The Peter Bogdanovich-directed film Mask (1985) is based loosely on the real life story of Roy L. "Rocky" Dennis (1961-1978), who suffered from the rare sclerotic bone disease craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, also known as lionitis (due to the facial similarities of a lion). Children with the disease rarely live past the age of 10. Cher stars as Rocky's biker mother, Rusty Dennis. In the film, Rocky (played by Eric Stoltz) is a kind, sensitive boy who desires to spend a normal life despite his frightening appearance. Rusty earns the right for Rocky to attend a public junior high school, where he excels in his studies despite the principal's initial desire to assign him to a "special" class.
Rocky soon becomes a popular student who tutors his friends and earns awards for his scholastic skills. Rusty has a rocky home life with her on-again, off-again lover, Gar (Sam Elliott), and their biker pals, who treat Rocky like their own son. Rocky knows that his life will be a short one, and he has two main desires: to travel to Europe with his best friend; and to experience the love of a girl. Rocky eventually falls in love with a blind girl (Laura Dern) who he meets at a camp where he is a counselor. But her parents break off the relationship after their first look at Rocky, and when his friend cancels his plans to accompany Rocky to Europe, Rocky retreats to his bedroom with one of his regular, severe headaches, where Rusty finds him dead the next morning.
Cher won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance, and the movie won an Oscar for Best Makeup. The real Rocky's favorite musician, Bruce Springsteen, was slated to record the original soundtrack, but contractual problems prevented it. Springsteen's music was later added to the subsequent Director's Cut DVD.