Worth A Look: 39.84%
Just Average: 3.13%
Pretty Crappy: 0%
10 reviews, 68 user ratings
Russell Crowe is amazing. Al Pacino is amazing. Baron Von Trapp, I mean, Christopher Plummer is amazing. READ ON!The Oscar® buzz is already ablaze over Michael Mann’s latest film, The Insider, starring Al Pacino (Heat, Serpico), Russell Crowe (L.A. Confidential, Mystery, Alaska), and Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, Dolores Claiborne). An explosive depiction of the events surrounding Dr. Jeffrey Wigand’s (Crowe) decision to become the reluctant advocate for the public’s right to know and the subsequent aftermath resulting from his declarations, The Insider is the culmination of an intense blending of all the right actors in all the right roles with all the right lines.
"I'm waiting for the sequel - The Outsider...."
Terminated from his $300,000+ year job and eventually settling into a $30,000 year job as a high school teacher, Wigand (who was forced to sign an onerous confidentiality agreement post-termination) watched his entire life crumble away including his career, home and marriage amidst death threats and pending lawsuits. Wigand’s knowledge of the inner workings of the tobacco industry combined with his heightened morality made him a very dangerous man to those in the “nicotine delivery business."
Pursued and cajoled by 60 Minutes producer Bergman (Pacino), Wigand agrees to a taped interview with Mike Wallace (Plummer) as well as agreeing to being deposed by the State of Mississippi for their suit against the tobacco industry. Once doing so, Wigand’s world further crumbles amongst threats of incarceration, CBS’ reluctance to air the piece and a national smear campaign that would portray Wigand as an abusive husband, shoplifter, and alcoholic.
Pacino, who takes on the role of producer Lowell Bergman is always intense on screen, but is light-hearted and playful off it. Regaling a production tale, Pacino says, “In the end, when he (Bergman) walks out, I thought, when he goes through the revolving doors, I’ll light up a cigarette. It’s on film, I wanted it in the film but I think it might have taken away from the impact.”
When the real Lowell Bergman heard who would be portraying him in the film he only had one thing to say, "Far out!" Bergman has spoken to Mike Wallace during this past year, but continues to work for PBS and denies any allegations that he begged Wallace (as was reported in The Washington Post) for a job at 60 Minutes II.
The buzz is also ablaze at CBS and the offices of 60 Minutes, but it’s not about the Oscars. While 60 Minutes prides itself on uncovering the truth and telling both sides of the tale, they seem to be less than enthusiastic about bringing to light this dark point in its otherwise decades of respectable and thorough investigative journalism.
Christopher Plummer does an amazing turn as Mike Wallace. While he still looks like an older version of the patriarch of the Von Trapp family, Plummer, who has always been a fan of 60 Minutes, was able to mimic the nuances of Wallace well enough to be believable in the role. Always the skilled and capable actor, Plummer gets one of the best lines in the film as he explodes at a CBS lawyer for editing his piece. He shouts, “I don’t plan to spend the end of my days wandering in the wilderness of National Public Radio!” You go Wallace, I mean, Plummer.
The 35-year old Crowe, born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, speaks with a thick Australian lilt. Coupled with intense blue eyes and a winning smile, he could make any female of any species swoon. When asked about his expert turn at incorporating the cadences of the real Dr. Wigand, Crowe says, “I found out a long time ago if I’m going to do an accent it’s really good to have someone around because I have lots of other things to think about, you know? Especially after the ‘action!’ You want to put certain key elements into your head so you’re not searching for that stuff. It's just apparent and you know it really well."
To make himself look like the 50+ year-old Wigand, Crowe put on 30 pounds, donned on oversized aviator glasses, and eventually had to shave his head in order to fit the hairpiece that would transform him into Dr. Wigand. He even learned to speak Japanese for a scene and while he pronounces it perfectly, he didn’t understand what he was saying. Ever the perfectionist, Crowe also spent hours practicing his golf swing for a brief scene in the film.
In discussing the tobacco industry, Crowe goes on to say, "What is added to tobacco is some ways criminally irresponsible, I think. To take additives that have only been tested in a dry form, mix it with tobacco where it's going to be ingested in a burnt form… In terms of chemistry it's a vast difference. It's like saying salt in dry form is the same as salt in a pile of water or worse still, burning salt." While both Eric Roth and Michael Mann both quit smoking after writing this script, Crowe admits he still indeed smokes. “I never accused myself of being smart,” Crowe says.
Since his portrayal as Bud White in L. A. Confidential, Crowe (who plays in the band “30 Odd Foot of Grunts” and can be seen at The Viper Room from time to time) has worked with some top-notch directors. When asked about the differences between working with Jay Roach (Mystery, Alaska) and Michael Mann, Crowe, shaking his head, replied in his Aussie brogue, “It’s chalk and cheese there, mate.”
The really Jeffrey Wigand is extremely intelligent and equally complex. Eerily, Wigand resembles the late J. T. Walsh, who perhaps may have been cast in the role had not been for his untimely death. While reluctant to be an advocate as his prestigious life and career began to disintegrate, Wigand has embraced his role as an advocate for public health and safety, even going so far as to create his own foundation, Smoke-Free Kids, to teach children about the dangers of tobacco.
"I had what I would consider some moral compass issues. After about ten months (working for B&W), I was uncomfortable, but I had a wife, two young kids, a house, a mortgage. I just didn't want put all that at risk. I stayed there (for four years and four months at Brown & Williamson)," Wigand confesses.
The additive in question is called coumarin. Wigand explains. "Coumarin has a very aromatic sweet flavor. It also masks foul odors. They took it out of their cigarette products because it was pathotoxic in dogs. They had to disclose this issue to the FDA, but they did not take it out of their pipe tobacco products because they did not have to disclose it."
Speaking of his days at B&W, Wigand goes on to say, "I never saw a lawyer who ever participated in a meeting. People were ordered to change the minutes of the meeting to remove… context or discussion because it was controversial or could be embarrassing in litigation. (They took) twenty-odd some pages of notes that dealt with environmental tobacco smoke, a safer cigarette, genetic engineering, nicotine analogs to two-and-a-half pages of vanilla and never been at the meeting."
While the media labels Wigand as a "high level whistleblower," Wigand adamantly states, "I do not like the moniker of a 'whistleblower.' I do not like the moniker of a 'hero.' There are lots of ordinary people in extraordinary times doing extraordinary things."
What turned out to be a grueling four-hour deposition in Pascagoula, Mississippi was only a prelude to what Wigand would face while giving testimony during the trial. "I spent fourteen days in cross-examination. I had thirty lawyers and the tobacco industry on one side and two lawyers on the other side. I felt that was even."
In the end, Wigand won. “My vindication came on June 20th, 1997 (When the tobacco industry dropped their lawsuit and restraining order on Wigand as well as agreeing to a $246 billion settlement.) All the subsequent documents and testimony that came out clearly had irrefutably validated what I have said.”
In terms of the movie, Wigand goes on to say, "It's clearly also a movie about corporate malfeasance. Let's not lose sight of that. It's also an issue of First Amendment rights and freedom of speech, what lengths will somebody goes through to suppress the truth."
Finally comfortable in his suit of dented and battle-worn armour, Wigand can now sit back and even critique the actor that portrays him. “Russell’s done a magnificent job,” says Wigand. “He (Crowe) wanted to do this in a way that was very viable and he’s lived up to that.” As for life after Brown & Williamson? "Everyday is great now," says Wigand.
While much of this film (based on Marie Brenner’s Vanity Fair 1996 article, “The Man Who Knew Too Much”) is dramatized and some liberties were taken to condensed the events to fit into a 150-minute movie, most of the facts remain intact. The result are intense performances by Crowe, Pacino, and Plummer made majestic under the direction of Michael Mann.The film should garner several Oscar® nods including Best Actors nods for Pacino and Crowe, Best Supporting Actor for Plummer, Best Director for Mann, and Best Screenplay Adapted for Film.
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originally posted: 12/14/99 17:32:20