivia / Ordinary People

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  • Award Category Fraud: One of the most outrageous examples in film history. Timothy Hutton won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, despite being the clear lead of the film.
  • Cast the Runner-Up: Donald Sutherland was initially approached to play Dr. Berger, but he persuaded Redford to cast him as Calvin instead, mostly because he found the character more relatable.
  • Playing Against Type: Mary Tyler Moore's portrayal of Beth as a cold Control Freak, on the heels of years of playing the appealing, slightly dippy Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, took a lot of people by surprise and earned Moore an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
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  • Reality Subtext: Timothy Hutton's father, actor Jim Hutton, passed away prior to filming. Hutton has said that he did not use his mourning as a basis for Conrad's depression. Also, Mary Tyler Moore's son Richie Meeker was killed accidentally during the year of the film's production, and Moore herself separated from her husband, producer Grant Tinker, during filming.
  • Referenced by...: In Knights of Buena Vista, Adriana and Dick find this movie to be a Tear Jerker In-Universe.
  • Throw It In!: While talking about Conrad's suicide attempt in his first meeting with Dr. Berger, Donald Sutherland stutters slightly just before finishing the line "I knew something was wrong, even before he tried to kill himself". Nobody noticed it when they filmed the scene.note  That stutter was an accident, but instead of ordering another take when watching dailies, Robert Redford decided to use it because he felt it was perfect.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Michael J. Fox auditioned for the role of Conrad Jarrett.
    • Lee Remick and Ann-Margret lobbied for the role of Beth, as did Robert Redford's close friend Natalie Wood (which is grimly ironic, given Wood's own drowning death a year later).
    • Judd Hirsch got the role of Dr. Berger after Gene Hackman turned it down. Richard Dreyfuss was originally considered for the role, but when Redford called him Dreyfuss said, "I can't talk to you right now, I'm having a nervous breakdown," and he hung up the phone.
    • Redford's first choice to play Calvin was Tom Skerritt. Funnily enough, Skerritt finally did get to play Timothy Hutton's father 30 years later in Leverage. Paramount originally wanted Redford to play the role, while Bruce Dern was among those considered.


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