Hollywood screen star Josh Hartnett will make his West End debut in the premiere stage adaptation of the 1988 Oscar-winning film Rain Man, which opens on 9 September 2008 (previews from 28 August) at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, where it’s booking for a limited season to 20 December.

Hartnett will play Charlie Babbitt, the part taken on screen by Tom Cruise, with British stage actor Adam Godley as Raymond, his autistic savant brother, the part for which Dustin Hoffman won a Best Actor at the Oscars. The film also numbered amongst its four Academy Awards the all-important prize of Best Picture.

Loving relationships are anathema to Charlie Babbitt, a self-centred Los Angeles-based car dealer and hustler. Raymond is the elder brother Charlie never knew he had, an autistic savant who’s been hidden away in an institution for most of his life. When Raymond is released into Charlie’s care, Charlie harnesses Raymond’s genius to save his business and the brothers embark on a rollercoaster journey beyond the hospital gates.

Hollywood pin-up Josh Hartnett is best known for films such as Pearl Harbour, Black Hawk Down and The Virgin Suicides. Commenting on Rain Man, which marks his professional stage debut, Hartnett said: “It has always been my intent to work on the London stage. While I’ve had many opportunities, it was only when I read the complex and charismatic character of Charlie Babbitt that I knew the time was right. I feel very fortunate to make my London bow … Can’t wait to live and work in London, a city I adore!”

Hartnett’s co-star Adam Godley is familiar to UK theatre audiences from Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick and Mouth to Mouth, both of which earned him Olivier nominations, as well as, more recently, The Pillowman, Paul, Two Thousand Years and Private Lives. His film credits include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

The adaptation is written by Dan Gordon whose own screenwriting credits include The Hurricane, Wyatt Earp, Murder in the First and Passenger 57. For the stage, Gordon has adapted Terms of Endearment, which toured the UK with Linda Gray last autumn (See News, 19 Jul 2007). His original play, Irena’s Vow, opens in New York in September starring Tovah Feldshuh. Prior to the UK, Rain Man was first seen in Israel.

Rain Man is directed by David Grindley and designed by Jonathan Fensom, with lighting by Jason Taylor. It’s produced by Nica Burns, Jane Walmsley, Michael Braham and Max Weitzenhoffer in association with MGM On Stage, Darcie Denker and Dean Stolber. Barry Morrow, the creator of the original film, based the character of Raymond on a real-life savant called Kim Peek, now in his 50s, who’s been the subject of TV documentaries and medical studies.

Currently at the Apollo, Peter Schaufuss dancical Divas has a brief engagement to 5 July (See News, 4 Apr 2008). No interim productions have been announced for the theatre.

- by Terri Paddock