The Pelican Brief (1993)

PG-13 | 141 mins | Drama | 17 December 1993

Director:

Alan J. Pakula

Writer:

Alan J. Pakula

Cinematographer:

Stephen Goldblatt

Editors:

Tom Rolf, Trudy Ship

Production Designer:

Philip Rosenberg

Production Company:

Warner Bros., Inc.
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HISTORY

A 23 Oct 1991 DV article announced that Alan J. Pakula would write, direct, and produce a film adaptation of The Pelican Brief, John Grisham’s upcoming novel set to be published by Doubleday in spring 1992. Carolco Pictures, with whom Pakula had a first-look deal, acquired film rights to the novel for an estimated $1.3 million, as stated in the 12 Dec 1993 LAT. Plans were set for John Grisham to write the first draft of the script, while Pakula was in pre-production on Consenting Adults (1992, see entry). Shortly after the DV announcement, financial problems at Carolco resulted in the dissolution of Pakula’s production deal. According to a 10 Feb 1992 Var item, Pakula was granted an early release from his contract, and allowed to take The Pelican Brief project with him. He then entered into a two-year, first-look production deal at Warner Bros. Pictures. As noted in a 2 Mar 1992 Publishers Weekly brief, Warner Bros. paid $1.75 million to option film rights to The Pelican Brief.
       The 22 Jun 1992 LAT announced Julia Roberts had concluded a yearlong “retreat from the film business” by signing a deal to star as “Darby Shaw.” A 15 Feb 1993 Newsday column confirmed Roberts had signed off on the script, and noted shooting would begin in May 1993. According to a 9 Jun 1993 HR brief, Roberts attended law classes at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, where filming took place, in preparation for the role. According to a 20 Dec 1993 New ... More Less

A 23 Oct 1991 DV article announced that Alan J. Pakula would write, direct, and produce a film adaptation of The Pelican Brief, John Grisham’s upcoming novel set to be published by Doubleday in spring 1992. Carolco Pictures, with whom Pakula had a first-look deal, acquired film rights to the novel for an estimated $1.3 million, as stated in the 12 Dec 1993 LAT. Plans were set for John Grisham to write the first draft of the script, while Pakula was in pre-production on Consenting Adults (1992, see entry). Shortly after the DV announcement, financial problems at Carolco resulted in the dissolution of Pakula’s production deal. According to a 10 Feb 1992 Var item, Pakula was granted an early release from his contract, and allowed to take The Pelican Brief project with him. He then entered into a two-year, first-look production deal at Warner Bros. Pictures. As noted in a 2 Mar 1992 Publishers Weekly brief, Warner Bros. paid $1.75 million to option film rights to The Pelican Brief.
       The 22 Jun 1992 LAT announced Julia Roberts had concluded a yearlong “retreat from the film business” by signing a deal to star as “Darby Shaw.” A 15 Feb 1993 Newsday column confirmed Roberts had signed off on the script, and noted shooting would begin in May 1993. According to a 9 Jun 1993 HR brief, Roberts attended law classes at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, where filming took place, in preparation for the role. According to a 20 Dec 1993 New York item, Tony Goldwyn vied for the role of “Fletcher Coal” by convincing Pakula he could play a younger version of the character than was written in the novel. Goldwyn met with White House advisor George Stephanopoulos in preparation for the role.
       A 22 Mar 1993 Var brief announced Denzel Washington would star as “Gray Grantham,” opposite Roberts, and shooting would begin in the spring.
       The 1 Jun 1993 HR production chart confirmed a 21 May 1993 start date in New Orleans. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, New Orleans locations included an apartment in the French Quarter, which doubled as “Thomas Callahan’s” apartment; the interior of Antoine’s restaurant on St. Louis Avenue; Bourbon Street, where a crowd scene called for over 1,000 extras; and, the warehouse district, where Thomas Callahan’s car explosion was filmed. After four weeks in New Orleans, production moved to Washington, D.C. on 20 Jun 1993, where filming took place at the Supreme Court steps; Georgetown University Law Center; the courtyard of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Hoover Building; Washington International School, standing in for “Parklane Hospital”; Riggs National Bank on Pennsylvania Avenue; Mount Vernon; the Washington Monument; Pershing Park; Dulles Airport; Howrey & Simon law offices in the Warner Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, which stood in for the offices of White & Blazevich; and the National Cathedral. As noted in a 15 Dec 1993 HR item, Oval Office interiors and the Washington Herald newsroom were built at Citadel Soundstage in Washington, D.C. According to the 10 Aug 1993 HR, the FBI allowed filming inside its headquarters and offered technical assistance, free of charge, despite misgivings about the script and the way the agency was being portrayed.
       The 12 Dec 1993 LAT stated that Pakula and Warner Bros. decided to film an “extra upbeat ending,” which resulted in a day of additional filming in Montecito, CA, on 27 Nov 1993. The “coda” added an estimated ninety seconds to the running time.
       On 10 Dec 1993, one week prior to theatrical release, a private screening was held at the White House, hosted by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton. John Grisham and Alan Pakula were in attendance, as noted in the 14 Dec 1993 Newsday.
       Despite mixed critical reception, the film was a commercial success, taking in a domestic box-office gross of $100 million, as noted in the 21 Jul 1994 Cincinnati Post.
       End credits include the following acknowledgments: “Special Thanks to: Washington, D.C. Mayor’s Office; The Washington, D.C. Mayor’s Office of Motion Picture and Television Development; The people of Washington, D.C.; New Orleans Mayor’s Office; New Orleans Film and Television Board; The people of New Orleans; Tulane University; The New Orleans Police Department; Spanish Plaza Riverwalk, New Orleans, La.; United States Park Service, National Capitol Region; Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, Special Operations Division; United States Supreme Court; United States Federal Bureau of Investigation; Washington National Cathedral; Georgetown University Law School; Mount Vernon and the Mount Vernon Ladies Association; Maryland Film Commission; Montgomery County, Maryland Fire, Rescue and Police Department; The Omni Shoreham Hotel; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute; New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut”; “Clip ‘Live with Regis & Kathy Lee,’ WABC-TV & Buena Vista Television”; “Prerecorded videotape supplied by CNN, © Cable News Network, Inc. 1993.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Cincinnati Post
21 Jul 1994
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 Oct 1991
p. 1, 18.
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1993
p. 4, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 1993.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 1993.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 1993
p. 4, 58.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Dec 1993
p. 8, 24.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1993.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Jun 1992
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
12 Dec 1993
p. 28.
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1993
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1993
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
27 Dec 1993
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
6 Jan 1994
Calendar, p. 1.
New York
20 Dec 1993.
---
New York Times
17 Dec 1993
p. 1.
Newsday
15 Feb 1993
p. 11.
Newsday
14 Dec 1993
p. 11.
People
5 Jul 1993.
---
Publishers Weekly
2 Mar 1992.
---
The Guardian [Manchester, UK]
31 Jul 1994.
---
Variety
10 Feb 1992.
---
Variety
22 Mar 1993.
---
Variety
20 Dec 1993
pp. 30-31.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Special appearance by
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Warner Bros. Presents
An Alan J. Pakula Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Loader
Still photog
Steadicam op
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Rigging gaffer
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Video playback coord
Gyroscope cam, New Orleans unit
Cam dollies provided by
Chapman cranes provided by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
Art dept coord
Art dept coord, New Orleans unit
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Post-prod supv
Assoc film ed
Assoc film ed
1st asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
Apprentice film ed
Apprentice film ed
Apprentice film ed
Apprentice film ed
Lightworks supv
Lightworks editing systems by
Lightworks editing systems by
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
Const foreman
Labor foreman
Greens foreman
Scenic charge
Scenic charge
Set des
Set prod aide
Set prod aide
Set prod aide
Set prod aide
Set prod aide
Set prod aide
Set des, New Orleans unit
Const coord, New Orleans unit
Const foreman, New Orleans unit
Const foreman, New Orleans unit
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Cost supv
Women's costumer
Men's costumer
Men's ward provided by
MUSIC
Mus comp
Supv mus ed
Mus ed
Asst mus ed
Asst mus ed
Mus rec and mixed by
Orch cond by
Orch
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Cable/Video asst
Supv sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
ADR supv
ADR ed
ADR asst
ADR asst
Dial ed
Foley supv
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley artist
Sd eff and foley
New York City
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Matte paintings by
Matte painting supv, Buena Vista Visual Effects
Visual eff prod, Buena Vista Visual Effects
Matte cam, Buena Vista Visual Effects
Digital compositing, Buena Vista Visual Effects
Falcon Jet air to air shot
Culver City, CA
Visual eff supv, Sony Pictures Image Works
Visual eff prod, Sony Pictures Image Works
Lead anim, Sony Pictures Image Works
Anim/Modeler, Sony Pictures Image Works
Main title des layout by
End titles and opticals by
End titles and opticals by
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Make-up artist
Hair stylist
Hair stylist
Spec make-up
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Asst unit prod mgr
Transportation coord
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Key set prod aide
Prod office supv
Prod office coord
Prod office secy
Prod office secy
Asst to Alan J. Pakula
Asst to Alan J. Pakula
Asst to Pieter Jan Brugge
Asst to Julia Roberts
Asst to Julia Roberts
Asst to Denzel Washington
Casting assoc
Washington, D.C. casting by
Extras casting by
Extras casting by
Pentium™ Processor provided by
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Office prod aide
Office prod aide
Office prod aide
Office prod aide
Office prod aide
TV news programs rec by
Catering
Craft service
Prod office coord, New Orleans unit
Asst prod office coord, New Orleans unit
Prod secy, New Orleans unit
Loc mgr, New Orleans unit
Prod aide, New Orleans unit
Prod aide, New Orleans unit
Prod aide, New Orleans unit
Prod aide, New Orleans unit
Transportation capt, New Orleans unit
New Orleans casting by, New Orleans unit
Extras casting, New Orleans unit
Constitutional law consultant, New Orleans unit
Helicopter pilot - New Orleans and main title seq
Helicopter pilot - Washington, D.C.
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
COLOR PERSONNEL
Telecine transfer services provided by
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Pelican Brief by John Grisham (New York, 1992).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Blues For Carol," written and performed by Clarence Hollimon, courtesy of Black Top Records
"Nearly," written by Danny Gould
"Just For Now," written by Danny Gould
+
SONGS
"Blues For Carol," written and performed by Clarence Hollimon, courtesy of Black Top Records
"Nearly," written by Danny Gould
"Just For Now," written by Danny Gould
"The Creole Song," written and performed by Lynn August, courtesy of Black Top Records
"Air Conditioner Blues," written and performed by Carl Sonny Leyland, courtesy of Dinosaur Records
"Chain Of Fools," written by Don Covay, performed by Aretha Franklin, courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp., by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"Dancing In The Rain," written by Rik Slave, Marc St. James and Patrick Catania, performed by The Phantoms, courtesy of Dinosaur Records
"Clarinet Marmalade," written by L. Shields and H. W. Ragas, performed by René Netto & The Sounds of New Orleans, courtesy of H.E.R. Records
"The Upsetter," written by Rod Piazza, performed by Rod Piazza and The Mighty Flyers, courtesy of Day & Night Productions
"Wiggle," written by Mike Darby, performed by Irene and The Mikes
"One Way Street," written by Mike Darby and Irene Sage, performed by Irene and The Mikes
"My Mammy," written by Sam Lewis, Joe Young and Walter Donaldson
"Hippi Ty O," written and performed by Lynn August, courtesy of Black Top Records
"Troisieme Leçon De Tenebres A 2 Voix" from Tous Les Matins Du Monde, written by François Couperin, performed by M. Figueras and M-C. Kiehr, courtesy of Travelling/Auvidis
Choral, "Komm, O Tod, Du Schlafes Bruder," written by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum Leipzig, courtesy of Capriccio, by arrangement with Source/Q
"Coach (Theme)," written by John Morris
"The Morning Theme," written by Michael Karp
"You Drive Me Crazy," written and performed by Greg Ginn, courtesy of Cruz Records.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
17 December 1993
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 17 December 1993
Production Date:
began 21 May 1993
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers, a division of Time Warner Entertainment Company, LP
Copyright Date:
9 March 1994
Copyright Number:
PA688626
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision® cameras and lenses
Duration(in mins):
141
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32829
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When Supreme Court justices Rosenberg and Jensen are killed within hours of each other, Tulane University law student Darby Shaw sets out to investigate the double-assassination. Determining that the main link between the disparate justices was their environmentalism, Darby develops a theory behind the assassinations in a report titled “The Pelican Brief.” Dismissing her work as far-flung, she shares it with her law professor, Thomas Callahan, who is also her lover. Callahan shares the report with his friend, Gavin Verheek, a lawyer for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Meanwhile, Washington Herald reporter Gray Grantham gets an anonymous phone call from a lawyer, calling himself “Garcia,” who claims he might know something about the assassinations but stops himself from giving any further information. At the White House, Gavin Verheek shares Darby’s brief with Chief of Staff Fletcher Coal, who shows it to the President. Although the report seems far-fetched, FBI director Denton Voyles is looking into it, as it implicates the White House in a conspiracy. Coal would rather the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) handle the investigation, even though it is not under their jurisdiction. In New Orleans, Louisiana, Darby goes to dinner with Thomas Callahan, who has been struggling with alcoholism. Callahan drinks too much, and Darby refuses to get into his car. As she starts to walk home, Callahan’s car explodes. The traumatized Darby is ushered into a parked car by a man who claims to be Sergeant Rupert of the New Orleans police department. She gives her name, and the man disappears. Later, as she waits to be seen by an emergency room doctor, Darby learns from police lieutenant Olsen that “Sgt. Rupert” was ... +


When Supreme Court justices Rosenberg and Jensen are killed within hours of each other, Tulane University law student Darby Shaw sets out to investigate the double-assassination. Determining that the main link between the disparate justices was their environmentalism, Darby develops a theory behind the assassinations in a report titled “The Pelican Brief.” Dismissing her work as far-flung, she shares it with her law professor, Thomas Callahan, who is also her lover. Callahan shares the report with his friend, Gavin Verheek, a lawyer for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Meanwhile, Washington Herald reporter Gray Grantham gets an anonymous phone call from a lawyer, calling himself “Garcia,” who claims he might know something about the assassinations but stops himself from giving any further information. At the White House, Gavin Verheek shares Darby’s brief with Chief of Staff Fletcher Coal, who shows it to the President. Although the report seems far-fetched, FBI director Denton Voyles is looking into it, as it implicates the White House in a conspiracy. Coal would rather the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) handle the investigation, even though it is not under their jurisdiction. In New Orleans, Louisiana, Darby goes to dinner with Thomas Callahan, who has been struggling with alcoholism. Callahan drinks too much, and Darby refuses to get into his car. As she starts to walk home, Callahan’s car explodes. The traumatized Darby is ushered into a parked car by a man who claims to be Sergeant Rupert of the New Orleans police department. She gives her name, and the man disappears. Later, as she waits to be seen by an emergency room doctor, Darby learns from police lieutenant Olsen that “Sgt. Rupert” was a fraud. Fearing for her life, she flees the hospital, checks into a hotel room, and calls Gavin Verheek, who confirms that the Pelican Brief has been seen by the FBI and others he cannot name. Darby informs him that Callahan was murdered, and she believes the killers are after her, too. Soon, the President urges Denton Voyles to back off from his investigation of the Pelican Brief, and Voyles agrees. Still in New Orleans, Darby dons various disguises to avoid being followed. She establishes contact with Gray Grantham of the Washington Herald, and sends her friend, Alice Stark, to check on her apartment. Alice confirms the apartment has been ransacked, and Darby’s computer was stolen. At Callahan’s funeral, Gavin Verheek overhears Alice Stark spreading a rumor that Darby has gone to visit an aunt in Colorado. Later that day, he gets a call from Darby, arranging to meet him at the Riverwalk tourist area the next day. However, Khamel, the assassin who killed Justices Rosenberg and Jensen, murders Verheek and impersonates him. Darby falls for the ruse, but just as Khamel is about to shoot her, he is gunned down by the man called “Rupert.” Still believing Khamel is Verheek, Darby panics and flees. She calls Gray Grantham, and arranges to meet him in New York City. There, Darby explains the Pelican Brief to Gray: a Southern oil magnate named Victor Mattiece, who was the President’s largest campaign contributor, has been engaged in a seven-year legal battle against Green Fund, an environmental group protesting Mattiece’s plans to dredge a channel through protected Louisiana marshlands. Green Fund successfully argued that the nearly extinct brown pelican would lose its habitat if Mattiece’s plans went through, and a judge upheld an injunction against drilling in the marshlands. Mattiece has appealed the decision, and an upcoming trial is set to take place at the New Orleans Court of Appeals. The decision will likely lead to another appeal, to be heard by the Supreme Court in the next three-to-five years. Darby’s brief theorizes that Mattiece had the two environmentalist Supreme Court judges killed so that his crony, the President, could nominate their replacements while still in office. In Washington, D.C., Fletcher Coal meets with Matthew Barr, a private contractor for the CIA, whose operatives have been following Darby and Gray Grantham. Learning that the President asked Voyles to back off the investigation, Barr warns Coal that the President is committing obstruction of justice, and Coal will be his “fall guy.” To avoid scandal if the Pelican Brief is leaked, Coal recommends the President appoint two environmentalist justices as Rosenberg and Jensen’s replacements, and that he call for an investigation of Mattiece. The President ignores the recommendations, urging Coal to stop the brief from coming to light. Darby helps Gray track down “Garcia,” the anonymous caller who claimed to have information about the assassinations. They discover he is really Curtis Morgan, a gas and oil lawyer at the firm of White & Blazevich, which represents Mattiece. Darby goes to the firm’s offices, in the guise of a prospective client, and discovers Curtis Morgan was killed one week ago. Gray seeks Morgan’s widow, Sara Ann, who hands over the key to a safe-deposit box her husband maintained without her knowledge. Posing as Sara Ann, Darby gains access to the safe-deposit box and takes its contents: a videocassette and signed affidavit. Leaving the bank, Darby and Gray are followed to the parking lot. When Gray starts his car, Darby recognizes the noise she heard before Callahan’s car exploded and stops him. They flee, and narrowly escape several assassins. At the Washington Herald headquarters, they view the videocassette, in which Curtis Morgan explains a legal memo he discovered that stated, in coded language, Mattiece’s plans to assassinate Rosenberg and Jensen. Preparing an exposé to be published the next day, Gray makes calls to Marty Velmano, a senior partner at White & Blazevich, Fletcher Coal, and Denton Voyles, who admits off-the-record that the President asked him to back off the investigation. Voyles predicts a grand jury will be called as quickly as tomorrow. He offers to help Darby, and she asks to be flown to an undisclosed location. Voyles agrees, as long as he is able to contact her through Gray. Darby and Gray fly together. He drops her off at a tropical location, and they embrace. Sometime later, Mattiece has been indicted, Fletcher Coal has resigned, and the President is no longer expected to run for re-election. Darby watches from her seaside home as Gray is interviewed on a television news program. She smiles when the reporter suggests “Darby Shaw” is a composite character, and Gray concedes that she is almost too good to be true. +

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

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