Flash of Genius (2008)

Flash of Genius 2008tt1054588.jpg poster

  • IMDb page: Flash of Genius (2008)
  • Rate: 6.8/10 total 8,310 votes 
  • Genre: Biography | Drama
  • Release Date: 3 October 2008 (USA)
  • Runtime: USA:119 min | Canada:119 min (Toronto International Film Festival)
  • Filming Location: Convocation Hall, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Budget: $20,000,000(estimated)
  • Gross: $3,744,790(USA)(12 October 2008)
  • Director: Marc Abraham
  • Stars: Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham and Alan Alda
  • Original Music By: Aaron Zigman   
  • Soundtrack: Too Many Fish in the Sea
  • Sound Mix: SDDS | Dolby Digital | DTS
  • Plot Keyword: Professor | Engineer | Teacher | Justice | College

Writing Credits By:

  • Philip Railsback (written by)
  • John Seabrook (article "The Flash of Genius")

Known Trivia

  • The film’s title comes from the 1941 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Cuno Engineering Corp. v. Automatic Devices Corp. that suggested an invention had to reveal the “flash of creative genius” to be patentable. A new U.S. patent act took effect in 1952 that eliminated the “flash of creative genius” requirement by adding the provision that “Patentability shall not be negatived by the manner in which the invention was made.” In effect, the new provision recognized that patentable inventions can result from long toil and experimentation.
  • Marc Abraham submitted numerous revisions to the screenplay to Universal Studios chief Stacey Snider who repeatedly told him that the reason the script was a hard sell was because the character of Kearns was not likeable. Abraham stuck to his guns however, insisting that this made it more realistic (and having worked alongside the real Kearns for many years, he knew his subject). When Universal underwent a management change, his project finally received the greenlight.
  • Remained in theaters for only three weeks.
  • Kearns received many offers from Hollywood for his story over the years but he rejected them all as he didn’t trust anyone enough to tell his story properly. Eventually he was won over by Marc Abraham’s passion and his promise to keep to the facts as much as possible. The family provided documentation, photographs, home movies and anecdotes, while eldest son Dennis – now a lawyer – represented the family’s interests. All in all, the process of getting the Kearns story up onto the big screen took 9 years.
  • Greg Kinnear had the screenplay sitting on his nightstand for several months but didn’t think the subject matter warranted a read.
  • Today over 145 million cars carry the wipers that Kearns invented.
  • Marc Abraham asked Greg Kinnear to put on about 20lbs as his physique didn’t really resemble that of a college professor with 6 kids.
  • Many of the Toronto locations were found by the locations manager using Google Earth.
  • Alan Alda only worked 2 days.
  • Contrary to the court case depicted in the movie, Kearns was actually represented by professional lawyers in his case against Ford. It was in his subsequent, and ultimately more financially successful action against Chrysler, that he acted as his own lawyer.

Goofs: Anachronisms: When the invention is to be demonstrated to Ford, Kearns gets under the dash then shows a modern (blade type) fuse and says "It's just a fuse" – but the modern fuses were not in use in the 1960s.

Plot: Robert Kearns takes on the Detroit automakers who he claims stole his idea for the intermittent windshield wiper. Full summary »  »

Story: Based on the true story of college professor and part-time inventor Robert Kearns' long battle with the U.S. automobile industry, Flash of Genius tells the tale of one man whose fight to receive recognition for his ingenuity would come at a heavy price. But this determined engineer refused to be silenced, and he took on the corporate titans in a battle that nobody thought he could win. The Kearns were a typical 1960s Detroit family, trying to live their version of the American Dream. Local university professor Bob married teacher Phyllis and, by their mid-thirties, had six kids who brought them a hectic but satisfying Midwestern existence. When Bob invents a device that would eventually be used by every car in the world, the Kearns think they have struck gold. But their aspirations are dashed after the auto giants who embraced Bob's creation unceremoniously shunned the man who invented it…Written by Anonymous  


Synopsis: On his wedding night in 1953, an errant champagne cork rendered college professor of engineering Robert Kearns (Greg Kinnear) almost completely blind in his left eye. A decade later, happily married to Phyllis (Lauren Graham) and the father of six children, he is driving his Ford Galaxie through a light rain, and the constant movement of the wiper blades irritates his troubled vision. The incident inspires him to create a wiper blade mechanism modeled on the human eye, which blinks every few seconds rather than continuously.

With financial support from Gil Privick (Dermot Mulroney), Robert converts his basement into a laboratory and develops a prototype he tests in a fish tank before installing it in his car. He patents his invention and demonstrates it for Ford researchers, who had been working on a similar project without success, but won’t explain how it works until he hammers out a favorable deal with the corporation. Impressed with Robert’s results, executive Macklin Tyler (Mitch Pileggi) asks him to prepare a business plan detailing the cost of the individual units, which Robert intends to manufacture himself. Considering this to be sufficient commitment from the company, he rents a warehouse he plans to use as a factory, and forges ahead. He presents Ford with the pricing information it requested along with a sample unit, then waits for their response. Time passes, and when nobody contacts Robert, he begins placing phone calls that never are returned.

Frustrated, Robert crashes a Ford dealers convention at which the latest model of the Mustang is unveiled, promoting the intermittent wiper as a selling point. Realizing the company has used his idea without giving him credit or payment for it, Robert begins his descent into a despair so deep he boards a Greyhound bus and heads for Washington, D.C., where he apparently hopes to find legal recourse. Instead, Maryland state troopers remove him from the bus and escort him to a mental hospital, where he is treated for a nervous breakdown. Finally released when doctors decide his obsession has subsided, he returns home a broken man determined to receive public acknowledgment for his accomplishment. Thus begins years of legal battles, during which time he divorces his wife and becomes estranged from his children, all of whom eventually support him in a trial in which he represents himself after he decides attorney Gregory Lawson (Alan Alda)is not representing his best interests. Offered a $30 million settlement, with no admission of wrongdoing on Ford’s part, Robert decides to leave his fate in the hands of the jury, who determine Ford’s infringement was not deliberate but award him $10.1 million and the right to claim his invention as his own. He later sues the Chrysler Corporation and wins an $18.7 million judgment against them.

{tab=FullCast & Crew}

Produced By:

  • Gary Barber known as producer
  • Roger Birnbaum known as producer
  • Thomas A. Bliss known as executive producer
  • J. Miles Dale known as executive producer
  • Jonathan Glickman known as executive producer
  • Michael Lieber known as producer
  • Eric Newman known as executive producer

FullCast & Crew:

  • Greg Kinnear known as Bob Kearns
  • Tim Eddis known as Maryland Cop #1
  • Warren Belle known as Maryland Cop #2
  • Karl Pruner known as Pete
  • Bill Lake known as Scott
  • Dermot Mulroney known as Gil Previck
  • Lauren Graham known as Phyllis Kearns
  • Landon Norris known as Young Dennis
  • Shae Norris known as Young Kathy
  • Steven Woodworth known as Young Tim
  • Victoria Learn known as Young Maureen
  • Dylan Authors known as Young Patrick
  • Ronn Sarosiak known as Reverend
  • Gavin Kuiack known as Baby Bob Jr.
  • Ben Kuiak known as Baby Bob Jr.
  • Tom Rooney known as Jerry Barnley
  • Kate Parker known as Waitress
  • Andrew Gillies known as Paul Previck
  • Duane Murray known as Jim
  • Kate Greenhouse known as Jean Previck
  • Philip Nessel known as Club Member
  • Liam Titcomb known as Joe Warwick
  • Sal Scozzari known as Workman #1
  • Daniel Roebuck known as Frank Sertin
  • Mitch Pileggi known as Macklin Tyler
  • Richard Blackburn known as Executive One
  • Michael Spencer-Davis known as Real Estate Agent (as Michael Spencer Davis)
  • Michael Rhoades known as Salesman
  • Nicole Crozier known as Waitress #2
  • Sergio Di Zio known as Louis
  • Ashley Wright known as Security Officer
  • Jonathan Whittaker known as MC / Singer
  • Richard Fitzpatrick known as Barney Howell
  • Jared Durand known as Student
  • London Angelis known as Wade
  • Matthew Edison known as Nerdy Student
  • Kristian Truelsen known as Doctor
  • Simon Reynolds known as Angry Driver
  • Denis Akiyama known as Dr. Ito
  • Liam Wright known as Toddler Bob Jr.
  • Owen Wright known as Toddler Bob Jr.
  • Quancetia Hamilton known as Case Worker
  • Alan Alda known as Gregory Lawson
  • Aaron Abrams known as Ian Meillor
  • Jake Abel known as Dennis (21 Years)
  • Tim Kelleher known as Charlie Defao
  • Tatiana Maslany known as Older Kathy
  • Bill Smitrovich known as Judge Franks (as Bill Smitrovitch)
  • Conor O'Farrell known as Chris Finley
  • Isaac Lupien known as Bob Jr.
  • Grant Boyle known as Older Patrick
  • Ashton Doudelet known as Older Tim
  • Josette Halpert known as Older Maureen
  • Bruce Gooch known as Jury Foreman
  • Chuck Shamata known as Professor Irwin
  • Jim Chad known as Patron in Diner (uncredited)
  • TJ Cheslea known as Auto Show Patron (uncredited)
  • Dan Cristofori known as Student (uncredited)
  • David Guthrie known as Bartender (uncredited)
  • Kate Parr known as Peggy (uncredited)
  • David Webster known as Reporter (uncredited)

..{tab=Supporting Department}Makeup Department:

  • Kelly Brennan known as hair stylist
  • Linda Dowds known as makeup artist
  • Susan Hayward known as assistant makeup artist (uncredited)
  • Paul Jones known as prosthetics creator (uncredited)
  • Kelly Whetter known as assistant hair stylist (uncredited)

Art Department:

  • Deryck Blake known as property master
  • Brenton Brown known as on-set dresser
  • Jean-Pierre Charbonneau known as construction coordinator (as JP Charbonneau)
  • Itsuko Kurono known as second assistant art director
  • H. Nancy Pak known as art department coordinator
  • Douglas Slater known as first assistant art director
  • Michael Vanderteems known as greens key
  • George Venckus known as leadman
  • Toni Wong known as assistant property master
  • Colin Adams known as set dresser (uncredited)
  • Greg Chown known as storyboard artist (uncredited)
  • Rossana DeCampo known as key scenic artist (uncredited)
  • Danielle Fleury known as assistant set decorator (uncredited)
  • Paul Greenberg known as graphic designer (uncredited)
  • Tracey Strikwerda known as trainee assistant art director (uncredited)


Production Companies:

  • Universal Pictures (presents)
  • Spyglass Entertainment (presents)
  • Strike Entertainment
  • Intermittent Productions

Other Companies:

  • Abbey Road Studios  score recording studio
  • Act One Script Clearance  script research
  • Chapman/Leonard Studio Equipment  camera dollies
  • Company 3  digital intermediate
  • Dawgs Sound Design  sound
  • Elizabeth Bardsley & Associates  script annotation
  • Hand Prop  props supplied by
  • London Session Orchestra, The  orchestra (uncredited)
  • PIC Agency  titles (as PIC)
  • Reder & Feig  production legal counsel
  • Star Grazing  craft service
  • Todd-AO Studios  adr (as Todd AO)
  • Universal Studios Sound Facilities  sound re-recording facility (as Universal Studios Sound)
  • Varèse Sarabande  soundtrack
  • Wildfire Studios  additional adr


  • Kinowelt Filmverleih (2009) (Germany) (theatrical)
  • Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2009) (France) (theatrical)
  • Universal Pictures (2008) (USA) (theatrical)
  • Village Films (2008) (Greece) (theatrical)
  • Zon Lusomundo Audiovisuais (2010) (Portugal) (theatrical)
  • Argentina Video Home (2009) (Argentina) (DVD)
  • FS Film Oy (2009) (Finland) (all media)
  • Geneon Universal Entertainment (2009) (Japan) (DVD) (rental)
  • Universal Pictures Benelux (2009) (Netherlands) (DVD)
  • Universal Studios Home Entertainment (2009) (USA) (DVD)

..{tab=Other Stuff}

Special Effects:

  • Mr. X (visual effects)
  • Custom Film Effects (visual effects and opticals)
  • Acme F/X (special effects)

Visual Effects by:

  • Adnan Ahmed known as visual effects coordinator: Mr. X
  • Barb Benoit known as digital matte painter: Custom Fiulm Effects
  • Dennis Berardi known as visual effects executive producer: Mr. X
  • Anand Dorairaj known as compositor: Custom Film Effects
  • Mark Dornfeld known as visual effects supervisor: Custom Film Effects
  • Michele Ferrone known as visual effects producer: Custom Film Effects
  • Adam Gass known as digital editorial
  • Paulina Kuszta known as visual effects coordinator: Custom Film Effects
  • Sarah McMurdo known as visual effects producer: Mr. X
  • Daniel Mizuguchi known as animation supervisor: Custom Film Effects
  • Daniel Mizuguchi known as pre-vis supervisor: Custom Fuilm Effects
  • Matt Schofield known as digital matte painter: Custom Fulm Effects
  • David Thompson known as compositor: Custom Film Effects
  • Aaron Weintraub known as visual effects supervisor: Mr. X
  • Ryan Beadle known as digital I/O (uncredited)
  • Sarah Coatts known as visual effects producer: PIC (uncredited)
  • David Fix known as senior systems administrator: Mr. X Inc (uncredited)
  • Matt Glover known as visual effects production assistant (uncredited)
  • Sarah Grieshammer known as digital compositor (uncredited)
  • Shaina Holmes known as digital compositor (uncredited)
  • Safia Siad known as visual effects production assistant (uncredited)
  • Amani Williams known as digital compositor (uncredited)

Release Date:

  • Canada 7 September 2008 (Toronto International Film Festival)
  • USA 3 October 2008
  • Greece 6 November 2008 (Athens)
  • Israel 8 January 2009
  • Finland 9 January 2009
  • Australia 26 February 2009
  • Ireland 20 March 2009
  • UK 20 March 2009
  • Iceland 17 April 2009 (Green Light Film Festival)
  • Spain 8 May 2009
  • France 27 May 2009
  • Germany 25 June 2009
  • Poland 26 June 2009
  • Italy 7 August 2009
  • Hungary 10 August 2009 (DVD premiere)
  • Argentina 19 August 2009 (DVD premiere)
  • Netherlands 15 September 2009 (DVD premiere)
  • Japan 6 November 2009 (DVD premiere)
  • Portugal 13 May 2010

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for brief strong language


Filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database

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