The Man Without a Face (1993)

PG-13 | 115 mins | Drama | 25 August 1993

Director:

Mel Gibson

Writer:

Malcolm MacRury

Producer:

Bruce Davey

Cinematographer:

Donald M. McAlpine

Editor:

Tony Gibbs

Production Designer:

Barbara Dunphy

Production Company:

Icon Productions
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HISTORY

On 19 Mar 1992, DV announced actor Mel Gibson’s plan to direct his first theatrically-released feature film with financing from his own company, Icon Productions. The project, The Man Without a Face, was based on the 1972 young adult novel of the same name by Isabelle Holland. At that time, Gibson was not interested in the starring role of “McLeod,” and planned to cast himself in a smaller part. An 8 Aug 1993 L.B. Press-Telegram article stated that Gibson attempted to hire three other actors before taking on the lead character.
       As noted in a 5 Sep 1993 LAT column, Holland’s novel depicted a homosexual relationship between McLeod and his young admirer, “Chuck,” and the narrative contained overt references to pedophilia. However, the film portrays a chaste friendship. Although Mel Gibson detractors speculated that the narrative was altered to reflect the actor’s much-publicized antagonism toward homosexuality, screenwriter Malcolm MacRury reportedly changed the sexual orientation of the character McLeod, and removed allusions to an affair between the two male leads, while adapting the novel in 1990. Literary agent Lisa Callamaro, who represented both Holland and MacRury, told LAT that McLeod’s homosexuality made screen rights impossible to sell, and the writers were concerned that the issue of pedophilia would offend the gay community.
       When the property was acquired by Icon in 1991, Gibson had no knowledge of the Holland novel, but he was not dissuaded when he read the book, according to an Icon publicist. The L.B. Press-Telegram reported that Gibson was attracted to the project because he ... More Less

On 19 Mar 1992, DV announced actor Mel Gibson’s plan to direct his first theatrically-released feature film with financing from his own company, Icon Productions. The project, The Man Without a Face, was based on the 1972 young adult novel of the same name by Isabelle Holland. At that time, Gibson was not interested in the starring role of “McLeod,” and planned to cast himself in a smaller part. An 8 Aug 1993 L.B. Press-Telegram article stated that Gibson attempted to hire three other actors before taking on the lead character.
       As noted in a 5 Sep 1993 LAT column, Holland’s novel depicted a homosexual relationship between McLeod and his young admirer, “Chuck,” and the narrative contained overt references to pedophilia. However, the film portrays a chaste friendship. Although Mel Gibson detractors speculated that the narrative was altered to reflect the actor’s much-publicized antagonism toward homosexuality, screenwriter Malcolm MacRury reportedly changed the sexual orientation of the character McLeod, and removed allusions to an affair between the two male leads, while adapting the novel in 1990. Literary agent Lisa Callamaro, who represented both Holland and MacRury, told LAT that McLeod’s homosexuality made screen rights impossible to sell, and the writers were concerned that the issue of pedophilia would offend the gay community.
       When the property was acquired by Icon in 1991, Gibson had no knowledge of the Holland novel, but he was not dissuaded when he read the book, according to an Icon publicist. The L.B. Press-Telegram reported that Gibson was attracted to the project because he could relate to both male leads. Gibson explained that as a celebrity, he was often stared at in public, “like I have an extra head, or a disfigurement.” In addition, Gibson’s family move from NY to Australia when he was a boy prompted him to feel like an outsider and to constantly re-evaluate his identity. Regarding Chuck’s coming-of-age story, Gibson identified with the fear of transformation, and was looking for a “story that showed the joy of learning, the joy of growing.”
       By 18 May 1992, Gibson’s Icon partner, Bruce Davey, was set to produce and casting was underway for Chuck, according to a DV brief published that day. Four days later, a 22 May 1992 Screen International article announced that Majestic Films and Television International had acquired foreign distribution rights for the $20 million production, providing nearly fifty percent of the total budget.
       Although DV listed Canada as a potential shooting location, the picture was filmed entirely in Maine. Principal photography began 3 Aug 1992 in Rockport, which stood in for the fictional town of “Cranesport,” according to studio production notes in AMPAS library files, and Bowdoin College in Brunswick represented “Holyfield Academy.” Filming also took place in the coastal resort town of Bayside, and McLeod’s house was located on Deer Isle in Hancock County. Production offices and interior sets were based in an empty warehouse in Rockland. A 1 Sep 1992 DV column added Camden and Portland, Maine, as shooting locations. Gibson’s makeup required three hours of application each morning before filming began. The picture made its final appearance on DV charts on 6 Nov 1992, and the movie was still being edited as of 19 Apr 1993, according to a DV brief published that day.
       The Man Without a Face marked Nick Stahl’s feature film debut.
       The picture received generally favorable reviews, many of which compared the film to the Academy Award-winning Dead Poets Society (1989, see entry). The Man Without a Face grossed over $1.1 million in its first two days of opening, as reported in a 6 Sep 1993 Var article, and $6,111,889 in its first week of release, according to a 13 Sep 1993 Var column. A 25 Jul 1994 Var report stated the film grossed approximately $25 million during its theatrical run.
       End credits acknowledge: “’Red River,’ clip courtesy of United Artists Pictures, a division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.; ‘Classics Illustrated,’ © 1992, First Publishing, Inc., used by permission; ‘The Mighty Thor,’ ™ & © 1992 Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc., used with permission, all rights reserved; ‘Playboy Magazine,’ courtesy of Playboy © 1968 Playboy Enterprises Inc.”
       End credits state: “The producers wish to thank: The State of Maine; The Maine Film Office, D. Lea Girardin; Bowdoin College; The Foundation to Underwrite New Drama.”

More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Oct 1993.
---
Daily Variety
19 Mar 1992.
---
Daily Variety
18 May 1992.
---
Daily Variety
1 Sep 1992.
---
Daily Variety
6 Nov 1992.
---
Daily Variety
19 Apr 1993.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 1993
p. 6, 14.
L.B. Press-Telegram
8 Aug 1993.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Aug 1993
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
5 Sep 1993.
---
New York Times
25 Aug 1993
p. 13.
Screen International
22 May 1992.
---
Variety
30 Aug 1993
p. 19.
Variety
6 Sep 1993.
---
Variety
13 Sep 1993.
---
Variety
25 Jul 1994.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Warner Bros. presents
An Icon production
A Mel Gibson film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Co-prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Film loader
Steadicam op
Video asst op
Video playback op
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Key grip
Grip best boy
Picture car coord
Stills photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept coord
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst fllm ed
Asst fllm ed
Ed prod asst
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Lead person
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Propmaster
Asst prop master
Const coord
Const foreman
Paint foreman
Const prod asst
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Men's cost sup
Costumer
Costumer
Ward prod asst
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus ed
Mus rec by
Mus rec at
SOUND
Prod sd
Boom person
Cable person
Supv sd ed
Dial ed
ADR ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Sd trainee
Loop group
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff foreman
Titles & opticals
MAKEUP
Spec makeup created by
Makeup supv
Makeup artist
Hair stylist supv
Hairstylist
Cannom Creations crew
Cannom Creations crew
Cannom Creations crew
Cannom Creations crew
Cannom Creations crew
PRODUCTION MISC
Craft service
Catering
Catering
Dialect coach
Teacher
First aid
Animal trainer
Animal trainer
McLeod's paintings
McLeod's illustrations
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Prod accountant
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Post-prod accountant
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Transportation coord
Transportation coord
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Boat consultant
Boat captain
Asst to Mr. Davey
Asst to Mr. McEveety
Asst to Mr. Gibson
Security consultant
International pub
New York casting assoc
Casting asst
Extras casting
Extras casting
Banking services
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Prints by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Man Without A Face by Isabelle Holland (Philadelphia, 1972).
SONGS
"Born A Woman," written by Martha Sharp, performed by Sandy Posey, courtesy of G.M.L., Inc.
"Ch'ella Mi Creda" (from La Fanciulla Del West ), written by G. Puccini, C. Civinini, C. Zangarini and D. Belasco, performed by Jussi Björling, courtesy of Decca/London Records, by arrangement with Polygram Special Markets
"Moon River," written by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini, performed by Andy Williams, courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
+
SONGS
"Born A Woman," written by Martha Sharp, performed by Sandy Posey, courtesy of G.M.L., Inc.
"Ch'ella Mi Creda" (from La Fanciulla Del West ), written by G. Puccini, C. Civinini, C. Zangarini and D. Belasco, performed by Jussi Björling, courtesy of Decca/London Records, by arrangement with Polygram Special Markets
"Moon River," written by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini, performed by Andy Williams, courtesy of Columbia Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
"The Challenge" (from Red River ), written by Dimitri Tiomkin."
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
25 August 1993
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 25 August 1993
New York opening: week of 25 August 1993
Production Date:
3 August -- fall 1992
Copyright Claimant:
Icon Distribution, Inc.
Copyright Date:
5 October 1993
Copyright Number:
PA659536
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby® Stereo in selected theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision® cameras and lenses
Duration(in mins):
115
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32467
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the summer of 1968, young Chuck Norstadt rides a ferryboat to his family’s summer home in Maine with his self-absorbed single mother, Catherine, and his nagging half-sisters, Gloria and Megan. None of the children share the same father, and Chuck has little knowledge of his paternal lineage except that his father was educated at the prestigious Holyfield Academy. Chuck dreams of attending the military boarding school so he can be free from his troubled home life, but his quick temper and impatience have made him a poor student, and he did not pass the entrance examination. On the ferry, Chuck announces his plan to retake the test. However, his mother, Catherine, and smug older half-sister, Gloria, scoff at the boy’s intelligence and insist he will fail. Enraged, Chuck vandalizes Catherine’s car on the ferryboat, only to realize he is being watched by Justin McLeod, a local recluse who has a severe facial deformity. Despite rumors that McLeod is malicious, he does not reveal Chuck’s secret when Catherine discovers her damaged car. As Chuck studies for the Holyfield exam, he suffers from lack of guidance and encouragement. One day, Chuck’s friends lure him to the rocky shore near Justin McLeod’s desolate seaside estate, and they exchange rumors about the mysterious man. When McLeod’s dog barks at the boys, they rush away in fear, and Chuck accidentally leaves his books behind. Determined to keep up his work, Chuck bikes back to McLeod’s house and is devastated to find his papers strewn across the rocks. Chuck’s disappointment triggers a psychological breakdown, and he does not notice when it starts to ... +


In the summer of 1968, young Chuck Norstadt rides a ferryboat to his family’s summer home in Maine with his self-absorbed single mother, Catherine, and his nagging half-sisters, Gloria and Megan. None of the children share the same father, and Chuck has little knowledge of his paternal lineage except that his father was educated at the prestigious Holyfield Academy. Chuck dreams of attending the military boarding school so he can be free from his troubled home life, but his quick temper and impatience have made him a poor student, and he did not pass the entrance examination. On the ferry, Chuck announces his plan to retake the test. However, his mother, Catherine, and smug older half-sister, Gloria, scoff at the boy’s intelligence and insist he will fail. Enraged, Chuck vandalizes Catherine’s car on the ferryboat, only to realize he is being watched by Justin McLeod, a local recluse who has a severe facial deformity. Despite rumors that McLeod is malicious, he does not reveal Chuck’s secret when Catherine discovers her damaged car. As Chuck studies for the Holyfield exam, he suffers from lack of guidance and encouragement. One day, Chuck’s friends lure him to the rocky shore near Justin McLeod’s desolate seaside estate, and they exchange rumors about the mysterious man. When McLeod’s dog barks at the boys, they rush away in fear, and Chuck accidentally leaves his books behind. Determined to keep up his work, Chuck bikes back to McLeod’s house and is devastated to find his papers strewn across the rocks. Chuck’s disappointment triggers a psychological breakdown, and he does not notice when it starts to rain. However, McLeod has been watching Chuck from afar and startles him awake. In McLeod’s house, Chuck learns the recluse was once a teacher and asks for tutoring on the Holyfield exam. Although McLeod is mistrustful and turns the boy away, Chuck returns the following day and convinces him to reconsider. Over time, Chuck begins to appreciate McLeod’s academic austerity, but fails to tell his mother about the mentorship because Catherine is repelled by McLeod’s shocking appearance, and does not trust the outsider. When McLeod realizes Chuck is coming to his house without Catherine’s approval, he discontinues their lessons and promises to resume once the boy speaks to his mother. Returning home, Chuck overhears a cryptic discussion between Catherine and Gloria, who has an unexplained aversion toward Chuck and his dead father. Catherine forbids Gloria from dredging up family secrets, particularly in front of Chuck, who has no memories of his father. Just then, Chuck makes his presence known, but Gloria skulks away and Catherine does not encourage conversation. Although Chuck does not secure his mother’s consent to study with McLeod, he convinces his tutor otherwise and proceeds with his lessons. McLeod lets down his guard and shows Chuck his paintings, which provide him with a steady income. Revealing his past, McLeod explains that his face was scarred in an automobile accident that took the life of a former student. The boy’s death prevented McLeod from pursuing his love of teaching. As the summer continues, Chuck scores 84% on a practice test, and McLeod charters a seaplane to reward him. Returning home from the flight, Chuck finds Gloria making love with her boyfriend and threatens to disclose the misdeed to their mother. As Chuck delights in the opportunity to exploit his sister’s indiscretion, Gloria retaliates with an unpleasant revelation about Chuck’s father: The man was an alcoholic who abused the family and committed suicide in a sanitarium. Chuck does not believe his sister, but he discovers evidence in his mother’s dresser. Distressed, Chuck races to McLeod, who encourages the boy to rest. The next morning, Chuck is reported missing and police Chief Stark finds the young man at McLeod’s house. When the boy stumbles to the door in his underwear, Chief Stark suspects malfeasance and escorts Chuck back to his mother. Catherine tearfully embraces her son and admits the truth about Chuck’s father, but she is more concerned about the boy’s relationship with McLeod. When she tells Chuck that McLeod molested the student who died in the car accident and asks her son to confess any “touching” that went on at McLeod’s home, Chuck is confused by her implication and concedes there was friendly physical contact. Despite Chuck’s insistence that McLeod is harmless, Catherine believes the boy is harboring secrets and subjects him to psychological testing. Meanwhile, McLeod is visited by Chief Stark, who summons the teacher to a courthouse “meeting.” He warns McLeod to stay away from Chuck, and rumors spread through town that McLeod is a pedophile. As summer ends, Chuck is unable to endure his separation from McLeod any longer and steals Catherine’s car, even though he is too young to drive. After a treacherous drive to McLeod’s house, Chuck demands to know the truth about his dead student, but the teacher refuses to answer. McLeod encourages the boy to use his newfound intellect and come to his own conclusion. Finally understanding the power of critical thought, Chuck realizes McLeod has been scapegoated by narrow-minded people who are afraid to question their misconceptions. As Chuck embraces his mentor, Chief Stark arrives and takes the boy away. Sometime later, McLeod defends his innocence at the town “meeting,” but the board remains skeptical and McLeod grudgingly agrees to abstain from any contact with Chuck to maintain his freedom. Elsewhere, Chuck finally passes the Holyfield Academy entrance examination and begins school. When his letters to McLeod are returned unopened, Chuck hitchhikes to his teacher’s house and finds it empty. However, McLeod left behind an original painting that features an image of Chuck, sitting on a hillside overlooking a vast landscape. McLeod sketched the picture on one of his outings with the boy that summer, and included his own likeness in the background. On top of the painting, Chuck finds a letter from McLeod that declares they must never see each other. McLeod thanks Chuck for being his friend when others were afraid to come near. Four years later, Chuck achieves his dream of graduating from Holyfield Academy. At the commencement ceremony, Chuck is delighted to catch a glimpse of McLeod in the distance. He waves to his mentor and reflects that he will always remember McLeod’s life lessons, even if he will never see his face again. +

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

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