The 1995 classic follows the titular character, Glenn Holland, through life during his “fall back” career – teaching music.
The film touches on significant pop culture events through the generations, incorporating snippets of flashbacks from the 60s through the 90s. A profound music lover, Mr. Holland spends what free time he finds composing a symphony that becomes near legend by the end of the film. And for a man who relies so heavily on music to carry him through his life, the real crescendo of the film is Mr. Holland’s relationship with his son, Cole, who is diagnosed hard of hearing as a toddler.
Mr. Holland’s Opus becomes less an orchestrated piece of music, but rather a poignantly painted metaphor on becoming something you never thought you could be. As John Lennon promised: Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
Here are some fun facts about the film.
1.Richard Dreyfuss’ portrayal of Glenn Holland landed him an Oscar nod for Best Actor
At the 1996 Academy Awards, Dreyfuss scored his second nomination for Best Actor. However, it was Nicolas Cage who won for his role in Leaving Las Vegas
2. According to IMDB, every person in the film that portrayed a character who was hard of hearing, was also hard of hearing in real life.
This includes Coletrain “Cole” Holland, Glenn’s son. Joseph Anderson and Anthony Natale, who play Cole (at 15 and 28 years old), are both hard of hearing.
3.Actress Glenne Headly (who played Glenn’s wife, Iris) actually learned American Sign Language so she could fluently communicate with the hard of hearing actors.
After her passing in 2017, Dreyfuss told Hollywood Reporter that her total devotion to her characters was “inspiring”. He recalled the heated, climatic scene in Opus, when an emotional Iris pleads with Glenn to help her communicate with her son. Dreyfuss said: “Glenne let it all out, and it was so emotionally enormous and truthful,” adding, “It was so loaded with love and loss and anguish. It was incredible to see her do that.”
4.Michael Kamen won the 1997 Best Instrumental Arrangement Grammy for “An American Symphony (Mr. Holland’s Opus)”.
“The score calls for two flutes, one oboe, one English horn, two clarinets in B-flat, one bass clarinet in B-flat, two bassoons, one contrabassoon; six horns in F, three trumpets in B-flat, three tenor trombones, one bass trombone, one tuba; a percussion section with timpani, drum kit, suspended cymbal, bass drum, cymbals, tam-tam, glockenspiel and wind chimes; one electric guitar and one bass guitar; one piano; one harp and strings.”
5.There’s much in the film about John Lennon – including a major pivotal plot moment referencing Lennon’s death in 1980, and Glenn’s performance of “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” dedicated to Cole.
What’s super cool is Julian Lennon’s contribution to the movie. He performs the main them “Cole’s Song” on the soundtrack.
6.Glenn famously tells Principal Jacobs (played by the incomparable Olympia Dukakis) that he will use anything from “Beethoven to Billie Holiday to rock and roll” if it helps him teach a student to love music. In real life, Dreyfuss isn’t a huge fan of rock music.
He told Rotten Tomatoes: “As a matter of fact, I’m very impatient with music. I think the fact that, since 1950, rock and roll is still the center of our musical creation is weird. It’s basically 50, 60, 70 years of music unchanging. You can’t say that about Cole Porter or Broadway musicals. You just can’t say it. It’s time for another Bob Dylan. When Bob Dylan appeared on the scene, the world changed. We need a world changer, a game changer. I couldn’t tell you what it was; I’m not that musically oriented. But there are musicians who I’ve talked to who absolutely nod vigorously when I say this, and they all agree that, “Alright already.” The electric guitar is the central sound of our musical society, and enough already.”
7.Jean Louisa Kelly (who played Rowena Morgan) is actually a very talented actress and singer, and did, in fact perform all of her own singing and dancing in the film.
8.To prepare for his role as the piano-playing teacher-rock star, Glenn Holland, Richard Dreyfuss took up piano lessons with Jean Evensen Shaw for four months ahead of filming – practicing a reported four hours a day.
That’s been your music lesson for the day. Now, go watch the film. It’s streaming on Disney+.