The Remains of the Day (1993)

PG | 134 mins | Drama | 5 November 1993

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HISTORY

Writer Harold Pinter optioned film rights to Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, The Remains of the Day, before it was published in 1989, according to a 14 Nov 1993 NYT article. Despite the novel’s critical and commercial success in the U.K., it remained “virtually unknown” in the U.S., as stated in a 6 Aug 1991 HR item. Pinter’s film adaptation was acquired by the Guber-Peters Company, for John Calley to produce and Mike Nichols to direct, as stated in the 28 May 1992 DV. Columbia Pictures was set to finance and distribute, and the production was budgeted at $26 million, according to a 24 Jan 1993 NYT article.
       The 28 Jun 1991 Screen International announced that Jeremy Irons would play “James Stevens.” Mike Nichols reportedly auditioned Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Anjelica Huston, and Emma Thompson for the role of “Miss Kenton.” Nichols eventually left the project as director, but stayed on as producer. Following his departure, the 20 Apr 1992 Var noted that director Christopher Menaul was briefly attached before Columbia brought the project to James Ivory, who had been interested in Ishiguro’s novel since reading it on the set of his 1990 film, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (see entry). When Ivory agreed to direct, his and Ismail Merchant’s Merchant/Ivory Productions came on board to produce.
       The 28 May 1992 DV announced the project had received a green light from Columbia Pictures, with Anthony Hopkins cast in the lead role. James Ivory considered Anjelica Huston and Juliet Stevenson for Miss Kenton, before casting Emma Thompson, who recently co-starred with Anthony Hopkins in ... More Less

Writer Harold Pinter optioned film rights to Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, The Remains of the Day, before it was published in 1989, according to a 14 Nov 1993 NYT article. Despite the novel’s critical and commercial success in the U.K., it remained “virtually unknown” in the U.S., as stated in a 6 Aug 1991 HR item. Pinter’s film adaptation was acquired by the Guber-Peters Company, for John Calley to produce and Mike Nichols to direct, as stated in the 28 May 1992 DV. Columbia Pictures was set to finance and distribute, and the production was budgeted at $26 million, according to a 24 Jan 1993 NYT article.
       The 28 Jun 1991 Screen International announced that Jeremy Irons would play “James Stevens.” Mike Nichols reportedly auditioned Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Anjelica Huston, and Emma Thompson for the role of “Miss Kenton.” Nichols eventually left the project as director, but stayed on as producer. Following his departure, the 20 Apr 1992 Var noted that director Christopher Menaul was briefly attached before Columbia brought the project to James Ivory, who had been interested in Ishiguro’s novel since reading it on the set of his 1990 film, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (see entry). When Ivory agreed to direct, his and Ismail Merchant’s Merchant/Ivory Productions came on board to produce.
       The 28 May 1992 DV announced the project had received a green light from Columbia Pictures, with Anthony Hopkins cast in the lead role. James Ivory considered Anjelica Huston and Juliet Stevenson for Miss Kenton, before casting Emma Thompson, who recently co-starred with Anthony Hopkins in Merchant/Ivory’s 1992 film, Howard’s End.
       Filming was slated to begin in Sep 1992, in England or Ireland. According to an item in the 21 Sep 1992 DV, the production budget had been reduced from $26 million to $11.5 million, but still represented Merchant/Ivory’s costliest production, to date.
       Merchant and Ivory brought in frequent collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala to rewrite Harold Pinter’s script. Although Pinter was sent Jhabvala’s rewrite and offered a co-writing credit, he declined. In the 14 Nov 1993 NYT, Mike Nichols was quoted as saying, “Pinter’s approach was more austere and had more mystery,” while Jhabvala’s version was “clearer and more accessible.” Jhabvala’s script included the following departures from the novel: the film’s “Jack Lewis” is a composite of two characters; “Lord Darlington’s” Nazi sympathies are revealed earlier in the film’s narrative; and the role of Miss Kenton, described in the 14 Nov 1993 NYT as a “shadowy figure” in the novel, was expanded.
       Technical advisor Cyril Dickman served as the palace steward at Buckingham Palace for fifteen years, and spent a total of fifty years in service, as noted in a 23 Nov 1993 Chicago Tribune article. Dickman worked closely with Anthony Hopkins, teaching him how to move in and out of rooms, how to address employers, and how to perform minute tasks such as ironing the morning paper. The retired butler reportedly appears in the background of one of the film’s final scenes, but is not credited as a cast member.
       Principal photography began 21 Sep 1992, according to the 29 Sep 1992 HR production chart. The fictional “Darlington Hall” was filmed at four English residences: Dyrham Park near Bath, which doubled as Darlington’s front entrance; Corsham Court in Wiltshire, where several interiors were filmed; Powderham Castle in Devon, which provided a staircase hall; and Badminton House, the Duke of Beaufort’s residence in Avon, where servants’ quarters were filmed. The 27 Nov 1992 Screen International stated that filming concluded on 1 Dec 1992.
       A 1 Sep 1993 LADN brief reported that trailers for the film sparked a renewed interest in the novel, prompting Vintage Books to order a printing of 100,000 copies.
       The Los Angeles, CA, benefit premiere took place on 25 Oct 1993 at the AMPAS theater, as stated in a 27 Oct 1993 LAT item, raising over $100,000 for the nonprofit organization, Education First! The film went on to gross roughly $20 million, according to The Globe and Mail [Toronto, Canada], and was well received by critics.
       The Remains of the Day was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Actor in a Leading Role (Anthony Hopkins); Actress in a Leading Role (Emma Thompson); Art Direction; Costume Design; Directing; Music (Original Score); Writing (Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published); and Best Picture.
       End credits include: “The makers of this film gratefully thank: The Duke of Beaufort; Badminton House, Avon, and the Beaufort Hunt; The Earl of Devon; Powderham Castle, Devon; The Lord Methuen; Corsham Court, Avon; The National Trust; Dyrham Park, Avon; Arthur Sanderson and Sons, Ltd.; Garrard, The Crown Jewellers. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Chicago Tribune
23 Nov 1993
p. 4.
Daily Variety
28 May 1992
p. 1, 13.
Daily Variety
21 Sep 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1991
p. 1, 66.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Sep 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Sep 1993
p. 6, 34.
Long Beach Press-Telegram
2 Dec 1992.
---
Los Angeles Daily News
1 Sep 1993.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 Oct 1993
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
31 Oct 1993
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
5 Nov 1993
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
5 Nov 1993
p. 1.
New York Times
24 Jan 1993
Section A, p. 11.
New York Times
5 Nov 1993
p. 1.
New York Times
14 Nov 1993
Section A, p. 13.
Newsday
20 May 1991
p. 11.
Newsday
3 Jul 1991
p. 11.
Screen International
28 Jun 1991.
---
Screen International
27 Nov 1992.
---
The Globe and Mail [Toronto, Canada]
18 Mar 1994
Section C, p. 8.
The Times (London)
29 Oct 1993.
---
Variety
20 Apr 1992.
---
Variety
22 Jun 1992.
---
Variety
4 Oct 1993
p. 38.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures Presents
A Mike Nichols/John Calley/Merchant Ivory Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Follow focus cam
Clapper loader
2d unit cam
Cam trainee
Apprentice
Cam grip
Gaffer
Best boy
Stills photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept asst
Art dept asst
Art dept asst
FILM EDITORS
Assoc ed
Asst ed
2d asst ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prod buyer
Prop master
Stand-by props
Stand-by props
Dressing prop
Const mgr
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost des
Ward mistress
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
Costumes
SOUND
Boom op
Sd re-rec
Asst sd re-rec
On-set sd asst
Sd ed
Dial ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and opticals by
DANCE
MAKEUP
Chief make-up artist
Chief hairdresser
Make-up artist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod supv
Loc scout
Prod co-ord
Asst to the prod
Project creative asst
Loc asst
Prod accountant
Prod accountant
Prod accountant
Scr supv
Dir's runner
Tech adv
Asst adv
Crowd marshall
Unit driver
Unit driver
Unit driver
Unit driver
STAND INS
Stand-in
Stand-in
COLOR PERSONNEL
Processed and printed by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (New York, 1989).
SONGS
"Blue Moon," composed by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, used by permission of E.M.I. Robbins Catalog Inc.
"Roll Along Prairie Moon," composed by Ted Florito, Albert Von Tilzer and Harry MacPherson, used by permission of E.M.I. Robbins Catalog Inc. and Redwood Music Ltd., sung by Gracie Fields
"Sei Mir Gegrüsst," composed by Franz Schubert, sung by Ann Murray, piano: Graham Johnson.
DETAILS
Release Date:
5 November 1993
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles premiere: 25 October 1993
Los Angeles and New York openings: 5 November 1993
Production Date:
21 September--1 December 1992
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
11 November 1993
Copyright Number:
PA667970
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo in selected theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision® cameras and lenses
Duration(in mins):
134
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32525
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1950s England, James Stevens has spent the better part of his life as butler at Darlington Hall. He receives a letter from former housekeeper Mrs. Sarah Benn, who now lives in Clevedon. She discloses that she has left her husband for the second time and often thinks of her years at Darlington Hall as the happiest of her life. In need of a new housekeeper, Stevens decides to visit Mrs. Benn, hoping to persuade her to return to her old job. With the permission of his employer, Jack Lewis, an American who recently bought Darlington Hall, Stevens goes on holiday to Clevedon. En route, he recalls some twenty years ago when he interviewed Sarah Benn, who went by her maiden name of Miss Kenton: a stickler for propriety, Stevens warns Miss Kenton against romantic entanglements with other staff members, as the former housekeeper and under-butler just ran off together. Miss Kenton is hired, and Stevens brings in his elderly father, William Stevens, to replace the under-butler. One day, Miss Kenton attempts to liven up Stevens’s quarters with a bouquet of flowers. The butler insists he likes things as they are, and reprimands her for addressing his father as “William” instead of “Mr. Stevens, Sr.” Miss Kenton argues that she is his father’s superior, but Stevens maintains she should call the elderly man by his surname out of respect. Rattled by Stevens’s pedantry, Miss Kenton leaves in a huff. That night, at dinner with the other servants, William Stevens tells an amusing story about a butler who was forced to shoot a tiger inside his employer’s home in India. He is called upstairs to sweep, but absentmindedly leaves the ... +


In 1950s England, James Stevens has spent the better part of his life as butler at Darlington Hall. He receives a letter from former housekeeper Mrs. Sarah Benn, who now lives in Clevedon. She discloses that she has left her husband for the second time and often thinks of her years at Darlington Hall as the happiest of her life. In need of a new housekeeper, Stevens decides to visit Mrs. Benn, hoping to persuade her to return to her old job. With the permission of his employer, Jack Lewis, an American who recently bought Darlington Hall, Stevens goes on holiday to Clevedon. En route, he recalls some twenty years ago when he interviewed Sarah Benn, who went by her maiden name of Miss Kenton: a stickler for propriety, Stevens warns Miss Kenton against romantic entanglements with other staff members, as the former housekeeper and under-butler just ran off together. Miss Kenton is hired, and Stevens brings in his elderly father, William Stevens, to replace the under-butler. One day, Miss Kenton attempts to liven up Stevens’s quarters with a bouquet of flowers. The butler insists he likes things as they are, and reprimands her for addressing his father as “William” instead of “Mr. Stevens, Sr.” Miss Kenton argues that she is his father’s superior, but Stevens maintains she should call the elderly man by his surname out of respect. Rattled by Stevens’s pedantry, Miss Kenton leaves in a huff. That night, at dinner with the other servants, William Stevens tells an amusing story about a butler who was forced to shoot a tiger inside his employer’s home in India. He is called upstairs to sweep, but absentmindedly leaves the broom and dustpan on a landing. Miss Kenton sees the broom and informs Stevens, who removes it just as their employer, Lord Darlington, descends the stairs. Miss Kenton warns Stevens that his father has been given too much responsibility, but he dismisses her complaint. Shortly after, William Stevens trips and falls on his way to deliver tea to Lord Darlington and his guests. Lord Darlington, a kindly but misguided Nazi sympathizer, is planning an “international conference” to promote peace between England, France, and Nazi Germany, and fears the under-butler might cause a similar scene. Darlington instructs Stevens to reduce his father’s duties, and the butler complies. During the conference, Stevens prioritizes his job, even when his father falls seriously ill. On the final night of the conference, visiting American congressman Jack Lewis speaks out against “amateurs” like Lord Darlington and his guests taking it upon themselves to decide international affairs, and recommends leaving such negotiations to professional politicians. Darlington fires back just as Stevens gets word that his father has passed away. When he finally makes it to his father’s quarters, Stevens sends the doctor to the room of a visiting Frenchman who is complaining of sore feet. Miss Kenton offers her condolences to the detached butler. In need of new housemaids, she hires two German refugees, but Darlington discovers they are Jews and asks Stevens to fire them. When Stevens carries out the orders, Miss Kenton threatens to leave. However, she stays, and hires a new housemaid named Lizzie. She later admits to Stevens that she is a coward and fears the loneliness of the outside world. He assures her she means a great deal to the house, and Miss Kenton is touched. Back in the present, Stevens’s car runs out of gas on the way to Clevedon. At a boardinghouse, patrons mistake him for a wealthy gentleman, and Stevens encourages the confusion by claiming to know Winston Churchill. The conversation leads him to reflect on a time when one of Lord Darlington’s guests ridiculed him for his lack of worldly knowledge. In the morning, a man named Richard Carlisle drives Stevens to buy gasoline, and drops him off at his car. Carlisle guesses that Stevens is a butler, and Stevens admits he lied by omission. Learning that he works at Darlington Hall, Carlisle asks about the late Lord Darlington, who came to be known as a traitor. Ever loyal to his employer, Stevens defends Lord Darlington as a good man who ultimately regretted having been “taken in” by Nazi rhetoric. Continuing on his way to Clevedon, he thinks back to another time with Miss Kenton: she flirtatiously approaches him in his quarters and demands to know what book he is reading. Although she encroaches on his personal space and pries his fingers from the novel, he remains frigid, insisting that he only reads to better his command of the English language. Lizzie, the housemaid, informs Miss Kenton that she and another servant, Charlie, are leaving to get married. Miss Kenton warns Lizzie that living poor is not easy, but Lizzie claims she only needs Charlie. At her nightly meeting with Stevens, Miss Kenton refuses to talk about work and is frustrated by his formality. Having developed an emotional attachment to him, she begins to weep. To her dismay, he suggests discontinuing their meetings. Miss Kenton begins to spend time with former co-worker Thomas Benn on her days off, and eventually agrees to marry him. When she delivers news of her engagement, Stevens maintains his cool demeanor. Miss Kenton tries to provoke him by saying that she and Benn laugh about him behind his back. Later, Stevens overhears Miss Kenton sobbing in her quarters. He interrupts her, but only to tell her about an area of the house that needs dusting. Back in the present, Miss Kenton – now Mrs. Sarah Benn – sees her estranged husband, Thomas, who reveals that their daughter, Catherine, is pregnant, and urges her to come back to him. Afterward, she meets Stevens for tea, and tells him she can no longer take the job at Darlington Hall as she is expecting a grandchild. They reminisce about days past. Mrs. Benn laments her occasionally unhappy marriage and admits she often regrets leaving Darlington Hall. They walk to the pier. As the sun goes down, Mrs. Benn comments that most people look forward to evening as the best part of the day. She asks Stevens what he looks forward to. He answers: getting back to Darlington Hall and hiring new staff. Before they part, Stevens urges her to find happiness with her husband. He apologizes for being so personal, but says they may never meet again. Mrs. Benn cries as she waves to him from the bus. Back at Darlington Hall, Stevens prepares for the arrival of Jack Lewis’s family. A pigeon flies in through the chimney, and he helps Lewis shoo the bird outside. +

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

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