Pay It Forward (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Pay it forward (disambiguation).
Pay It Forward
Pay it forward ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mimi Leder
Produced by Mary McLaglen
Jonathan Treisman
Steven Reuther
Peter Abrams
Robert L. Levy (II)
Paddy Carson
Screenplay by Leslie Dixon
Based on Pay It Forward 
by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Starring Kevin Spacey
Helen Hunt
Haley Joel Osment
Jay Mohr
Jim Caviezel
Jon Bon Jovi
Angie Dickinson
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography Oliver Stapleton
Edited by David Rosenbloom
Bel Air Entertainment
Tapestry Films
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • October 20, 2000 (2000-10-20)
Running time
123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million
Box office $55,707,411[1]

Pay It Forward is a 2000 American drama film based on the novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde. It was directed by Mimi Leder and written by Leslie Dixon. It stars Haley Joel Osment as a boy who launches a good-will movement, Helen Hunt as his single mother, and Kevin Spacey as his social-studies teacher.


Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) is a seventh grade student with a life already full of worries. His mother, Arlene (Helen Hunt), works in a Las Vegas casino and is an alcoholic. His father, Ricky (Jon Bon Jovi), is a deadbeat who shows up only occasionally and stays just long enough to present some promise of reform and then beat up Arlene and terrify Trevor. His grandmother, Grace (Angie Dickinson), lives in her station wagon. His best friend, Adam (Marc Donato), is repeatedly the victim of a school bully, a situation which Trevor finds increasingly difficult to tolerate. Living in lower-middle-class suburban Nevada, Trevor looks out his bedroom window and sees a bleak horizon.

One day, however, Trevor's life changes. His social studies teacher for the new school year, Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey), gives the class a project: do something to change the world. Trevor's expectant classmates have various reactions: some are mystified, some begin to be bored, and some roll their eyes. Trevor's reaction is different, and it is clear that he is inspired by his teacher's words. As Mr. Simonet's voice lays out his premise and expectations, Trevor is visibly moved. A few days later, he comes up with an idea: he decides to do "something big" for three people who "really need it," with the understanding that each will do the same for three more. In Trevor's vision, the whole world will be populated by do-gooders, all working toward the end of worry.


  • Kevin Spacey as Eugene Simonet: Trevor's social studies teacher who assigns the goodwill assignment to his class. He later dates Arlene.
  • Helen Hunt as Arlene McKinney: Trevor's alcoholic, single mother who works in both a casino and a strip club. She later dates Eugene.
  • Haley Joel Osment as Trevor McKinney: A 12-year-old boy who is troubled by his mother's alcoholism and father's abuse and absence. He starts the movement of "Pay It Forward". Trevor dies from a stab wound in his abdomen at the end of the movie.
  • Jay Mohr as Chris Chandler, a reporter who interviewed Trevor.
  • Jim Caviezel as Jerry, a homeless drug addict.
  • Angie Dickinson as Grace, Arlene's mother.
  • Jon Bon Jovi as Ricky McKinney: Trevor's abusive and alcoholic father who has since left the family.
  • Marc Donato as Adam: Trevor's friend who has been bullied his whole life at school. He was saved by Trevor from the bullies at the end of the movie
  • Gary Werntz as Mr. Thorsen
  • Loren D. Baum as Bully No. 1. He pays tribute to Trevor in redemption at the end of the movie.
  • Nico Matinata as Bully No. 2. He pays tribute to Trevor in redemption at the end of the movie.
  • Zack Duhame as Bully No. 3. He pays tribute to Trevor in redemption at the end of the movie.
  • Irving Leyson as Bully No. 4. He pays tribute to Trevor in redemption at the end of the movie.


Leslie Dixon adapted the novel from the book of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde, which was available as an open writing assignment.[2] Dixon struggled with the adaptation of the book in part because of multiple narrative voices within it. Specifically in that the reporter, the central character in the film, does not show up until halfway through the novel. Stuck, Dixon considered returning the money she was paid for the assignment.[3] She eventually hit upon the idea to start with the reporter and trace the events backwards.[3] Dixon presented the idea to Hyde who in turn liked it so much that she decided to change the then unpublished novel's plot structure to mirror the film's.[4] In the novel, the character of Eugene was originally a black man by the name of Reuben St. Clair. The role was offered to Denzel Washington, but he turned it down. Kevin Spacey was contacted next and accepted the role.


The film received mixed reviews, although Spacey, Hunt, and Osment's performances in the film were universally praised. Rotten Tomatoes rated the film with 40% based on 127 reviews with a consensus saying, "Pay It Forward has strong performances from Spacey, Hunt, and Osment, but the movie itself is too emotionally manipulative and the ending is bad." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times gave the film 2.5 stars out of a possible 4 stating, "With a cleaner story line, the basic idea could have been free to deliver. As it is, we get a better movie than we might have, because the performances are so good: Spacey as a vulnerable and wounded man; Hunt as a woman no less wounded in her own way, and Osment, once again proving himself the equal of adult actors in the complexity and depth of his performance. I believed in them and cared for them. I wish the movie could have gotten out of their way."[5] Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum gave it a "D" grade, calling it "reprehensible" for using "shameless cliches of emotional and physical damage" and then "blackmailing audiences into joining the let's-be-nice 'movement'"[6] in order to be transparent Oscar bait.

Box office[edit]

The film opened at #4 in the North American box office making $9,631,359 USD in its opening weekend, behind Remember The Titans, Bedazzled and Meet The Parents, which was on its third week at number one.

See also[edit]

Remakes & Character Map[edit]

Pay It Forward (2000)
Stalin (2006)
Jai Ho (2014)
Haley Joel Osment Chiranjeevi Salman Khan
Helen Hunt Trisha Daisy Shah


  1. ^ Pay It Forward (2000) - Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ Cohen, David S (2008). SCREENPLAYS: HOW 25 SCRIPTS MADE IT TO A THEATER NEAR YOU-FOR BETTER OR WORSE (First ed.). New York: HarperEntertainment. p. 115. 
  3. ^ a b Cohen 117
  4. ^ Cohen 117-118
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 20, 2000). "Pay It Forward Movie Review & Film Summary (2000)". Retrieved February 15, 2015. 
  6. ^ Lisa Schwarzbaum, MOVIE REVIEW Pay It Forward, Entertainment Weekly, October 27, 2000, accessed September 17, 2013.

External links[edit]