Bulworth

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Bulworth
Bulworth.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed by Warren Beatty
Produced by Warren Beatty
Lauren Shuler Donner
Pieter Jan Brugge
Written by Warren Beatty
Jeremy Pikser
Aaron Sorkin
James Toback
Starring Warren Beatty
Halle Berry
Oliver Platt
Don Cheadle
Paul Sorvino
Jack Warden
Isaiah Washington
Christine Baranski
Amiri Baraka
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Vittorio Storaro
Edited by Billy Weber
Robert C. Jones
Distributed by 20th Century Fox[1]
Release dates
  • May 15, 1998 (1998-05-15)
Running time 108 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million
Box office $29,202,884[3]

Bulworth is a 1998 American comedy-drama film co-written, co-produced, directed by, and starring Warren Beatty. It co-stars Halle Berry, Oliver Platt, Don Cheadle, Paul Sorvino, Jack Warden, and Isaiah Washington. The film follows the title character, California Senator Jay Billington Bulworth (Beatty), as he runs for re-election while trying to avoid a hired assassin.

Plot[edit]

A veteran Democratic Senator, Jay Bulworth is losing his bid for re-election to a fiery young populist. Bulworth's socialist views, formed in the 1960s and 1970s, have lost favor with voters, so he has conceded to more conservative politics and to accepting donations from big corporations. In addition, though he and his wife have been having affairs with each other's knowledge for years, they must still present a happy façade in the interest of maintaining a good public image.

Tired of politics, his life in general, and planning to commit suicide, Bulworth negotiates a $10 million life insurance policy with his daughter as the beneficiary in exchange for a favorable vote from the insurance industry. Knowing that a suicide will void his daughter's inheritance, he contracts to have himself assassinated within two days' time.

Turning up in California for his campaign extremely drunk, Bulworth begins speaking his mind freely at public events and in the presence of the C-SPAN film crew following his campaign. After dancing all night in a club and smoking marijuana, he even starts rapping in public. His frank, potentially offensive remarks make him an instant media darling and re-energize his campaign. Along the way he becomes romantically involved with a young black activist named Nina, who tags along with him on his campaign stops. Along the way he is pursued by the paparazzi, his insurance company, his campaign managers and an increasingly adoring public, all while fearful of his impending assassination.

After a televised debate where Bulworth drinks out of a flask on air and derides insurance companies and the American healthcare system, he decides to hide at Nina's family's home, located in the ghetto. While hiding at Nina's he wanders around the neighborhood, where he witnesses a group of kids selling crack, and buys the group ice cream. After saving the group from an racially motivated encounter with a cop, he finds out they are "soldiers" of L.D., a local drug kingpin whom Nina's brother owes money to. Bulworth eventually makes it to a television appearance arranged earlier by his campaign manager, during which he raps and repeats truths Nina and L.D. told him about the lives of poor black people and their opinions of various American institutions, like education and employment. Eventually he offers the solution that "everybody should fuck everybody" until everyone is "all the same color" stunning the audience and his interviewer.

After Bulworth's TV appearance he escapes with Nina and goes with her back to her house, where she reveals that she is the assassin he indirectly hired (ostensibly to make the money needed to pay off the debt her brother owes to L.D.) and will now not carry out the job. Bulworth, finally relieved that he is not in danger of being killed, falls asleep, having not slept for the past several days. The next morning the press and Bulworth's campaign managers converge on Nina's house, all eager to talk to him. L.D. also comes to Nina's house, and having had a change of heart says he will let Nina's brother work off his debt instead of hurting or killing him. Bulworth emerges from the bedroom looking rested, and as he steps outside he invites Nina to go with him, who eventually joins him after some hesitation. Bulworth and Nina embrace and begin to kiss as people cheer. As Bulworth happily accepts a new campaign for the presidency, he is suddenly shot in front of the crowd of reporters and supporters by an agent of the insurance company lobbyists, who were fearful of Bulworth's recent push for single-payer health care.

Cast[edit]

Cameos

Production[edit]

Warren Beatty assembled a team of three writers: Aaron Sorkin, Jeremy Pikser, and James Toback. Due to family issues, Pikser contributed to the writing process remotely, communicating by phone and fax. Beatty also sought guidance from the writer Elaine May, but she was committed to working on the film Primary Colors with her former comedy partner, the director Mike Nichols.

Bulworth was made in complete stealth and released by 20th Century Fox only after protracted contractual wrangling, only for a brief period of time, and practically without any publicity. As Peter Swirski reports in his study of this film, "after 20th Century Fox backed out of producing Dick Tracy, Beatty used the leverage of a lawsuit to wangle unprecedented artistic freedom," disclosing only the barest outline of the story and essentially duping Fox into bankrolling the project.

Soundtrack[edit]

Main article: Bulworth (soundtrack)

The soundtrack was released on April 21, 1998 by Interscope Records.

Reception[edit]

The film generated a great deal of controversy but received a positive reception from film critics.[4][5][6][7][8] It currently holds a 75% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

In 2013, the New York Times reported that President Barack Obama had, in private, "talked longingly of 'going Bulworth,'" in reference to the film.[9]

Box office[edit]

The Los Angeles Times commented that Bulworth did "extremely well" on a limited release.[10][11] The film grossed $29,202,884 worldwide at the box office.

Awards[edit]

Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
71st Academy Awards Best Original Screenplay Warren Beatty and Jeremy Pikser[3] Nominated
56th Golden Globe Awards Best Screenplay Warren Beatty and Jeremy Pikser Nominated
Best Picture Bulworth Nominated
Best Actor Warren Beatty Nominated
1998 Satellite Awards Best Actor Warren Beatty Nominated
1998 Writers Guild of America Awards Best Screenplay Warren Beatty and Jeremy Pikser Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards 1998 Best Screenplay Warren Beatty and Jeremy Pikser Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Screenplay (1998) Warren Beatty and Jeremy Pikser Won
1998 Golden Lion Awards Best Film Bulworth Nominated
1999 NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Actress Halle Berry Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor Don Cheadle Nominated
American Film Institute 100 Years...100 Laughs Bulworth[12] Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ Natale, Richard (1998-04-20). "The Competition Is Only on the Surface". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  2. ^ "BULWORTH (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 1998-09-18. Retrieved 2013-05-16. 
  3. ^ a b "Bulworth". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-06-28. 
  4. ^ "Bulworth". Entertainment Weekly. 1998-05-22. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  5. ^ "Bulworth". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  6. ^ "No apologies for 'Bulworth'". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  7. ^ "And ending will likely offend target audience". Deseret News. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  8. ^ Guthmann, Edward (2010-10-10). "Hilarious `Bulworth' -- the truth sets a senator free". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  9. ^ Baker, Peter (May 15, 2013), "Onset of Woes Casts Pall Over Obama’s Policy Aspirations", The New York Times, retrieved 2013-05-18 
  10. ^ Welkos, Robert W. (1998-05-19). "Weekend Box Office; Audiences Still Flocking to 'Impact'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  11. ^ Natale, Richard (1998-05-27). "Mixed Early Returns". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  12. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees

External links[edit]