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The Insider (film)

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The Insider (film)

The Insider
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Mann
Produced by Pieter Jan Brugge
Michael Mann
Screenplay by Eric Roth
Michael Mann
Based on The Man Who Knew Too Much 
by Marie Brenner
Music by Pieter Bourke
Lisa Gerrard
Cinematography Dante Spinotti
Edited by William Goldenberg
David Rosenbloom
Paul Rubell
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • November 5, 1999 (1999-11-05)
Running time
157 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $90 million
Box office $60,289,912

The Insider is a 1999 American drama film directed by Michael Mann, based on the true story of a 60 Minutes segment about Jeffrey Wigand, a whistleblower in the tobacco industry.[1] The 60 Minutes story originally aired in November 1995 in an altered form because of objections by CBS' then-owner, Laurence Tisch, who also controlled the Lorillard Tobacco Company. The story later aired in a complete and uncensored form on February 4, 1996.

Produced by Touchstone Pictures, the film stars Al Pacino and Russell Crowe, with Christopher Plummer, Bruce McGill, Diane Venora, Michael Gambon, Philip Baker Hall, Lindsay Crouse, Gina Gershon, Debi Mazar, and Colm Feore in supporting roles.

The script was adapted by Eric Roth and Mann from Marie Brenner's Vanity Fair article "The Man Who Knew Too Much".

It was nominated for seven Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Russell Crowe), Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Sound and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published.


During a prologue that is not directly related to the main plot, CBS producer Lowell Bergman (Pacino) convinces the founder of Hezbollah, Sheikh Fadlallah, to grant an interview to Mike Wallace (Plummer) for 60 Minutes. While preparing for the interview, both Wallace and Bergman firmly stand their ground against the Sheikh's armed and hostile bodyguards' attempted intimidation and disruption.

In Louisville, Kentucky, Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe) leaves his office at the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company and returns home to his wife, Liane (Venora), and their two daughters. When Liane finds boxes in the back of Jeffrey's car, he distantly admits to her that Thomas Sandefur (Gambon), the CEO of the firm, has fired him.

Bergman, pursuing a tobacco-related story and seeking someone to translate leaked technical documents, is referred to Wigand by a friend at the FDA. Wigand agrees to interpret the documents but insists he cannot discuss anything further, citing a corporate confidentiality agreement; Bergman senses something worthy of investigation.

Wigand is later summoned to a meeting with Sandefur, who seeks to coerce him into signing a broader confidentiality agreement. A company lawyer threatens to terminate his severance pay and his family's health benefits, and file suit against him, if they believe he is writing in bad faith. Wigand angrily leaves, calling Bergman and accusing him of betrayal.

Bergman visits Wigand's house and vigorously denies revealing anything to B&W. Wigand, reassured, talks to Bergman about tobacco companies, and how the "Seven Dwarves" (the seven CEOs of the Big Tobacco companies) perjured themselves when they testified to Congress that they did not believe nicotine to be addictive. Wigand contrasts them with what he sees as the more conscientious healthcare companies he previously worked for, and concedes he feels hypocritical for believing he could assume scientific ideals while working for a tobacco company. Although apparently possessing very damaging information about B&W, Wigand is hesitant to do anything that might threaten his family's medical coverage.

At CBS News headquarters in New York City, Bergman and Wallace meet with a CBS lawyer who states that Wigand's confidentiality agreement, combined with the tobacco industry's unlimited checkbook, effectively silences him. Bergman suggests that if Wigand were compelled to testify in court against one or more of the Big Tobacco firms, Wigand may not suffer legal repercussions from being interviewed by CBS, as the information would already be on public record.

Bergman contacts Richard Scruggs (Feore), a private attorney representing the State of Mississippi against the tobacco industry, seeking reimbursement of Medicaid costs for treating smoking-related illnesses. Scruggs expresses interest in Bergman's idea, and asks him to arrange for Wigand to talk.

The Wigand family move into a more modest house in a different neighborhood, Wigand now teaching chemistry and Japanese at duPont Manual High School. One night Barbara, the older daughter, awakens Jeffrey because she has seen someone outside. Wigand finds a fresh human footprint in his newly planted garden, and receives a sinister phone call when he returns indoors.

Wigand and Bergman share dinner the following night, Bergman asking if Wigand has any incidents in his past which Big Tobacco might try to dig up and use to discredit him. Wigand reveals several such incidents but believes them to be irrelevant, and in frustration accuses Bergman of using him to profit from the public appetite for scandal. Bergman responds by comparing his history of personal integrity with Wigand's life of enriched corporate detachment, accusing him of using "cheap skepticism" to avoid deciding whether or not to proceed.

Some time later Wigand receives an emailed death threat against him and his family, and finds a bullet in his mailbox. He contacts the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) but the agents who attend are hostile, subtly accusing Wigand of emotional imbalance, questioning his gun ownership, and confiscating his computer. Bergman contacts an FBI official in Washington, DC, suggesting improper collusion between the agents and retired agents now employed by Brown & Williamson in corporate security. The official promises to investigate.

Wigand, enraged over the threats to his family, demands that Bergman arrange an interview immediately. In the interview he states that B&W intentionally makes their cigarettes more addictive, consciously ignoring health considerations in the interest of profit, and accuses Thomas Sandefur of perjuring himself before a congressional committee.

Later, Wigand calls Richard Scruggs and the two agree to meet to discuss the lawsuit. When Wigand returns home, he finds Lowell and a security detail of three men, whom Lowell has arranged. The Wigands suffer marital stress from the increased pressure.

During Wigand's journey to Mississippi to give his deposition, a functionary serves him with a temporary restraining order, served by a Kentucky court, prohibiting his testimony. Although the state judge in Mississippi refused to honor the order, everyone involved agrees that if Wigand testified in Mississippi, he could face arrest and jail for contempt when he returns to Kentucky. After long and intense introspection, Wigand decides to go to court anyway. After a display of courtroom fireworks among the attorneys, who include hostile representatives from B&W, Wigand is permitted to testify about the drug effects of nicotine. Although elated, Wigand discovers on his return to Louisville that Liane has left him, taking their daughters with her.

At the CBS News headquarters, Bergman, Wallace and Don Hewitt (Hall), the creator and executive producer of 60 Minutes, are summoned to a meeting with the legal counsel for CBS News, Helen Caperelli (Gershon). Caperelli invokes and describes a legal theory, called tortious interference: anyone who induces someone to break a legal agreement may be sued by the other party to that agreement for "interfering." By the theory, the more truth Wigand tells, the greater the chance of a lawsuit from B&W, and the greater the damage CBS may suffer.

Later, Eric Kluster (Tobolowsky), the president of CBS News, decides to omit Wigand's interview from the segment. Bergman vehemently objects, believing that tortious interference is a red herring: the real reason for the cut is that the executives fear that a potential multimillion-dollar lawsuit from B&W will jeopardize the pending sale of CBS to Westinghouse, risking a loss or reduction of profits to certain CBS stockholders who have substantial CBS shareholdings, including both Caperelli and Kluster. Wallace and Hewitt agree to edit the segment, leaving Bergman alone to advocate airing it uncensored.

In an attempt to discredit Wigand and his testimony, one or more of the members of Big Tobacco hire an investigator to turn over Wigand's personal history, passing their findings to the public-relations firm of John Scanlon (Torn), in New York City, which then publishes and circulates a 500-page dossier to various people in the news media.

Bergman obtains a copy of the document, and learns that The Wall Street Journal will soon use it as the basis of a piece questioning Wigand's credibility. Bergman believes the dossier to be a smear campaign, and arranges for Jack Palladino (playing himself), an attorney and investigator based in San Francisco, to evaluate the dossier. He presents the findings to the editor of the Journal, who agrees to delay the deadline for the story, and assigns two of his own reporters to examine Palladino's findings.

Nonetheless, infighting at CBS News about the segment prompts Hewitt to order Bergman to take an immediate "vacation." During this, the abridged 60 Minutes segment airs. With some difficulty, Bergman completes a telephone call to Wigand, who is both dejected and furious, and accuses Bergman of manipulation. Bergman defends his own motives and behavior, praising Wigand and his testimony.

Bergman is urged by Scruggs to air the interview with Wigand, their own lawsuit under threat by a lawsuit from the governor of Mississippi. Bergman is unable to offer any possibility of this, and privately questions his own motives in pursuing the story. Bergman's wife persuades him to press on, and he contacts an editor at The New York Times confirming that CBS corporate executives forced the withdrawal of the 60 Minutes interview with Wigand, disclosing the full story to the editor.

The next morning the story makes the front page of The New York Times, and a scathing editorial titled "Self-Censorship at CBS" condemns CBS, accusing them of "betraying the legacy of Edward R. Murrow".[2] The Wall Street Journal prints its analysis of the dossier, dismissing it as a largely unsubstantiated work of character assassination, and printing Wigand's deposition in its entirety.

Eventually 60 Minutes airs the original segment, including the full interview with Wigand.[3] Despite this, Bergman tells Wallace that he intends to resign from CBS, believing 60 Minutes' credibility and integrity has been permanently tarnished.

The film ends with text cards summarizing the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, and the careers of Wigand and Bergman after the events of the film.



When Mann was in post-production on Heat, Bergman was going through the events depicted in The Insider. Bergman discussed his trials and tribulations with Mann. The director knew of Bergman's reputation as a man of his word and was intrigued. They had met in 1989 and talked about a few projects but nothing happened. Over the years, the two men kept in touch, talking about Bergman's experiences and at one point Mann was interested in doing a movie on an arms merchant in Marbella that Bergman knew. Mann first conceived of what would become The Insider (then known only as "The Untitled Tobacco Project") between the Wigand-lite aired interview in November 1995 and February 1996, when the segment aired in its entirety and Bergman was asked to leave 60 Minutes.

With a budget set at $68 million, Mann began collecting a massive amount of documents to research the events depicted in the film: depositions, news reports and 60 Minutes transcripts. He had read a screenplay that Eric Roth had written, called The Good Shepherd, about the first 25 years of the CIA. Based on this script, Mann approached Roth to help him co-write The Insider. Mann and Roth wrote several outlines together and talked about the structure of the story. Roth interviewed Bergman numerous times for research and the two men became friends. After he and Mann wrote the first draft together, at the bar at the Broadway Deli in Santa Monica, Roth met Wigand. The whistle blower was still under his confidentiality agreement and would not break it for Roth or Mann. Roth's initial impressions of Wigand were that he came across as unlikable and defensive. As they continued to write more drafts, the two men made minor adjustments in chronology and invented some extraneous dialogue but also stuck strictly to the facts whenever possible. However, Mann and Roth were not interested in making a documentary.

Val Kilmer was considered by Mann for the role of Jeffrey Wigand. Producer Pieter Jan Brugge suggested Russell Crowe and after seeing him in L.A. Confidential, Mann flew Crowe down from Canada where he was in the middle of filming Mystery, Alaska on the actor's one day off and had him read scenes from The Insider screenplay for two to three hours. When Crowe read the scene where Wigand finds out that the 60 Minutes interview he did will not be aired, he captured the essence of Wigand so well that Mann knew he had found the perfect actor for the role. Crowe, who was only 33 years old at the time, was apprehensive at playing someone much older than himself when there were so many good actors in that age range. Once Crowe was cast, he and Mann spent six weeks together before shooting began, talking about his character and his props, clothes and accessories. Crowe put on 35 pounds for the role, shaved back his hairline, bleached his hair seven times and had a daily application of wrinkles and liver spots to his skin to transform himself into Wigand (who was in his early-to-mid-50s during the events depicted in the film). Crowe was not able to talk to Wigand about his experiences because he was still bound to his confidentiality agreement during much of film's development period. To get a handle on the man's voice and how he talked, Crowe listened repeatedly to a six-hour tape of Wigand.

Al Pacino was Mann's only choice to play Lowell Bergman. He wanted to see the actor play a role that he had never seen him do in a movie before. Pacino, who had worked with Mann previously in Heat, was more than willing to take on the role. To research for the film, Mann and Pacino hung out with reporters from Time magazine, spent time with ABC News and Pacino actually met Bergman to help get in character.

Pacino suggested Mann cast Christopher Plummer in the role of Mike Wallace. Pacino had seen the veteran actor on the stage many times and was a big fan of Plummer's work. Mann had also wanted to work with Plummer since the 1970s. Pacino told Mann to watch Plummer in Sidney Lumet's Stage Struck (1958), and afterwards he was the director's only choice to play Wallace—Plummer did not have to audition. He met with Mann and after several discussions was cast in the film.

Wigand requested a ban on cigarettes in the film. However, as the character Wigand enters the airport, shortly before receiving his subpoena, a woman in the background is seen smoking a cigarette, also, a Lebanese soldier is seen smoking briefly while Bergman is being transported to the Hezbollah meeting site.

For the scene in which the deposition hearing takes place, the filmmakers used the actual courtroom in Pascagoula, Mississippi where the real Wigand's deposition was given.

Michael Moore, the Attorney General for the state of Mississippi during the events of the film, plays himself in the movie.

During a scene where Wigand and Bergman are speaking in Wigand's car, a large clockface can be seen in the background. This is actually the Colgate Clock, located on the façade of the Colgate factory in Clarksville, Indiana, directly across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky, where the majority of the film was shot.


The Insider was adapted from "The Man Who Knew Too Much", an influential article on tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, written by journalist Marie Brenner for the May 1996 issue of Vanity Fair.[4]

Wallace, in particular, was upset that the film would not portray him in the most flattering way.[5]


Box office

The Insider was released in 1,809 theaters on November 5, 1999 where it grossed a total of $6,712,361 on its opening weekend and ranked fourth in the country for that time period. It went on to make $29.1 million in North America and $31.2 million in the rest of the world for a total of $60.3 million worldwide, significantly lower than its $90 million budget.[6] The film was considered to be a commercial disappointment. Disney executives had hoped that Mann's film would have the same commercial and critical success as All the President's Men, a film in the same vein. However, The Insider had limited appeal to younger moviegoers (studio executives reportedly said the prime audience was over the age of 40) and the subject matter was "not notably dramatic," according to marketing executives. Then-Disney chairman Joe Roth said, "It's like walking up a hill with a refrigerator on your back. The fact of the matter is we're really proud we did this movie. People say it's the best movie they've seen this year. They say, 'Why don't we make more movies like this?'"[7]

Critical response

Despite the disappointing box office reception, The Insider received near-unanimous critical praise, garnering some of the best reviews of 1999 and of Michael Mann's career. It holds a 96% "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 132 reviews[8] and an 84 metascore on Metacritic.[9] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and half out of four stars and praised "its power to absorb, entertain, and anger".[10] Newsweek magazine's David Ansen wrote, "Mann could probably make a movie about needlepoint riveting. Employing a big canvas, a huge cast of superb character actors and his always exquisite eye for composition, he's made the kind of current-events epic that Hollywood has largely abandoned to TV—and shows us how movies can do it better".[11] In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin praised Russell Crowe as "a subtle powerhouse in his wrenching evocation of Wigand, takes on the thick, stolid look of the man he portrays", and felt that it was "by far Mann's most fully realized and enthralling work".[12] Time magazine's Richard Corliss wrote, "When Crowe gets to command the screen, The Insider comes to roiled life. It's an All the President's Men in which Deep Throat takes center stage, an insider prodded to spill the truth".[13] Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers wrote, "With its dynamite performances, strafing wit and dramatic provocation, The Insider offers Mann at his best—blood up, unsanitized, and unbowed".[14] However, Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B" rating and felt that it was "a good but far from great movie because it presents truth telling in America as far more imperiled than it is".[15]


In 2006, Premiere ranked Crowe's performance #23 of the 100 Greatest Performances of All Time.[16] Eric Roth and Michael Mann won the Humanitas Prize in the Feature Film category in 2000.

American Film Institute recognition:

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
Academy Awards[18] March 26, 2000 Best Picture Michael Mann, Pieter Jan Brugge Nominated
Best Director Michael Mann Nominated
Best Actor Russell Crowe Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Michael Mann and Eric Roth Nominated
Best Cinematography Dante Spinotti Nominated
Best Film Editing William Goldenberg, Paul Rubell, David Rosenbloom Nominated
Best Sound Andy Nelson, Doug Hemphill, Lee Orloff Nominated
British Academy Film Awards April 9, 2000 Best Actor Russell Crowe Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association 2000 Best Actor Russell Crowe Won
Boston Society of Film Critics December 12, 1999 Best Supporting Actor Christopher Plummer Won
Golden Globe Awards January 23, 2000 Best Film - Drama Nominated
Best Director Michael Mann Nominated
Best Actor - Drama Russell Crowe Nominated
Best Original Score Pieter Bourke and Lisa Gerrard Nominated
Best Screenplay Michael Mann and Eric Roth Nominated
London Film Critics' Circle March 2, 2000 Best Actor Russell Crowe Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association December 1999 Best Film Won
Best Director Michael Mann Nominated
Best Actor Russell Crowe Won
Best Supporting Actor Christopher Plummer Won
Best Cinematography Dante Spinotti Won
National Society of Film Critics 2000 Best Actor Russell Crowe Won
Best Supporting Actor Christopher Plummer Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards March 12, 2000 Male Actor in a Leading Role Russell Crowe Nominated
Satellite Awards January 16,2000 Best Film - Drama Won
Best Director Michael Mann Won
Best Actor - Drama Russell Crowe Nominated
Al Pacino Nominated
Best Supporting Actor - Drama Christopher Plummer Nominated
Best Editing Nominated


The Insider (Music from the Motion Picture)
Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released October 26, 1999
Recorded 1999
Genre Soundtrack
Label Sony
Producer Lisa Gerrard and Pieter Bourke
Graeme Revell

Track listing

  1. "Tempest"--Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke—2:51 (from Duality)
  2. "Dawn of the Truth"—Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke—1:59
  3. "Sacrifice"—Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke—7:41 (from Duality)
  4. "The Subordinate"—Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke—1:17
  5. "Exile"—Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke—1:39
  6. "The Silencer"—Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke—1:38
  7. "Broken"—Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke—2:03
  8. "Faith"—Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke—3:01
  9. "I'm Alone on This"--Graeme Revell—2:02
  10. "LB in Montana"—Graeme Revell—0:50
  11. "Palladino Montage"—Graeme Revell—0:45
  12. "Iguazu"--Gustavo Santaolalla—3:12
  13. "Liquid Moon"—Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke—4:05
  14. "Rites" (special edit for the film)--Jan Garbarek—5:34
  15. "Safe from Harm (Perfecto Mix)"--Massive Attack—8:14
  16. "Meltdown"—Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke—5:40

Other music in the film

  • "Uotaaref Men Elihabek"—Casbah Orchestra
  • "Suffocate," "Hot Shots" and "Night Stop"—Curt Sobel
  • "Litany"--Arvo Pärt
  • "Smokey Mountain Waltz"—Richard Gilks
  • "Armenia"--Einstürzende Neubauten
  • "Two or Three Things"--David Darling

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Self-Censorship at CBS." The New York Times. November 12, 1995. Retrieved on October 9, 2014.
  3. ^ Transcript of the edited segment containing Wigand's interview
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Premiere's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time: 24-1
  17. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains Nominees
  18. ^

External links

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