In the late 1970s, a tender and emotional film about relationships and the effects of war came to the big screen in Coming Home.
Based on an original screenplay by Nancy Dowd, the film was directed by Hal Ashby and starred Jane Fonda, Jon Voight and Bruce Dern.
Fonda was the first to be cast for the film, but Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson and Sylvester Stallone had all been considered for the two male leading roles.
Fonda plays Sally Hyde, married to Captain Bob Hyde who is about to be deployed to Vietnam in 1968. He is focused on duty but she doesn’t have a focus. She now lives off-base and decides to volunteer at a VA Hospital.
Sally soon meets Luke Martin (Voight), a former high school friend, who has returned from the war as a paraplegic and is angry about the Vietnam War. The two become close friends and soon develop a relationship, as they both learn more about what they want in life.
As Voight sees a close friend commit suicide after returning from the war, he begins to protest regularly to prevent new recruits while Sally is in love with Luke but knows they must end the relationship when her husband is to return home.
When Bob returns, the threesome have to face harsh realities of each one’s changes because of the war.
Coming Home debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, where Voight won best actor. Released on February 15 1978 by United Artists, the film was an immediate critical success and was very popular at the box office. The film was made for US$3 million and grossed $36 million at the domestic box office.
The film was the first one produced by Fonda’s production company IPC Films, and was inspired by her relationship with Ron Kovic, a Vietnam War veteran and activist, who had just written his memoir, Born on the Fourth of July.
The film won three Academy Awards in 1979, including Best Actor for Voight, Best Actress for Fonda and Best Original Screenplay for Nancy Dowd along with Waldo Salt and Robert C. Jones. The film also garnered five other nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.