‘My character isn’t exactly very nice to start with’: Chris Fountain stars in Rain Man at The Hawth

Chris Fountain
Chris Fountain

Chris Fountain steps into the Tom Cruise role as the stage version of Rain Man heads to The Hawth in Crawley from February 11-16.

In the Dustin Hoffman role opposite him, since the start of the run, has been Adam Lilley, stepping up from understudy after the originally cast Paul Nicholls had to pull out through illness.

Together they are relishing a play that challenges and touches.

When self-centred salesman Charlie Babbitt (Chris) discovers that his long-lost brother Raymond (Adam), an autistic savant with a genius for numbers, has inherited the family fortune, he sets out to get ‘his half’.

Charlie ‘borrows’ Raymond from the institution where he has spent most of his life, and the two brothers embark on a trip across America where Charlie soon discovers that Raymond is worth more than he could have ever imagined…

“The script that has been adapted for the stage is pretty close to the script for the film, and when the opportunity to read it came up, I grabbed it with both hands,” Chris says.

“My character… well, my character isn’t exactly very nice to start with. To start with he is just wanting to get the money, but then he starts to make a connection with his brother. Or he doesn’t realise the connection at first. To start with, he just sees him as a way to make money, to try to get what he sees as his half of the inheritance.

“My character Charlie didn’t get along with his father. His mother died when he was very young, and his father was always wanting to be the all-powerful type, trying to push him into things. He was just old money and didn’t have a grip on what Charlie wanted to do. They had a big fall-out and they didn’t see each other again. And Charlie didn’t even realise that he had a brother who was autistic. He just thought it was an imaginary friend that he had had. He only finds out later that he was real.

“The play is about the relationship between the two brothers and the journey of their discovery of their love for each other. Charlie is wanting the money and Raymond is in an institution and so he just steals him, but on the journey they go on, Raymond turns from being a hostage into being a brother that he loves.”

There is certainly a challenge in the acting: “Raymond never looks me in the eye throughout the whole show apart from once, which is quite a big moment. He never answers a question. Mostly he just says ‘Yeah’ or ‘I don’t know.’ To learn the lines was tough for me! Most of the time you would be picking up a cue as to what you say next from what the other actor is saying to you, but you don’t get that with this.”

Chris took the chance to see the stage play with the previous cast once he knew he was going to be doing it himself. As he says, some actors would deliberately avoid seeing it in those circumstances.

“But if you have got references that are going to be helpful to you, then I am all for it. Some people would not watch the film for the same reasons, but if I thought it was going to be helpful, I would watch it a hundred times. To see someone doing a great job at it will always be helpful. Obviously you are not just going to do a carbon copy, but it is great to get a few ideas for reference.”

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