On the 1st of January in 1900, Danny Boodmann (Bill Nunn), the mechanic of the transatlantic liner Virginian bound for America, finds an abandoned baby on board and decides to keep him. Nicknamed Novecento (1900), the boy grows up on the ship hidden from everyone. His presence is revealed when Danny dies in an accident. The young '1900' manages to hide again despite threats from the captain. Discovering a passion for music, he teaches himself to play the piano without being able to read the notes, and he soon becomes a virtuoso whose reputation spreads beyond the confines of the ship. Even the famous jazz piano player, Jelly Roll Morton (Clarence Williams III), gets on board for a challenge because he has heard rumors about the greatest piano player in the world living on a ship. The story is told by Max Tooney, Novocento's old trumpeter friend, who reminisces about the incredible pianist who never set foot on land. After two films about cinema, Giuseppe Tornatore comes up with the story of a highly imaginative artist who lives only for and through his art. Tornatore was inspired by a theatre monologue written in 1994 by Alessandro Baricco, and the film was shot partly in Odessa, on a sixty-year-old Russian freighter, and partly in the Cinecitta studios in Rome. Tim Roth's performance as the talented but reserved Novocento is remarkable, and the music of Ennio Morricone plays a vital role in the film. La leggenda del pianista sull'oceano, which was retitled The Legend of 1900 for US distribution after forty-five minutes have been cut, was originally two hours and forty minutes when it was shown to great success in Italy in autumn of 1998. The US version had its world premiere at the 1999 Locarno International Film Festival.