About Schmidt (2002)

R | 124-125 mins | Comedy-drama | 20 December 2002

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Director:

Alexander Payne

Cinematographer:

James Glennon

Editor:

Kevin Tent

Production Designer:

Jane Ann Stewart

Production Company:

New Line Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

In the closing credits, the producers thank Childreach/Plan, Julie Ginsberg and Kathy Sheppard of the Omaha Film Commission Office, Laurie Richards of the Nebraska Film Commission Office, the Omaha Police and Fire Departments, Double Tree Guests Suites in central Omaha and Winnebago Industries. The closing credits also note that The Private Navy of Sergeant O'Farrell film clip was used courtesy of Pearson Tevlevision, "Guiding Light" footage appeared courtesy of Proctor & Gamble Productions, Inc., and "The Rush Limbaugh Show" outtakes were courtesy of Premiere Radio Networks. Intermittent narration by Jack Nicholson, as "Warren Schmidt," is heard throughout the film as Warren writes letters to "Ndugu."
       In Dec 1998, according to a DV news item, Columbia optioned Louis Begley’s novel About Schmidt with Alexander Payne attached as director. In Jul 2000, however, DV reported that Columbia had passed on the script, deeming it, according to a Sep 2002 Premiere article, “too depressing.” The DV article noted that Fox Searchlight and Universal had expressed interest in the script, but it was eventually acquired by New Line, and produced on an estimated budget of $30 million.
       As noted in the studio press materials, Payne had started writing a script entitled The Coward in film school, later completing it for Universal, which declined to buy the final screenplay. Years later, when Payne began collaborating with co-screenwriter Jim Taylor on the adaptation of About Schmidt , they planned to borrow certain elements from The Coward and “found themselves using more and more material from the earlier script, including Schmidt’s lengthy correspondence with Ndugu.” Many reviews ... More Less

In the closing credits, the producers thank Childreach/Plan, Julie Ginsberg and Kathy Sheppard of the Omaha Film Commission Office, Laurie Richards of the Nebraska Film Commission Office, the Omaha Police and Fire Departments, Double Tree Guests Suites in central Omaha and Winnebago Industries. The closing credits also note that The Private Navy of Sergeant O'Farrell film clip was used courtesy of Pearson Tevlevision, "Guiding Light" footage appeared courtesy of Proctor & Gamble Productions, Inc., and "The Rush Limbaugh Show" outtakes were courtesy of Premiere Radio Networks. Intermittent narration by Jack Nicholson, as "Warren Schmidt," is heard throughout the film as Warren writes letters to "Ndugu."
       In Dec 1998, according to a DV news item, Columbia optioned Louis Begley’s novel About Schmidt with Alexander Payne attached as director. In Jul 2000, however, DV reported that Columbia had passed on the script, deeming it, according to a Sep 2002 Premiere article, “too depressing.” The DV article noted that Fox Searchlight and Universal had expressed interest in the script, but it was eventually acquired by New Line, and produced on an estimated budget of $30 million.
       As noted in the studio press materials, Payne had started writing a script entitled The Coward in film school, later completing it for Universal, which declined to buy the final screenplay. Years later, when Payne began collaborating with co-screenwriter Jim Taylor on the adaptation of About Schmidt , they planned to borrow certain elements from The Coward and “found themselves using more and more material from the earlier script, including Schmidt’s lengthy correspondence with Ndugu.” Many reviews noted that the final film bears only a slight resemblance to the novel, which focuses on a man named Albert Schmidt who retires from a Manhattan law practice, opposes his daughter’s upcoming marriage to a Jewish man and carries on an affair with a young waitress. Payne stated in a 22 May 2002 LAT interview that the only elements of the book remaining in the picture were “the character’s last name and the idea that he has an only daughter who’s about to marry a boob, a guy who has something of an overbearing mother.” In Dec 2000, Begley published a sequel to his novel entitled Schmidt Delivered .
       Although a 16 Apr 2001 article in US Weekly states that Nicholson rewrote the dialogue in one scene to echo that of a famous scene from his 1970 film Five Easy Pieces (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films 1961--70 ), in which a waitress informs Nicholson's character that there are “no substitutions” for his order, that scene was not included in the final film. An 18 Dec 2000 DV article states that Nicholson took a pay cut to star in the film, allegedly in exchange for “a big share of any profits.” As quoted in the Entertainment Weekly review, Nicholson asserted that he “rooted the character of Warren Schmidt… in the man’s comb-over.” Reviewers agreed that Schmidt marks one of the strongest performances in Nicholson’s long career, due in part to the actor’s success in putting aside his trademark mannerisms.
       For About Schmidt , Payne assembled many of the same crew members with whom he had worked in his two previous films, Citizen Ruth and Election , including Taylor, production designer Jane Ann Stewart, cinematographer James Glennon, editor Kevin Tent, composer Rolfe Kent and casting directors Lisa Beach and John Jackson. As with his previous films, Payne shot this film primarily in Omaha, Nebraska, his hometown. He stated in studio press materials that he cast many locals in small parts, including the Dairy Queen worker, who works at the real-life Dairy Queen shown in the film. Many reviewers applauded About Schmidt ’s attempt to portray realistic people and places, a characteristic focus for Payne. In the press notes, Payne stated that “American life is atypical in Los Angeles and New York. There’s a huge continent in between.”
       The film includes a commercial for Childreach (www.childreach.org), the organization featured in the film, a real-life non-profit that links sponsors with children in need throughout the world. Organization spokesperson Angela Lansbury narrates the commercial. According to the studio press materials, after the production was completed, the producers donated money to 6-year-old Tanzanian boy Abdallah Mtulu, the child (identified in a 21 Dec 2002 NYT article) who represents Schmidt’s “adopted” African child Ndugu. According to the NYT piece, Abdallah receives no direct benefits from sponsors, though his community does. A 23 Jan 2003 article in USA Today stated that, as a result of the film, donations to the organization "soared" from three new sponsorships a day to eighty. Nicholson, Gittes and Payne also donated $5,600 to Childreach.
       About Schmidt was selected as one of AFI’s top ten films of 2002, as well as earning Golden Globe awards for Nicholson for Best Actor--Drama and for Payne and Taylor for Best Screenplay. The film was also nominated for Golden Globes for Best Picture--Drama and Best Supporting Actress (Bates). The picture received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor (Nicholson) and Best Supporting Actress (Bates). Other nominations and awards for About Schmidt include: The LA Film Critics for Best Film, Actor and Screenplay; BFCA Critics’ Choice Awards for Best Film, Best Writers, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress (Bates); National Board of Review’s Best Supporting Actress (Bates); and SAG nominations for Best Male Lead Actor in a Movie (Nicholson) and Best Supporting Actress (Bates). More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Jan 2003
pp. 74-83.
Daily Variety
4 Dec 1998.
---
Daily Variety
5 Jul 2000
p. 1, 16.
Daily Variety
18 Dec 2000.
---
Daily Variety
20 Dec 2000.
---
Daily Variety
6 Apr 2002
p. 10.
Daily Variety
24 May 2002
p. 12.
Daily Variety
3 Jul 2002.
---
Entertainment Weekly
13 Dec 2002
p. 58.
Entertainment Weekly
3 Jan 2003
pp. 18-25
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 2002.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 2002.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 May 2002
p. F1, F7.
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 2002
Calendar, p. 1.
New York Times
13 Dec 2002.
---
New York Times
21 Dec 2002.
---
Premiere
Sep 2002.
---
US Weekly
16 Apr 2002.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Michael Besman/Harry Gittes Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
"A" cam op/Addl photog
"A" cam 1st asst
"A" cam 2d asst
"B" cam op/Addl photog
"B" cam 1st asst
Cam loader
Addl cam loader
Still photog
Projectionist
Addl photog supv
Chief lighting tech
Best boy elec
Elec
Elec
Rigging gaffer
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Rigging elec
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Grip
Grip
Grip
Grip & elec equipment furnished by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dir
Graphic des
Asst to Jane Stewart
FILM EDITORS
1st Avid asst ed
1st film asst ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Warren mont
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadman
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
On set dresser
Prop master
Asst prop master
Addl prop
Co-const coord
Co-const coord
Co-const coord
Const gang boss
Shop steward
Lead painter
Paint gang boss
Painter foreman
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Set painter
Set painter
Utility const
Const P.A.
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward for Mr. Nicholson
Cost supv
Set cost
Set cost
MUSIC
Mus exec
Mus exec
Mus bus affairs
Mus clearances
Mus ed
Score cond
Performed by
Score mixed by
Mus contractor
Score mixed at
Addl orch
Mus preparation
Tech consultant
Clearances
The Clear Choice
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Utility sd tech
Video assist
Sd des & supv
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
ADR supv
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Sd asst
Sd asst
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Foley rec
ADR mixer
ADR rec
Addl audio
Dailies sd transfers
Sd editorial
Re-rec services
VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual eff supv
Matte paintings
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Hair stylist for Mr. Nicholson
Makeup artist for Mr. Nicholson
Key makeup artist
Makeup artist
Key hair stylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Midwest casting
ADR voice casting
Extras casting asst
Unit prod mgr
Exec in charge of prod
Exec in charge of post prod
Prod exec
Prod supv
Post prod supv
Prod accountant
1st asst accountant
2d asst accountant
Payroll accountant
Accounting clerk
Addl accounting clerk
Const auditor
Prod controller
Financial adv
Prod resources
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Supv prod coord
Prod secy
Prod office asst
Prod office asst
Prod office asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Driver for Mr. Nicholson
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Loc asst to Mr. Nicholson
Exec asst to Mr. Nicholson
Chef for Mr. Nicholson
Chef for Mr. Nicholson
Asst to Alexander Payne
Asst to Alexander Payne
Asst to Harry Gittes
Asst to Michael Besman
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Loc P.A.
Bus affairs exec
Prod attorney
Bus affairs admin
Unit pub
Set medic
Catering
Craft service
Craft service asst
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Picture vehicle coord
Risk management
Risk management
Prod safety
AON
Insurance provided by
Preview tech supv
Payroll
STAND INS
Stand-in/Double for Mr. Nicholson
Stand-in and photo double
Stand-in and photo double
Stand-in and photo double
Stand-in and photo double
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel About Schmidt by Louis Begley (New York, 1996).
AUTHOR
MUSIC
"Quetrième Gnossiennes" by Erik Satie, performed by Aldo Ciccolini, courtesy of EMI Records under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets.
SONGS
"You Sexy Thing," written by Errol Brown, performed by Hot Chocolate, courtesy of EMI Records Ltd. under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
"Sentimental Lady," written by Robert L. Welch, performed by Bob Welch, courtesy of Capitol Records under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
"Afrikaan Beat," written and performed by Bert Kaempfert, courtesy of Polydor GMBH, Hamburg, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
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SONGS
"You Sexy Thing," written by Errol Brown, performed by Hot Chocolate, courtesy of EMI Records Ltd. under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
"Sentimental Lady," written by Robert L. Welch, performed by Bob Welch, courtesy of Capitol Records under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
"Afrikaan Beat," written and performed by Bert Kaempfert, courtesy of Polydor GMBH, Hamburg, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
"You Wear It Well," written by M. Martin Quittenton and Rod Stewart, performed by Rod Stewart, courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
"Longer," written by Dan Fogelberg
"Wedding Song (There Is Love)," written by Noel Paul Stookey
"Takin' Care of Business," written by Randy Bachman, performed by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group, under license from Universal Music Enterprises.
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DETAILS
Release Date:
20 December 2002
Premiere Information:
World premiere at the Cannes Film Festival: 22 May 2002
Omaha, NE opening: 11 December 2002
New York and Los Angeles openings: 13 December 2002
Production Date:
12 March--late May 2001
Copyright Claimant:
New Line Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
19 March 2003
Copyright Number:
PA0001127412
Physical Properties:
Sound
SDDS Sony Dynamic Digital Sound; Dolby Digital; dts Digital Sound in selected theatres
Color
FotoKem
gauge
35mm
Lenses/Prints
Released on Fuji; Prints by DeLuxe
Duration(in mins):
124-125
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
38731
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At the age of sixty-six, Warren R. Schmidt retires from his job as assistant vice-president at the Woodmen of the World insurance company in Omaha, Nebraska. A man whose identity derives from his position at work and status as wage earner for his wife Helen and grown daughter Jeannie, Warren faces a life of leisure with bewilderment. At his retirement party, he responds to the laudatory toasts from his coworkers by fleeing into a nearby bar to drink alone. Later, he receives a congratulatory phone call from Jeannie, who is engaged to Randall Hertzel, a waterbed salesman whom Warren considers undeserving of his daughter. The next morning, Helen fixes him breakfast in their Winnebago, which they plan to drive across the country, but Warren remains indifferent to everything until he finds himself responding to a television advertisement for Childreach, an organization that sponsors needy children in Third World countries for a donation of twenty-two dollars per month. After a few more days of puttering, he puts on a suit and returns to his office, where his replacement cheerfully indicates that Warren’s presence is completely unnecessary. Dejected, Warren returns home, where he finds a packet from Childreach with a photo of his “foster” child, Ndugu Ombo, a six-year-old Tanzanian boy, and a request that he send Ndugu a letter. As Warren begins writing a description of his life, his true feelings pour out about the “snotty kid” who has replaced him at work, his failure to achieve his dreams, his beloved daughter’s upcoming marriage to an idiot and his wife’s irritating, controlling habits. After running an errand, however, Warren returns to find Helen dead of a blood clot, and in ... +


At the age of sixty-six, Warren R. Schmidt retires from his job as assistant vice-president at the Woodmen of the World insurance company in Omaha, Nebraska. A man whose identity derives from his position at work and status as wage earner for his wife Helen and grown daughter Jeannie, Warren faces a life of leisure with bewilderment. At his retirement party, he responds to the laudatory toasts from his coworkers by fleeing into a nearby bar to drink alone. Later, he receives a congratulatory phone call from Jeannie, who is engaged to Randall Hertzel, a waterbed salesman whom Warren considers undeserving of his daughter. The next morning, Helen fixes him breakfast in their Winnebago, which they plan to drive across the country, but Warren remains indifferent to everything until he finds himself responding to a television advertisement for Childreach, an organization that sponsors needy children in Third World countries for a donation of twenty-two dollars per month. After a few more days of puttering, he puts on a suit and returns to his office, where his replacement cheerfully indicates that Warren’s presence is completely unnecessary. Dejected, Warren returns home, where he finds a packet from Childreach with a photo of his “foster” child, Ndugu Ombo, a six-year-old Tanzanian boy, and a request that he send Ndugu a letter. As Warren begins writing a description of his life, his true feelings pour out about the “snotty kid” who has replaced him at work, his failure to achieve his dreams, his beloved daughter’s upcoming marriage to an idiot and his wife’s irritating, controlling habits. After running an errand, however, Warren returns to find Helen dead of a blood clot, and in his grief realizes how much he loved her. He remains busy over the next few days planning the funeral and consoling Jeannie, who arrives in Omaha with Randall. Randall’s clumsy, cloying attempts at kindness frustrate Warren, especially after the young man offers to "invest" Warren’s money in a pyramid scheme. When Jeannie is ready to leave, Warren, who is unaccustomed to being alone, tries desperately to induce her to stay and postpone her wedding, at one point even lying that Helen did not approve of Randall. Jeannie, shocked but unconvinced, responds by questioning Warren’s substandard casket choice. After she leaves, Warren wanders around his increasingly disarrayed house, expressing in a letter to Ndugu his grief and fear that he will soon die. While wistfully exploring Helen’s closet, Warren unearths a box containing love letters to her from his best friend, Ray Nichols. In a fury, he discards all of Helen’s clothes and confronts Ray with the letters, despite his friend’s plea that the affair ended thirty years ago. Newly invigorated, Warren enacts his sense of freedom by urinating while standing, an act Helen had forbidden. He then packs up the Winnebago and leaves for Denver, hoping to spend more time with Jeannie. When he calls her with his plan, however, Jeannie firmly insists that he stay away until a few days before the wedding. Chagrined, Warren heads to his hometown of Holdrege, Nebraska, only to find that his childhood house has been replaced by a tire store. He goes on to his alma mater, Kansas University, along the way writing to Ndugu, urging the boy to follow in his footsteps and pledge a fraternity. At a campground in Kansas, John and Vicki Rusk, Canadians staying in the adjoining campsite, invite Warren for dinner. He enjoys their hospitality, but when John leaves to buy beer, Warren mistakes Vicki’s empathy for a flirtation and attempts to kiss her. Vicki responds in horror, prompting Warren to flee the campground and drive all night. On the road, he attempts to leave a conciliatory phone message for Ray, but the answering machine malfunctions. Despondent, Warren spends the night atop the Winnebago, where he asks Helen for forgiveness and sees a shooting star that he assumes is a sign. He awakens with a clear sense of purpose: to put a stop to Jeannie’s wedding. With this in mind, Warren heads to the Denver home of Randall’s mother Roberta. Roberta’s earthy gregariousness disturbs Warren, especially after she voices her pride in Randall’s “sensitiveness,” which she feels derives from her having breastfed him for five years. They have dinner with Jeannie, Randall and his relatives, including his verbose father Larry, Roberta's ex-husband, during which Warren despairs further at Jeannie’s choice for a new family. He finally corners his daughter on the porch after dinner and reveals that he does not approve of her marriage. Jeannie, who loves her father but considers him distant and difficult, orders him either to support her or leave. That night, he throws his back out while sleeping on Randall’s waterbed, infuriating Jeannie further. Roberta nurses Warren with soup, not realizing that he is pained further by her candid discussion of Jeannie’s sex life with Randall. Before the wedding rehearsal that night, Roberta gives Warren a prescription pain reliever that keeps him pleasantly doped until after dinner. He then enjoys her hot tub, but after she joins him, naked, and places her hand on his leg, Warren retreats to the Winnebago. He endures the wedding the next day without comment, and when it is his turn to give a speech, falters briefly, but finally, turning to his grateful daughter, delivers a moving speech invoking Helen and her blessing upon the marriage. As he drives back to Omaha, Warren composes a letter to Ndugu stating that he has failed, not only in his quest to save Jeannie but in his life as a whole. He questions if he has made any difference to anyone. At home, a despondent Warren leafs through his mail, where he finds a letter from Ndugu’s caretaker, Sister Nadine Gautier. Sister Nadine writes that Ndugu, an orphan who can neither read nor write, has enclosed a drawing for his “foster father." The picture, which depicts a man holding the hand of a small boy under a shining sun, causes Warren to weep with the sudden understanding that he has made a mark on at least one life. +

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Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.