Directed by Penny Marshall, the film was produced by Walter Parkes and Lawrence Lasker, who first encountered Sacks's book as undergraduates at Yale University and optioned it a few years later. Awakenings stars Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, Julie Kavner, Ruth Nelson, John Heard, Penelope Ann Miller, and Max Von Sydow. The film features a non-speaking cameo from jazz legend Dexter Gordon who appears as a patient and then-unknowns Bradley Whitford, Peter Stormare, and Vincent Pastore play a doctor, neurochemist, and psych-ward patient, respectively. Also, a then-unknown Vin Diesel was in the film playing a psych-ward orderly, but he was uncredited.
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