The Witches of Eastwick (1987)

R | 118 mins | Comedy-drama | 1987

Director:

George Miller

Cinematographer:

Vilmos Zsigmond

Production Designer:

Polly Platt

Production Companies:

Warner Bros. Pictures , Guber-Peters Company, Kennedy Miller Productions
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HISTORY

       The character name "Walter Neff" is also the name of the protagonist in Double Indemnity (see entry).
       According to Janet Maslin’s 12 Jun 1987 NYT review, the best scenes in John Updike’s novel were “uncinematic” because they dealt with the inner thoughts of the characters. For the film, director George Miller and writer Michael Cristofer “radically altered things, and their film resemble[d] Mr. Updike’s novel only remotely; even the characters’ names [were] rearranged and spelled differently.” A 21 Jun 1987 LAT article reported that Miller had not read Updike’s novel prior to signing on for the movie and said, “If I’d read it first I don’t think I’d have seen a film in it.’”
       The movie is billed as “A Kennedy-Miller Film” but the LAT reported Byron Kennedy died in a helicopter crash and the company was “run by Miller, writer Terry Hayes and financial administrator Doug Mitchell.”
       Jack Nicholson ultimately took the role of “Daryl Van Horne” but an 8 Jan 1986 item in HR noted Miller first tried for Nicholson, then Bill Murray and also approached Sting. Anjelica Huston was initially attached to the project but, according to an item in the Jun 1987 Vogue, she was replaced by Susan Sarandon. After an item in the 12 Jan 1987 People noted Cher wanted the role of the sculptress, a news item in the 14 Jun 1987 LAT reported Sarandon felt “betrayed” after having been promised the part of the sculptress, but given the role of the cellist. According to the LAT, Sarandon did ... More Less

       The character name "Walter Neff" is also the name of the protagonist in Double Indemnity (see entry).
       According to Janet Maslin’s 12 Jun 1987 NYT review, the best scenes in John Updike’s novel were “uncinematic” because they dealt with the inner thoughts of the characters. For the film, director George Miller and writer Michael Cristofer “radically altered things, and their film resemble[d] Mr. Updike’s novel only remotely; even the characters’ names [were] rearranged and spelled differently.” A 21 Jun 1987 LAT article reported that Miller had not read Updike’s novel prior to signing on for the movie and said, “If I’d read it first I don’t think I’d have seen a film in it.’”
       The movie is billed as “A Kennedy-Miller Film” but the LAT reported Byron Kennedy died in a helicopter crash and the company was “run by Miller, writer Terry Hayes and financial administrator Doug Mitchell.”
       Jack Nicholson ultimately took the role of “Daryl Van Horne” but an 8 Jan 1986 item in HR noted Miller first tried for Nicholson, then Bill Murray and also approached Sting. Anjelica Huston was initially attached to the project but, according to an item in the Jun 1987 Vogue, she was replaced by Susan Sarandon. After an item in the 12 Jan 1987 People noted Cher wanted the role of the sculptress, a news item in the 14 Jun 1987 LAT reported Sarandon felt “betrayed” after having been promised the part of the sculptress, but given the role of the cellist. According to the LAT, Sarandon did not want to become involved in “negative discussions” and therefore left for a European vacation as the film opened; however, she did participate in a few taped TV interviews, a Today appearance and three print interviews.
       Little Compton, RI, was originally scouted as a location for Eastwick but a 29 Sep 1986 LAT article reported “controversy erupted” as the town and “its conservative Congregational church” debated about their participation. The 1 Jun 1986 NYT reported that, despite the arguments, the Town Council voted 3-to-1 in favor of the filming. However, as reported in the LAT, once the Massachusetts Film Bureau heard of Rhode Island’s “rumblings of discontent,” they lobbied aggressively for the project. The 11 Jun 1986 Var reported that on 4 Jun 1986, Laurie Cabot, the “official witch of Salem,” MA, lead a protest at that Film Bureau’s Boston headquarters. According to the 29 Jun 1987 People, Cabot wanted a disclaimer on the film and formed “the Witches League of Public Awareness” which, according to the Sep 1986 Box had participants from five states. The group’s aim was to end “the stereotype of witches” they felt were perpetrated by the story. Despite the witches’ protests, the 1 Jun 1986 NYT reported the studio was considering the Massachusetts shore towns of Cohasset and Hingham as both had the required white-steepled churches and picturesque town commons. Production notes from AMPAS library stated that Hingham was production designer Polly Platt’s hometown, but Cohasset was chosen for its historic First Parish meeting house and V-shaped business district. The 29 Sep 1986 LAT article reported the movie’s 12-week shooting schedule began on 14 Jul 1986, and that “30 to 40 percent of its $20 million budget” would be spent in Massachusetts. An article in the 29 Sept 1986 LAT reported the following costs: “$20,000 to First Parish Meeting House, for use of the church; fees ranging from $250 to $1,000 a day to about a dozen local merchants to convert their shops to “Eastwick” shops; $30,000 for a silver tea service to be used as a prop; $8,000 per week for six local police officers to stand by at various film locations,” also noting that 1,500 locals would serve as background actors. Production notes reported filming began in Scituate, MA. Other locations included the MA cities of Norwell, Milton, Cohasset, Marblehead, Ipswich, and Boston. Milton Academy, the alma mater of production designer Platt, was the site for the film’s “Lenox School.” California locations included the Burbank Studios soundstages and the Burbank Studios Ranch. The Jun 1987 AmCin added that a few interiors were shot in homes in Beverly Hills and Pasadena. According to production information, the filmmakers returned Cohasset to its former state; money was also provided for town common improvements and to help with the restoration of the First Parish Meeting House. A 17 Jun 1987 Var item reported Warners’ organized a 15 Jun 1987 premiere in Cohasset and money from the benefit funded “field improvements at the local high school.”
       A 21 Jun 1987 LAT article reported that Miller had a difficult time making the movie. Miller’s approach was initially collaborative, but, after examples of what he perceived to be “interference from producers Jon Peters, Peter Guber, and Neil Canton,” Miller became “non-communicative and willful.” Miller noted he had no problems with Nicholson and considered the actor “masterful.”
       The film opened to mixed reviews but, according to the 18 Jun 1987 HR, its opening weekend gross was $9.5 million from 1,103 screens (8,571 per screen). Friday’s gross was $2.849 million, Saturday’s gross was $3.717 million and Sunday’s gross was $2.877 million. Warner Bros. Distribution president D. Barry Reardon said, “It was the only picture in the marketplace that went up from Friday to Sunday, which shows you its strength.” Reardon also noted they initially projected the film would attract females over 25 but the audience had widened beyond that. A 12 Aug 2008 Var article reported the feature ultimately grossed $64 million.
       The Los Angeles Film Critics and New York Film Critics awarded Best Actor to Jack Nicholson. Mike Lanteri, Mike Owens, Edward Jones and Bruce Walter received the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) for Achievement in Special Effects. The Witches of Eastwick credits list the spec eff supv as Mike Lanteri but he is often credited as Mike Lantieri.
       A 28 May 1998 Var article reported London-based theatrical producer Cameron Mackintosh and Warner Bros. might co-produce a musical version. An article in the 3 Oct 1999 The Sunday Times (London) reported Mackintosh’s West End show, The Witches of Eastwick, would open at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in late spring, 2000. The Sunday Times (London) also noted the show was “an American musical comedy, with an American director and choreographer, and written by an almost unknown American duo – John Dempsey and Dana Rowe.” According to Mackintosh, the £4m budget was his most costly for a musical. According to the 20 Jul 2000 Var review, Mackintosh’s production starred Ian McShane as Darryl Van Horne and Lucie Arnaz, Joanna Riding and Maria Friedman as the three women. A 12 Aug 2008 Var article reported the musical also played in the U.S. at the Signature Theater in Arlington, VA. Var additionally reported that the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) ordered a pilot of The Witches of Eastwick, to be written by Maggie Friedman. The article noted that Warner Bros. TV had wanted a TV version for years. Carlton Cuse and Jeffrey Boam created a pilot in 1992 for the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) that starred Catherine Mary Stewart, Julia Campbell, Ally Walker and Michael Siberri. In 2002, executive producer Jim Leonard and writers Jon Cowan and Robert Rovner worked with Warner Bros. TV to develop Eastwick for Twentieth Century Fox. This version centered on the teenage sons of the witches, and starred Lori Loughlin, Marcia Cross and Kelly Rutherford. The 20 Sep 2009 LAT reported that Friedman’s version, Eastwick, starring Lindsay Price, Jaime Ray Newman, Rebecca Romijn and Paul Gross, premiered 23 Sep 2009 at 10pm on ABC.

      End credits include the following written statement: “The Producers wish to thank: Massachusetts Film Commissionsion for their assistance in the production of this film.” Excerpts used in the film are credited as follows: “Itzhak Perlman excerpt has been furnished courtesy of Live from Lincoln Center; Joan Sutherland excerpt performing ‘Lucia’ was furnished by The Australian Opera; Vladimir Horowitz excerpt performing on the piano in Moscow was supplied compliments of Columbia Artists Management Inc; Three Stooges excerpts Copyright Columbia Pictures Industries Inc.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Jun 1987
p. 67.
Box Office
Sep 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1987
p. 3, 6.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
29 Sep 1986.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 Jun 1987
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jun 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Jun 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Sep 2009.
---
New York Times
1 Jun 1986.
---
New York Times
12 Jun 1987
p. 3.
People
12 Jan 1987.
---
People
29 Jun 1987
p. 52.
The Times (London)
3 Oct. 1999
p. 17.
Variety
10 Jun 1986.
---
Variety
9 Jul 1986.
---
Variety
10 Jun 1987
p. 10.
Variety
17 Jun 1987.
---
Variety
28 May 1998.
---
Variety
20 Jul 2000.
---
Variety
12 Aug 2008.
---
Vogue
Jun 1987.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Guber-Peters Company Production
A Kennedy Miller Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Still photog
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Prod illustrator
FILM EDITORS
1st asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Set des
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
COSTUMES
Spec ward for Jack Nicholson by
Paris
Spec ward for Cher by
Cost supv
Men's cost
Men's cost
Women's cost
Women's cost
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus supv
Mus ed
Violin coach
Cello coach
Mus scoring mixer
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Supv foley ed
Supv ADR ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual eff supv
Spec makeup eff des & created by
Spec eff supv
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Bottin eff crew
Bottin eff crew
Bottin eff crew
Bottin eff crew
Bottin eff crew
Bottin eff crew
Opticals by
Visual eff prod at
Marin County, California
Visual eff art dir, ILM visual eff unit
Opt photog supv, ILM visual eff unit
Matte painting artist, ILM visual eff unit
Visual eff cam, ILM visual eff unit
Visual eff cam, ILM visual eff unit
Visual eff ed, ILM visual eff unit
Visual eff coord, ILM visual eff unit
Matte photog supv, ILM visual eff unit
Model shop supv, ILM visual eff unit
Gen mgr, ILM
Prod supv, ILM visual eff unit
Anim dept supv, Tennis seq, ILM visual eff unit
Anim, ILM visual eff unit
Anim, ILM visual eff unit
Motion control cam op, ILM visual eff unit
Roto, ILM visual eff unit
Roto, ILM visual eff unit
Roto, ILM visual eff unit
Cam asst, ILM visual eff unit
Cam asst, ILM visual eff unit
Cam asst, ILM visual eff unit
Opt cam op, ILM visual eff unit
Opt lineup, ILM visual eff unit
Opt coord, ILM visual eff unit
Processing, ILM visual eff unit
Processing, ILM visual eff unit
Asst visual eff ed, ILM visual eff unit
Modelmaker, ILM visual eff unit
Modelmaker, ILM visual eff unit
Creature const, ILM visual eff unit
Creature const, ILM visual eff unit
Stage tech, ILM visual eff unit
Stage tech, ILM visual eff unit
Stage tech, ILM visual eff unit
Stage tech, ILM visual eff unit
Stage tech, ILM visual eff unit
Stage tech, ILM visual eff unit
Prod support, ILM visual eff unit
Prod support, ILM visual eff unit
Prod support, ILM visual eff unit
Prod support, ILM visual eff unit
Prod support, ILM visual eff unit
Prod support, ILM visual eff unit
Prod support, ILM visual eff unit
Prod support, ILM visual eff unit
Prod support, ILM visual eff unit
Prod support, ILM visual eff unit
Prod support, ILM visual eff unit
Prod support, ILM visual eff unit
Prod support, ILM visual eff unit
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
24 frame video services provided by
Prod secy
Prod coord Boston
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Prod aide
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr Boston
Prod accountant
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Animal handler
Unit pub
Asst to Mr. Peters
Asst to Mr. Canton and Mr. Miller
Caterer
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike (New York, 1984).
AUTHOR
MUSIC
"Peodora" composed by Carel Stuycken.
SONGS
"Nessum Dorma" from the Opera Turandot, composed by Giacomo Puccini, performed by Luciano Pavarotti with the John Alldis Choir and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, courtesy of London Records, a division of PolyGram Classics, Inc.
"Someone to Watch over Me," composed by George and Ira Gershwin.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1987
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 12 June 1987
Production Date:
14 July - early October 1986
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, Inc.
Copyright Date:
27 July 1987
Copyright Number:
PA334850
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Widescreen/ratio
2.20:1
Lenses/Prints
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
118
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28653
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Eastwick is a typical New England town and home to a trio of close friends: Alexandra Medford is a sculptress, widow and mother of a teenage daughter; Jane Spofford is newly divorced and a part-time music teacher; and local reporter, Sukie Ridgemont, was deserted by her husband and struggles to support her six daughters. At the elementary school graduation, Walter Neff, Jane’s lecherous boss, launches into a long speech. Everyone is bored, particularly Alex, Jane and Sukie. As the trio looks around, the sunny day turns cloudy. A huge storm descends and everyone scatters. That night, Jane and Sukie arrive at Alex’s home for their regular get-together. Over many martinis, each laments her lack of a love life and talk turns to fantasies about the man of their desires. After they wish for a romantic stranger, a stranger drives into town. The next morning Sukie calls Alex from the newspaper’s office to report that someone bought the historic Lenox mansion but she cannot remember his name. The editor, Clyde Alden, arrives with his wife, Felicia, who is angry to learn the “landmark” mansion has been sold, and feels something “evil” is happening. Later, Jane performs with the local symphony, but the stranger’s loud snoring diverts everyone’s attention. At the reception, no one can seem to remember the stranger’s name until Jane receives flowers from him and the card is signed with a “D.” Sukie’s pearl necklace breaks when she says his name aloud: “Daryl.” Pearls roll everywhere as people remember he is “Daryl Van Horne.” Felicia slips on the pearls and falls ... +


Eastwick is a typical New England town and home to a trio of close friends: Alexandra Medford is a sculptress, widow and mother of a teenage daughter; Jane Spofford is newly divorced and a part-time music teacher; and local reporter, Sukie Ridgemont, was deserted by her husband and struggles to support her six daughters. At the elementary school graduation, Walter Neff, Jane’s lecherous boss, launches into a long speech. Everyone is bored, particularly Alex, Jane and Sukie. As the trio looks around, the sunny day turns cloudy. A huge storm descends and everyone scatters. That night, Jane and Sukie arrive at Alex’s home for their regular get-together. Over many martinis, each laments her lack of a love life and talk turns to fantasies about the man of their desires. After they wish for a romantic stranger, a stranger drives into town. The next morning Sukie calls Alex from the newspaper’s office to report that someone bought the historic Lenox mansion but she cannot remember his name. The editor, Clyde Alden, arrives with his wife, Felicia, who is angry to learn the “landmark” mansion has been sold, and feels something “evil” is happening. Later, Jane performs with the local symphony, but the stranger’s loud snoring diverts everyone’s attention. At the reception, no one can seem to remember the stranger’s name until Jane receives flowers from him and the card is signed with a “D.” Sukie’s pearl necklace breaks when she says his name aloud: “Daryl.” Pearls roll everywhere as people remember he is “Daryl Van Horne.” Felicia slips on the pearls and falls down the staircase, fracturing her leg. The next day Alex rides her bike near the mansion and meets Daryl. He invites her to lunch, introduces her to his manservant, Fidel, and gives her a tour of the mansion. He crudely tries to seduce her, saying he is just “your average horny little devil.” Alex is initially repulsed but he eventually wins her over. In the hospital, Felicia rants at Clyde, who is worried about Felicia’s drastic personality change but is assured it is a temporary side effect from the fracture. Daryl unexpectedly shows up at Jane’s house and quickly unleashes the passion in Jane’s music and in Jane. The next day, Alex and Sukie bike to Daryl’s mansion for a game of tennis. Jane is already there, but Daryl ignores Alex and Jane, and heads straight for Sukie. As they play tennis, Jane angrily lobs a tennis ball at Sukie. The tension continues until the ball flies extraordinarily high, hangs in the sky for a moment, then falls back down, and a magical game of tennis ensues. That evening, Daryl seduces Sukie in the pool. Later, Daryl and the women frolic through the mansion. They playfully spin on carts until Jane’s cart flies toward the pool. She is flung up to the chandelier and everyone laughs as she dangles. Suddenly, Alex and Sukie rise into the air and, when Jane lets go, she floats for a moment too. That evening, Daryl films the women as they discuss their fears: Jane admits she is afraid life is short and she will disintegrate; Alex is afraid of disappearing beneath hundreds of snakes; and Sukie is afraid of the pain in life. On Sunday, Felicia interrupts a church service with a tirade about the “whores” with that “devil.” As Jane buys groceries, she attracts negative attention from other ladies and, at the register, is shocked to read a front-page article regarding the “Scandal at Lenox House.” When Sukie confronts Clyde about the article, he is so upset over Felicia’s increasing instability that Sukie feels sorry for him, even as Clyde fires her. The women are upset about the situation and suggest they take a break from Daryl. However, Daryl disagrees and encourages them to eat from an enormous bowl of cherries. Meanwhile, at Clyde and Felicia’s home, Felicia continues to rant about evil, and a cherry pit suddenly comes out of her mouth. As the women continue to eat cherries at the mansion, Felicia explosively vomits cherries in her home while also realizing Daryl plans to impregnate the women. Completely frustrated by his wife, Clyde picks up the fire poker and kills her. The next day, the three women argue outside Felicia’s house. Sukie feels that their wishes from the night before contributed to Felicia’s death. The fight escalates and the ground splits between them, prompting them to run off in separate directions. Daryl tries to connect with each of them but is rebuffed. He becomes frustrated and increasingly unkempt. Jane is excited to discover she is pregnant and goes to the mansion where she finds Daryl watching the footage he shot of the women. Daryl does not notice Jane behind him and, as he watches her on film, Jane’s fears suddenly manifest. Her hands wrinkle and she turns into an old woman. Jane runs outside and turns back to normal. Daryl watches Alex’s footage next. Jane rushes to Alex’s house and arrives as Alex flees a bed full of snakes. Next, Daryl slices a piece of fruit and Sukie starts to hemorrhage. At the hospital, Sukie reveals she is pregnant, and they realize they are all pregnant by Daryl. Sukie begs Alex to make Daryl stop causing her pain, so Alex confronts Daryl. He is a wreck because they left him. He does not want to fight and the women cannot possibly win, so he suggests they put this behind them. When Alex agrees, Sukie’s pain stops. The women return to Daryl, and he becomes happy and well groomed again. In the morning, Daryl and Fidel leave to get bagels and ice cream for the women’s cravings. As soon as Daryl is gone, the women grab his Maleficio spell book. They create a wax effigy of Daryl and try to undo their original wishes. When they slam pins into his wax effigy, Daryl screams in pain and smashes his hand into ice cream for relief. The women rip open a pillow and blow feathers on Daryl’s effigy causing Daryl to fly down the street in a swirl of feathers. After the strong winds and flying feathers blow him into the church, Daryl rambles to the parishioners about his troubles with the women at home. At the mansion, the women pull out the bowl of cherries and start eating. In the church, Daryl’s projectile vomiting covers most of the parishioners. He demands to know if God made women on purpose or if it was a mistake. The women finish their spell and, in case it did not work, scramble to clean up. Daryl races home in his car, leaving Fidel behind, and whenever the wax effigy is moved, the real Daryl is tossed around the car. When Daryl arrives at the mansion, the women hurry to the TV room and try to appear nonchalant but Daryl becomes more beastly with every step. The women run to the kitchen, retrieve the wax doll and struggle to lock the door against Daryl. In the process, the doll is split into three pieces, and a giant, beastly Daryl appears outside the kitchen. He smashes through the window, knocks over bottles and ignites a fire. The women quickly toss the pieces of the effigy into the fire, and as the wax melts, Daryl disappears. Eighteen months later, the women live happily in the mansion with Fidel, their daughters and their three baby boys. One day, the boys are drawn from their playroom by Daryl’s face on the multiple television screens in the TV room as he beckons his three sons. Daryl is all smiles until the women arrive with a remote control and turn him off with the flick of a switch. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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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.