David Grindley has stepped down as director of the premiere stage adaptation of the 1988 Oscar-winning film Rain Man, in which Hollywood screen star Josh Hartnett (pictured) will make his West End debut (See News, 1 Jul 2008). Grindley has been replaced - at the beginning of rehearsals, which started this month - by director-playwright Terry Johnson. The production will open at the West End’s Apollo Theatre, as scheduled on 9 September 2008 (previews from 28 August) for a limited season to 20 December.

In a statement, producer Nica Burns - who has previously worked with Johnson on a number of productions including the Whatsonstage.com Award-winning revival of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest starring another Hollywood heartthrob, Christian Slater – said today: “Director David Grindley sadly had to withdraw for family reasons. Following discussions with David and members of the cast, all roads led to one director. We are lucky that Terry Johnson was able to step in … The production schedule remains unchanged and all our good wishes go with David.”

Johnson has directed Hartnett’s co-star, British actor Adam Godley, in his own play Cleo, Camping, Emmanuel and Dick at the National and in the film Cor, Blimey!, and has previously met Harnett and collaborated with several other members of the cast.

Josh Hartnett is Charlie Babbitt, played on screen by Tom Cruise, with Adam Godley as Raymond, the part for which Dustin Hoffman won a Best Actor Oscar. 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.

The full cast of Rain Man, now confirmed, also features Colin Stinton (The Graduate, Man and Boy, The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? on stage) as Dr Breuner and Mary Stockley (The Common Pursuit, Anything Goes, Merrily We Roll Along) as Susan, as well as Charles Daish and Tilly Blackwood.

Rain Man is adapted by Dan Gordon 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. The film won four Academy Awards in total, including Best Picture.

- by Terri Paddock