Prior to this breakout film, director David Lynch was a cult figure, whose only previous film was the bizarre cult favorite Eraserhead. Elephant Man was in many respects a longer, more accessible, better plotted version of Eraserhead, underlining Lynch's fascination with physical freaks and sporting the same strange atmospherics, including the constant background noise of humming and hissing machinery. John Hurt sensitively plays the title role, based on a true story about a severely deformed man in late 19th century London who becomes the star of a freak show and the toast of society. Anthony Hopkins's role firmly established his career, and the film did the same for Lynch, who became a cultural hot property. Stark and unforgiving, Elephant Man promotes Lynch's vision of a society at odds with its members. The film received eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, though it won none of them.