Erin Brockovich (2000)

R | 131 mins | Drama | 17 March 2000

THIS TITLE IS OUTSIDE THE AFI CATALOG OF FEATURE FILMS (1893-1993)
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Director:

Steven Soderbergh

Writer:

Susannah Grant

Cinematographer:

Ed Lachman

Editor:

Anne V. Coates

Production Designer:

Philip Messina

Production Companies:

Universal Pictures , Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., Jersey Films
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HISTORY

The opening and ending cast credits of this film differ slightly in order. The picture concludes with the following superimposed titles: “The settlement awarded to the plaintiffs in the case of Hinkley vs PG&E was the largest in a direct action lawsuit in United States history. PG&E claims they no longer use hexavalent chromium in any of their compressor plants and that all of their holding ponds are lined to prevent groundwater contamination. Erin and Ed have seven other cases pending, including one against PG&E regarding a plant in Kettleman Hills, CA.”
       As confirmed by a 14 Apr 1998 HR news item, Julia Roberts was interested in appearing in Erin Brockovich early in the film's production history. A DV news item on 9 Apr 1999 reported that Universal Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment would collaborate to produce Erin Brockovich , splitting costs and profits. Universal would distribute the film in the U.S. and Canada, while Columbia TriStar Distributors Intl. would handle it in the rest of the world. This arrangement was similar to one they had made for the 1999 release The Bone Collector . A NYT news item of 14 May 1999 estimated that the film’s budget would be $55 million, and an article in the LAT on 21 Mar 2000 gave the final budget figure as $50.8 million. The same LAT article stated that Roberts was paid $20 million for her role, becoming the first actress in film history to receive that amount. The picture eventually went on to gross over $125,000,000 in the United States and Canada.
       Sequences from the television ... More Less

The opening and ending cast credits of this film differ slightly in order. The picture concludes with the following superimposed titles: “The settlement awarded to the plaintiffs in the case of Hinkley vs PG&E was the largest in a direct action lawsuit in United States history. PG&E claims they no longer use hexavalent chromium in any of their compressor plants and that all of their holding ponds are lined to prevent groundwater contamination. Erin and Ed have seven other cases pending, including one against PG&E regarding a plant in Kettleman Hills, CA.”
       As confirmed by a 14 Apr 1998 HR news item, Julia Roberts was interested in appearing in Erin Brockovich early in the film's production history. A DV news item on 9 Apr 1999 reported that Universal Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment would collaborate to produce Erin Brockovich , splitting costs and profits. Universal would distribute the film in the U.S. and Canada, while Columbia TriStar Distributors Intl. would handle it in the rest of the world. This arrangement was similar to one they had made for the 1999 release The Bone Collector . A NYT news item of 14 May 1999 estimated that the film’s budget would be $55 million, and an article in the LAT on 21 Mar 2000 gave the final budget figure as $50.8 million. The same LAT article stated that Roberts was paid $20 million for her role, becoming the first actress in film history to receive that amount. The picture eventually went on to gross over $125,000,000 in the United States and Canada.
       Sequences from the television programs The Young and the Restless and Wheel of Fortune were used in the backgrounds of certain scenes of the picture. Portions of Erin Brockovich were filmed on location in Hinkley, Boron, Barstow, Ventura and Los Angeles, CA. According to the film's presskit, some residents of Hinkley who were involved in the actual case appeared in the picture as extras and in secondary roles.
       The real Erin Brockovich and Ed Masry appear very briefly in the film in a restaurant sequence, she as a waitress and he as a customer in a booth adjacent to one in which Roberts is sitting. An LAT article on 16 Mar 2000 revealed that Masry had been a minor film actor as a child, appearing in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) and The North Star (1943). Judge LeRoy A. Simmons, who officiated at the original PG&E hearing in Barstow, appeared as himself in the film. According to director Steven Soderbergh’s commentary on the DVD release of the film, the first cut of the film ran for three hours and fifteen minutes, over an hour longer than the final release version. Many of the deleted scenes appear as added content on the DVD.
       The film opens with the following written statement: “This film is based on a true story.” However a disclaimer title at the film’s conclusion reads: “While this picture is based upon a true story, some of the characters have been composited or invented, and a number of incidents fictionalized.” A Time article of 1 May 2000 quoted one of the film’s executive producers, Carla Santos Shamberg, as saying that she bought the rights to the stories of Brockovich and Masry and “you’re allowed in movieland to fictionalize, but the essence of the story is true. Unless we buy the rights to everyone’s story, we have to fictionalize and condense.” In the same article, a PG&E spokesman stated, “The movie is an entertainment vehicle, certainly not a documentary.”
       On 28 Mar 2000, the Wall Street Journal printed an article on its editorial page by Hudson Institute fellow Michael Fumento, which stated that the suit against PG&E blamed hexavalent chromium (Chromium 6) for dozens of symptoms ranging from breast cancer to Hodgkin’s disease, miscarriages and spinal deterioration. Fumento argued that while the Environmental Protection Agency does consider the chromium a carcinogen, it is linked only to cancers of the lung and septum and is carcinogenic only when inhaled in massive amounts over many years. Fumento added that most of this medical evidence was discovered after PG&E made the settlement in 1996. On 6 Apr 2000, the Wall Street Journal printed a letter from Brockovich and a legal associate refuting Fumento’s article and stating that Chromium 6 has been studied for more than a century and that the EPA and other researchers agree that the chromium can also cause injury as a result of ingestion and dermal exposure.
       Upon the film’s release, several residents of Hinkley were angered, as they felt they had been portrayed “as a bunch of hicks.” The Time article of 1 May 2000 reported that the Hinkley residents believed the film makes it appear that justice was done when, in fact, only six hundred of the town’s one thousand residents received a monetary award. They also stated that the film’s success had made it difficult for them to obtain health insurance and had frightened off potential property buyers. The article was also stated that the residents, who were sworn to secrecy as part of the agreement with PG&E, received varying, inequitable awards.
       An article in The Observer(London) on 16 Apr 2000 reported that a number of the beneficiaries were preparing to sue Masry’s firm, claiming that the lawyers kept the money for six months without paying interest and that there was no logic to the varying amounts of money they received, which were frequently substantially less than the approximately $300,000 each plaintiff should have received from the $196 million net amount remaining after lawyers' fees. The article stated that neither the lawyers nor PG&E would release records of their accounting.
       An 18 Oct 2001 LAT article reported that Brockovich was now director of environmental research for Masry's law firm and was active on the lecture circuit. Brockovich was sued by her second husband, Steven Brockovich, for defamation after she alleged that he failed to pay child support for their daughter. The outcome of the suit has not been determined. Brockovich was also targeted by her first husband, Shawn Brown, and her ex-boyfriend, Jorg Halaby (who is portrayed in the film by Aaron Eckhardt), who attempted to extort $310,000 from her by threatening to claim that she had had an affair with Masry. With the help of Brockovich, the FBI arrested Halaby and Brown, and although the charges against them were later dropped, their lawyer, John Reiner, was found guilty of two counts of attempted extortion and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion in late Mar 2001.
       Brockovich and Masry remained in the public eye after the film's release. On 21 Dec 2001, Brockovich hosted the first of a new reality-based television series. The initial program focused on efforts to rebuild a New York City playground following the 11 Sep 2001 terrorist attacks. In late Nov 2001, Masry was elected to the Thousand Oaks City Council and now serves as Mayor Pro Tem. In addition to being selected as one of AFI's top ten films of 2000, Erin Brockovich was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Soderbergh was also nominated in the same year for Traffic ), Best Screenplay written directly for the screen and Best Supporting Actor (Finney), and Roberts won the award for Best Actress. Golden Globe Awards nominations received by the picture included Best Picture, Drama, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor, with Roberts winning for Best Actress, Drama. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
9 Apr 1999
p. 1, 33.
Daily Variety
6 Mar 2000
p. 4, 48.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Apr 1998.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 1999.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 2000.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 Mar 2000
Calendar, pp. 8-11, 86-87.
Los Angeles Times
16 Mar 2000
p. B1, B5.
Los Angeles Times
17 Mar 2000.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Mar 2000
p. C1, C20.
Los Angeles Times
18 Oct 2001
Calendar, pp. 25-26.
New Republic
3 Apr 2000.
---
New York Times
14 May 1999.
---
New York Times
17 Mar 2000
---
New York Times
11 Apr 2000.
---
New Yorker
27 Mar 2000.
---
Newsweek
13 Mar 2000.
---
The Observer (London)
16 Apr 2000.
---
Time
20 Mar 2000
p. 70.
Time
1 May 2000.
---
Variety
6 Mar 2000.
---
Wall Street Journal
28 Mar 2000.
---
Wall Street Journal
6 Apr 2000.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Jersey Films Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Co-prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
A cam op
A cam 1st asst
B cam 1st asst
A cam 2d asst
B cam 2d asst
Cam loader
Loc projectionist
Loc projectionist
Light consultant
Best boy elec
Elec
Rigging gaffer
Best boy rigging
Rigging elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Rigging key grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Rigging grip
Still photog
Cam dollies by
Cam system by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
Art dept asst
Leadman
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
Avid asst ed
2d asst ed
Apprentice ed
Editorial intern
Dailies telecine/Track negative
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Prop master
Asst prop master
Prop asst
Constr coord
Gen foreman
Plaster foreman
Plaster foreman
Loc foreman
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
On-set dresser
Labor foreman
Labor foreman
Labor foreman
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker foreman
Paint supv
Standby painter
Paint foreman
Paint foreman
Paint foreman
Painter gangboss
Painter
Welding foreman
Greensman
Greensman
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Laborer
Laborer
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Key cost
Key cost
Key cost
Set cost for Julia Roberts
Set cost
Set cost
Set cost
MUSIC
Mus consultant
Asst mus ed
Mus score mixer
Mus contractor
Mus preperation
Mus rec & mixed at
SOUND
Supv sd ed/Re-rec mixer
Prod sd mixer
Dial ed
Asst sd ed
Addl sd ed
Addl sd ed
Addl sd ed
Addl sd ed
Addl asst sd ed
Boom op
Sd utility
Re-rec mixer
Sd eff rec
Post-prod sd services
Foley
Foley
Foley mixer
Foley rec
Foley ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff foreman
Spec eff foreman
Spec eff asst
Digital visual eff
Visual eff supv
Visual eff prod
Digital compositor
Digital compositor
Digital compositor
Paint supv
Digital artist
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Julia Roberts' makeup
Key makeup artist
Addl makeup
Tattoo des
Julia Roberts' hair des
Hair dept head
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting assoc
Extras casting
Extras casting
Voice casting
Casting intern
Prod coord
Prod supv
Asst prod coord
Asst prod coord
Post-prod supv
Post-prod asst
Prod secy
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Scr supv
Prod accountant
1st asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Cast auditor
Accounting clerk
Post prod accountant
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Loc prod asst
DGA trainee
Set medic
Set medic
Set medic
Constr medic
Set security
Security for Ms. Roberts
Security for Ms. Roberts
Security for Ms. Roberts
Craft service
Craft service
Studio teacher
Prod intern
Unit pub
Asst to Mr. Soderbergh & Mr. Hardy
Asst to Mr. DeVito
Asst to Mr. Shamberg
Asst to Ms. Sher
Asst to Ms. Sher & Mr. Shamberg
Asst to Ms. Shamberg
Asst to Ms. Lyon
Asst to Mr. LaGravenese
Asst to Mr. Finney
Asst to Ms. Roberts
Cast asst
Dialect coach for Mr. Finney
Cutting cont
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Cam car driver
Cam car driver
Insert car driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt double
Stunt double
Stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Bluegrass Hoedown," written and performed by Chris Horvath, courtesy of Del Rey Music, Inc./Who Did That Music? Library
"Honey Bunch" and "Two Shots of Rye," written by Paul Kerr and Andy Dewar, courtesy of Opus 1.
SONGS
"Redemption Day," written by Sheryl Crow, performed by Sheryl Crow, courtesy of A&M Records, under license from Universal Music Enterprises
"Everyday Is a Winding Road," written by Sheryl Crow, Brian MacLeod, Jeff Trott, performed by Sheryl Crow, courtesy of A&M Records, under license from Universal Music Enterprises.
DETAILS
Release Date:
17 March 2000
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 14 March 2000
Production Date:
25 May--5 August 1999 at Santa Ventura Studios, CA
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc. & Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
14 March 2000
Copyright Number:
PA0000975175
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Digital; SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound); DTS Digital Sound in selected theatres
Color
Kodak Motion Picture Film by Consolidated Film Industries
Duration(in mins):
131
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
37146
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Erin Brockovich, a twice-divorced, unemployed mother of two young children and an infant, consults lawyer Ed Masry of the Van Nuys, California firm Masry and Vititoe, regarding claims for injuries she suffered in an automobile accident that was not her fault. Although Ed assures her that he can get her a large settlement, he loses the case. Some time later, Erin, who has been unable to get work, bullies her way into a job as a file clerk with Ed’s firm. Erin also meets a new neighbor, George, who has a passion for motorcycles and whom her children adore. One day, while filing, Erin comes across a pro-bono case against the San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric Co. that Ed is handling on behalf of residents of Hinkley, California. When Erin asks Ed if she can assist with the case, he absent-mindedly agrees and Erin soon drives to Hinkley. There she meets with housewife Donna Jensen, who explains that both she and her husband Peter are seriously ill and that PG&E, a significant presence in the community, has been paying the family’s medical bills as well as trying to buy their house. The Jensens suspect that hexavalent chromium, known as Chromium 6, in use at the PG&E plant, may be causing their illness. Later, Erin learns from a UCLA professor that chromium 6 is added to water as an anti-corrosive and that certain levels of chromium 6 contamination can cause all kinds of illnesses, some of which can prove fatal. On the professor’s recommendation, Erin goes to the Lahontan Regional Water Board, which serves Hinkley, and by playing up to the naïve young, male clerk, is able to browse ... +


Erin Brockovich, a twice-divorced, unemployed mother of two young children and an infant, consults lawyer Ed Masry of the Van Nuys, California firm Masry and Vititoe, regarding claims for injuries she suffered in an automobile accident that was not her fault. Although Ed assures her that he can get her a large settlement, he loses the case. Some time later, Erin, who has been unable to get work, bullies her way into a job as a file clerk with Ed’s firm. Erin also meets a new neighbor, George, who has a passion for motorcycles and whom her children adore. One day, while filing, Erin comes across a pro-bono case against the San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric Co. that Ed is handling on behalf of residents of Hinkley, California. When Erin asks Ed if she can assist with the case, he absent-mindedly agrees and Erin soon drives to Hinkley. There she meets with housewife Donna Jensen, who explains that both she and her husband Peter are seriously ill and that PG&E, a significant presence in the community, has been paying the family’s medical bills as well as trying to buy their house. The Jensens suspect that hexavalent chromium, known as Chromium 6, in use at the PG&E plant, may be causing their illness. Later, Erin learns from a UCLA professor that chromium 6 is added to water as an anti-corrosive and that certain levels of chromium 6 contamination can cause all kinds of illnesses, some of which can prove fatal. On the professor’s recommendation, Erin goes to the Lahontan Regional Water Board, which serves Hinkley, and by playing up to the naïve young, male clerk, is able to browse through hundreds of old records. Her rearch uncovers a cleanup and abatement order to PG&E to remove hexavelent chromium, because it is contaminating groundwater over a large area. When Erin returns to Ed’s office, she learns that she has been fired, as he had misunderstood what she was doing. At home, although Erin is reluctant to become involved with another man, she begins a relationship with George. Later, Ed comes to see Erin, who is still unemployed, to tell her that the UCLA professor has examined the papers she found in Hinkley and concluded that the levels of chromium there could be responsible for the cancer in the Jensen family. Ed apologizes to Erin and, after she apprises him of her other discoveries, is persuaded to rehire her, with a raise and benefits. Weeks later, a PG&E representative meets with Ed and Erin and informs them that the company has made a generous offer to buy the Jensens' home, but denies any responsibility for their medical expenses. Soon, Tom and Mandy Robinson, who used to live across the street from the Jensens, come to tell Erin that Mandy has suffered five miscarriages and that their chickens have died with strange tumors, prompting them to wonder if they are also victims of the chromium use. Ed and Erin then go to Hinkley, meet with other residents and inform them that his firm will represent them against PG&E. If they win the case, his fee will be forty percent of whatever is awarded, but if they lose, his fee will be zero. Erin then interviews several other families with serious illnesses, hoping to add more families to the claim. Although Ed, who is close to retirement age, begins to worry about battling a giant company like PG&E, knowing that they could keep him in court, at great expense, for years, he is willing to continue, if Erin can produce significant evidence. Erin then collects water samples around Hinkley. Nine months later, Ed and Erin attend a community picnic in Hinkley, seeking to add more names to their growing list of four hundred and eleven plaintiffs. The case is costing a great deal and Ed is forced to take a second mortgage on his house. He feels that the punitive damages claim hinges on whether the PG&E head office in San Francisco was aware of what was going on in Hinkley and uses a legal ploy of bringing a preliminary suit against PG&E in the San Bernardino County Court for damages and medical expenses due to ground water contamination. Although PG&E submits a motion to strike the claim, the judge rules in favor of the residents and reprimands PG&E’s lawyers, who later offer Ed and Erin a twenty-million dollar settlement, which they decline. Meanwhile, Erin’s relationship with George and her children is deteriorating, as she is seldom home. George asks her to quit her job, but she cannot because it has brought her recognition, along with great self-respect, and she no longer is willing to adjust her life to the needs of the men in her life. Although Erin asks George to stay, he reluctantly leaves. Erin is angered when she learns that Ed has engaged a new partner, Kurt Potter, an expert in toxic cases, to work on the Hinkley litigation, but Kurt has given Ed a check covering all expenses to date. Later, Ed presents Erin with a check for five thousand dollars and buys her a new car. The case now has six hundred and thirty-four plaintiffs and Kurt devises a new legal strategy. Feeling that if they go to trial, PG&E could stretch out the matter with appeals for ten years or more, he recommends that they agree to binding arbitration whereby the case is heard only by a judge, whose decision is final and cannot be appealed. Erin reminds Ed that the residents are expecting a trial, but he agrees with Kurt. Erin, who feels that Ed is pushing her out of the case, has difficulties with Teresa, Kurt’s prim, condescending co-counsel, but surprises her with her knowledge of the plaintiffs’ backgrounds. Kurt tells Ed that they must establish that the PG&E head office knew that the water was bad prior to 1987 and did nothing about it. In order to use the binding arbitration strategy, it is necessary that ninety percent of the plaintiffs agree to it, so Ed addresses a meeting at the Hinkley community center and eventually convinces almost everyone that this is their best chance to get money needed to meet ongoing medical expenses. However, they are still about two hundred and fifty signatures short, so Erin stays in a nearby motel and goes door-to-door, seeking the additional signatures. She asks George to come there and look after the children and he agrees. One night, after securing a bartender’s signature, Erin is approached by Charles Embry, whom she thinks is trying to pick her up, but Charles tells her that he used to work at the plant and that his forty-one-year-old cousin has just died from cancer after working in the water cooling towers. Charles tells Erin that he was assigned to destroy a lot of documents, most of which were dull, but some of which were related to water readings in holding pools and test wells. After getting information from the documents that Charles did not destroy, Ed and Erin present Kurt with the necessary six hundred and thirty-four signatures plus incriminating memos from the PG&E head office to the Hinkley plant. Later, Erin and George return to Hinkley, and Erin takes him to meet Donna. Erin tells Donna the news that the judge has ruled that PG&E will pay the plaintiffs three hundred and thirty-three million dollars. She then tells the overjoyed and relieved Jensens that they will receive five million dollars. Back in the office, the still-contentious Erin is working on another case when Ed gives her a bonus check, but warns her that the figure is not exactly what they discussed. Erin is outraged that Ed is underestimating her value, but rendered speechless when she sees that the check is for two million dollars. +

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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.