When the two men parted, Mr Peek senior claims, the star was so profoundly moved that he rubbed noses with the real-life Rain Man (Kim's habitual way of showing affection) and told him, Peek says: 'I may be the star - but are the heavens.' This week, therefore, when it was announced that Kim Peek had died suddenly of a heart attack, aged only 58, his father says he expected Hoffman to send his condolences, at least.Though he has received hundreds of sympathy messages, however, he has heard nothing from the star.

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Kim was duly thanked, both in the film's credits and by Hoffman himself during his acceptance speech after winning an Oscar for Best Actor.

Soon afterwards, remem-bering Morrow's entreaty, his father began touring the country with his son on public speaking engagements.

His talents were so amazing that studio bosses thought they beggared belief, however, and Morrow's original film script was extensively rewritten to make it more believable, and bears little relation to Kim's life.

Hoffman also later stated that his characterisation was largely based on another man, Peter Guthrie, whose behaviour he studied.

Until then, Kim had lived reclusively with his family in Salt Lake City, but Morrow urged his father to show his son's talents to the world.

Nearly five years passed before Rain Man was released to huge acclaim, in December, 1988.

While Hoffman did, indeed, meet Kim Peek, says the source, he barely recalls their encounter, which was one of several character studies he arranged before filming.

He denies he would ever have said the quotable: 'I may be the star - but are the heavens.' Moreover, Fran Peek's insistence that his son provided the model for Raymond Babbitt's character was spurious.

Instead, an unedifying war of words has broken out between the grieving Mr Peek, 83, who accuses Hoffman of shunning his treasured son, and the actor's camp who say Kim's influence on the film project has been grossly overplayed. The origins of the dispute date back a quarter of a century to 1984, when Hollywood scriptwriter Barry Morrow met Kim Peek at a meeting of the Association of Retarded Citizens in Texas, and was astonished by his great brainpower.

After discovering that Kim, then 33, was able to reel off every address in the 50 states of America, complete with zip codes, he decided to write a movie based around his phenomenal gifts.

Hoffman was paid .8 million for the film, plus a percentage of its gross earnings, which topped 2 million at the box office and have multiplied many times with video sales and TV repeats. The film people did send ,000 to be put in trust for Kim.