A Brief History of Time (1992)

81 mins | Documentary | 21 August 1992

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HISTORY

The Summary for this unviewed film is based on contemporary reviews.
       End credits include the following statements: "We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of Professor Hawking's staff & nurses and The Department of Applied Mathematics & Theoretical Physics, Cambridge, England"; "The Black Hole courtesy of The Walt Disney Company; ‘Eye Gaze’ Board courtesy of The ALS Foundation; ‘Monopoly’ Board courtesy of Parker Brothers; Rolex Cosmograph Watch courtesy of J&P Timepieces; Thanks to Rolex; Antique Timepiece courtesy of Antique Time Machines”; “Archival material courtesy of John G. Wolbach Library, Harvard College Observatory; ‘London at Night’: Popperfoto, London; Astronomical Atlas: W & AK Johnston, Ltd., Edinburgh; Maps of the Heavens courtesy of The British Library, The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, Sothebys; ‘Large Scale Structure of Space-time’, Hawking & Ellis, by permission: Cambridge University Press; ‘Electricity & Magnetism’, Bleaney & Bleaney, by permission: Oxford University Press; Quasar 3C273: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Spiral galaxies: NASA; Particle Explosions courtesy of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, University of Californina, Pergamon Press; Archive photographs: The Hawking family, Jacob Bekenstein, Robert Berman, Don Page, Kip Thorne; Time Reverse Calculations: Raymond LaFlamme; ‘Singularlities’ & ‘Black Hole Explosions’ papers: Nature; ‘Black Holes & Entropy’ paper: Physical Review; ‘Urizen the Creator’ from Europe: A Prophecy by William Blake, 1794, courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; ‘Marilyn’ b&w photograph by Philippe Halsman © 1982; Professor Hawking’s computerized communication system provided by Words Plus Inc., Lancaster, CA”; “Special Thanks: Jay Boggis; Boston Light & Sound, Inc.; Joel Denton; Charlene Goggin; The Milton H. Greene Trust; Yvonne Halsman; IBM; Andrew MacBean; Marc Matz; Heidi Pribell; Shawn Rosenheim; Michael Samuelson Lighting; Gene Stone; Videocraft”; “Very ... More Less

The Summary for this unviewed film is based on contemporary reviews.
       End credits include the following statements: "We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of Professor Hawking's staff & nurses and The Department of Applied Mathematics & Theoretical Physics, Cambridge, England"; "The Black Hole courtesy of The Walt Disney Company; ‘Eye Gaze’ Board courtesy of The ALS Foundation; ‘Monopoly’ Board courtesy of Parker Brothers; Rolex Cosmograph Watch courtesy of J&P Timepieces; Thanks to Rolex; Antique Timepiece courtesy of Antique Time Machines”; “Archival material courtesy of John G. Wolbach Library, Harvard College Observatory; ‘London at Night’: Popperfoto, London; Astronomical Atlas: W & AK Johnston, Ltd., Edinburgh; Maps of the Heavens courtesy of The British Library, The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, Sothebys; ‘Large Scale Structure of Space-time’, Hawking & Ellis, by permission: Cambridge University Press; ‘Electricity & Magnetism’, Bleaney & Bleaney, by permission: Oxford University Press; Quasar 3C273: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Spiral galaxies: NASA; Particle Explosions courtesy of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, University of Californina, Pergamon Press; Archive photographs: The Hawking family, Jacob Bekenstein, Robert Berman, Don Page, Kip Thorne; Time Reverse Calculations: Raymond LaFlamme; ‘Singularlities’ & ‘Black Hole Explosions’ papers: Nature; ‘Black Holes & Entropy’ paper: Physical Review; ‘Urizen the Creator’ from Europe: A Prophecy by William Blake, 1794, courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; ‘Marilyn’ b&w photograph by Philippe Halsman © 1982; Professor Hawking’s computerized communication system provided by Words Plus Inc., Lancaster, CA”; “Special Thanks: Jay Boggis; Boston Light & Sound, Inc.; Joel Denton; Charlene Goggin; The Milton H. Greene Trust; Yvonne Halsman; IBM; Andrew MacBean; Marc Matz; Heidi Pribell; Shawn Rosenheim; Michael Samuelson Lighting; Gene Stone; Videocraft”; “Very Special Thanks: Shaista Hickman, Julia Sheehan”; and, “Filmed at Elstree Studios, London, and in Cambridge, England.”
       According to the 6 Apr 1990 Publishers Weekly, executive producer Gordon Freedman came to the attention of literary agent Al Zuckerman in 1985, when the former was seeking a collaborator for the non-fiction book he was writing. Impressed by two docu-dramas Freedman produced for television in 1988, Zuckerman offered him the motion picture “transcription” of physicist Stephen Hawking’s bestselling book, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. The estimated budget was $3 million, a third of which was allocated for computer and laser graphics. Although funding was provided by Anglia Television, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and Tokyo Broadcasting System, Freedman was permitted to release the film in theaters prior to its television debut. Principal photography began 26 Feb 1990 and was completed approximately two months later, as reported in the 21 Apr 1990 Screen International. Halfway through production, director Errol Morris went on hiatus to direct The Dark Wind (1991, see entry). Hawking would receive five percent of British and American licensing fees in the event of a television debut, or three percent of the final production budget in the event of a theatrical debut. The author would also receive seven-and-a-half percent of net profits under $3 million and ten percent if profits exceeded that amount, and thirty-three percent of the gross for “home video rights.”
       As stated in the Jun 1992 Vanity Fair, filmmaker Steven Spielberg recommended director Errol Morris to Freedman, with the offer of funding and endorsement by his company, Amblin Entertainment, if Morris was hired. However, Spielberg was dissatisfied with an early edit of the film and withdrew the endorsement. Morris told the Sep 1992 Interview that he committed to the project after his Jan 1990 meeting with its subject, Stephen Hawking, whom the director described as having a powerful presence, despite his physical incapacity. Principal photography took place at Elstree Studios in London, England, on a soundstage designed to resemble Hawking’s office, including the poster of actress Marilyn Monroe on the wall behind his desk. In Vanity Fair, Morris explained how he compiled a number of Hawking’s “synthesized-voice” statements, and assembled “a dictionary of shots” portraying the scientist from different perspectives, to compensate for his inability to move or speak. Hawking reportedly complained that he was photographed “like a sofa.” According to the 21-27 Aug 1992 Village View, Hawking’s narrative was derived from his book, his published papers and lectures, and from material written specifically for the production. Hawking and his wife, Jane, separated shortly before production began, but Morris chose to exclude such personal details, believing they were not suitable to the narrative. He also avoided using “high-tech graphics” to illustrate scientific concepts, preferring mundane objects such as clocks and board games, as Hawking did in his book.
       Morris told Interview that he solicited Hawking’s advice on editing the film by sending videotaped “rough cuts” to the scientist. Eventually, Hawking left Cambridge, England, to join Morris in Cambridge, MA, where he wrote additional narration and assisted editing the film, which Morris described as “the turning point.” Despite his contributions, Hawking wished the film contained more scientific content, and strongly disagreed with Morris’s decision to include a chicken in the opening sequence. Morris was unyielding on the issue, saying it was the only opportunity he would ever have to place a chicken among the stars.
       The 10 Apr 1992 HR announced Triton Pictures’ acquisition of domestic rights, “exclusive of television.” A Brief History of Time was awarded the Grand Jury Prize and the Filmmaker Trophy for best documentary at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT, and was scheduled for a summer 1992 release. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time: A Reader’s Companion, described by the scientist as a “book of the film of the book,” was due for publication by Bantam Books in Jun 1992. The planned initial printing was 200,000 copies.
       A Brief History of Time opened 21 Aug 1992 in Los Angeles, CA, and New York City to positive reviews. Openings in cities across the U.S. were scheduled from late Aug through Oct 1992, as noted in the 4 Aug 1992 DV. Special screenings were held at AMPAS in Beverly Hills, CA, on 14 Aug 1992, and at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, CA on 15 Aug 1992, with personal appearances by Morris and Hawking. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
4 Aug 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 1992
p. 3, 42.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 1992
p. 5, 14.
Interview
Sep 1992
p. 126, 140.
Publishers Weekly
6 Apr 1990.
---
Screen International
21 Apr 1990.
---
Vanity Fair
Jun 1992
p. 72, 74.
Variety
20 Jan 1992
p. 143.
Villiage View
21-27 Aug 1992.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Anglia Television & Gordon Freedman Production
An Errol Morris Film
Produced in association with NBC, Tokyo Broadcasting System & Channel Four, U.K.
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod for Anglia Television
Asst prod
Asst prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Focus puller
Clapper loader
Gaffer
Gaffer
Elec
Anim cam
Anim cam
Still photog
Still photog
Prod stills
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Graphics coord
Art dir
Matte drawings
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
Assoc ed
Consulting ed
Asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Intern
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Props buyer/Set dresser
Prop master
Props (UK)
Props (UK)
Props (UK)
Props (US)
Const mgr
Const mgr
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Stagehand
Stagehand
Rigger
Rigger
Rigger
Rigger
MUSIC
Orig mus comp by
Mus prod by
Mus ed
Mus cond
Exec prod
Asst eng
Mus rec & mixed at
New York
SOUND
Sd eff
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec at
New York
Sd eff rec at
Marin, CA
Dolby stereo consultant
Sd mixer
Boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Motion control and visual eff photog
Computer anim
Blue screen supv
Back projection supv
Back projection slides
Main and end titles des by
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Science adv
Financial controller
Prod supv
Prod supv
Prod coord (US)
Prop driver
Runner
Runner
Prod assoc
Asst to Errol Morris
Research asst
Research asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod secy
Prod secy
Wheelchair/Computer consultant
Chicken wrangler
Radiology adv
Unit driver
Unit driver
Const transport
Unit pub
Transcriptions
Transcriptions
STAND INS
Stephen Hawking stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Processing (US)
Processing (UK)
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (New York, 1988) by Stephen Hawking.
MUSIC
All music composed by Philip Glass/(ASCAP)
Copyright © 1991 Dunvagen Music Publishers, Inc./(ASCAP)
All music produced by Kurt Munkasci for Euphorbia Productions Ltd., New York.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 August 1992
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 21 August 1992
Production Date:
26 February--30 April 1990
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision® Cameras & Lenses
Prints
Originated on Eastman® Color Film from Kodak; Prints by Du Art Film Laboratories
Duration(in mins):
81
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Musing on the origins of the universe, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking poses the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” as an enormous chicken appears against the night sky. Born in England, while his country was under attack from Nazi Germany, Stephen was considered the “normal” member of an eccentric family. During his final year at Oxford University he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and was expected to die within the next thirty months. The prognosis motivated Stephen to excel in his graduate studies at Cambridge University, and his engagement to Jane Wilde reinforced his will to live. Stephen, his mother, Isobel, and assorted friends, colleagues, and students recount his life, paralleled with the development of his theories. Although Stephen does not believe in a “personal God,” he aspires to understand the nature of the Supreme Being, and its role in the creation of the universe. He believes the day may come when humanity will achieve a full understanding of God and the universe. He also predicts the latter will come to an end in fifteen billion years. ... +


Musing on the origins of the universe, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking poses the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” as an enormous chicken appears against the night sky. Born in England, while his country was under attack from Nazi Germany, Stephen was considered the “normal” member of an eccentric family. During his final year at Oxford University he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and was expected to die within the next thirty months. The prognosis motivated Stephen to excel in his graduate studies at Cambridge University, and his engagement to Jane Wilde reinforced his will to live. Stephen, his mother, Isobel, and assorted friends, colleagues, and students recount his life, paralleled with the development of his theories. Although Stephen does not believe in a “personal God,” he aspires to understand the nature of the Supreme Being, and its role in the creation of the universe. He believes the day may come when humanity will achieve a full understanding of God and the universe. He also predicts the latter will come to an end in fifteen billion years. +

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

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