The Fisher King
|The Fisher King|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Terry Gilliam|
|Produced by||Debra Hill
|Written by||Richard LaGravenese|
|Music by||George Fenton|
|Editing by||Lesley Walker|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Running time||137 minutes|
The Fisher King is a 1991 American comedy-drama film written by Richard LaGravenese and directed by Terry Gilliam. It stars Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges, with Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer, and Michael Jeter in supporting roles. The film is about a radio shock-jock who tries to find redemption by helping a man whose life he inadvertently shattered.
Jack Lucas (Bridges), a cynical, arrogant talk radio host, becomes suicidally despondent after his insensitive on-air comments inadvertently prompt a depressed caller to commit a mass murder at a popular Manhattan bar. Three years later, while heavily intoxicated and depressed, he attempts suicide. Before he can do so, he is mistaken for a homeless person and is attacked and nearly set on fire by thugs. He is rescued by Parry (Williams), a deluded homeless man who is on a mission to find the Holy Grail, and tries to convince Jack to help him. Jack is initially reluctant, but comes to feel responsible for Parry when he learns that the man's condition is a result of witnessing his wife's horrific murder at the hands of Jack's psychotic caller. Parry is also continually haunted by a hallucinatory Red Knight, who terrifies him whenever he shows any confidence.
Jack learns that Parry had slipped into a catatonic state following his wife's death and had remained there for a few years. When he emerged he was obsessed with the legend of the Fisher King, a form of which he recounts to Jack. The Fisher King was charged by God with guarding the Holy Grail, but incurred an incapacitating wound for his sin of pride. A simple-minded Fool asks the King why he suffers, and when the King says he is thirsty, the Fool gives him a cup of water to drink. The king realizes the cup is the Grail and is baffled that the boy found it, as demonstrated in the closing exchange: "I've sent my brightest and bravest men to search for this. How did you find it?" The Fool laughed and said "I don't know. I only knew that you were thirsty."
Jack seeks to redeem himself by helping Parry find love again. He sets Parry up with Lydia, a shy woman who works as an accountant for a Manhattan publishing house, with whom Parry has been smitten. Jack and his girlfriend, Anne, then join them for a dinner date. Following dinner, Parry declares his love for Lydia but is once again haunted by the Red Knight. Trying to escape his hallucinatory tormentor, he is attacked by the same thugs who had earlier attacked Jack. The beating is not fatal but causes Parry to become catatonic again.
Jack infiltrates the Upper East Side castle of a famous architect and retrieves the "Grail," a simple trophy. When he brings it to Parry, the catatonia is broken and Parry regains consciousness. While he and Jack lead the patients of the mental ward in a rousing rendition of "How About You?," Parry is reunited with Lydia. Later, Jack, who had earlier broken up with Anne, is reunited with her.
- Jeff Bridges as Jack Lucas
- Robin Williams as Parry
- Mercedes Ruehl as Anne
- Amanda Plummer as Lydia
- Michael Jeter as Homeless Cabaret Singer
- David Hyde Pierce as Lou Rosen
- Lara Harris as Sondra
- Harry Shearer as Ben Starr
- Kathy Najimy as Crazed Video Customer
- Tom Waits as Disabled Veteran (Uncredited)
According to Gilliam's episode of The Directors (which is available on the 2-Disc DVD for Gilliam's film Time Bandits), he wanted to do the film because he was tired of doing big budget special effects films, such as his previous film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which went over budget and cost over $45 million, nearly twice as much as King's budget of $24 million. This was the first film Terry Gilliam directed in which he was not involved in writing the screenplay, as well as Gilliam's first film not to feature any other members of Monty Python. However, it is Gilliam's second film involving the Holy Grail, the first being Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Also, according to the Directors episode, Gilliam came up with the scene where Robin Williams and Amanda Plummer meet during a huge waltz in the middle of Grand Central Terminal, because he felt the scene LaGravenese had written (which had a large group of people in a crowded subway listen to a homeless black woman sing with a beautiful voice) wasn't working. He was at first hesitant about this because his original intentions were to just shoot the script and that the waltz would make it "a Terry Gilliam film." The scene was shot in one night with some professional extras and others just passengers getting off the train.
The Fisher King was a critical success, earning an 85% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote that the film "sweeps you up on waves of humor, heartbreak and ravishing romance."
Mercedes Ruehl won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role, and Robin Williams was nominated for Best Actor. Other awards were Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Mel Bourne, Cindy Carr), Best Music, Original Score (George Fenton) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Richard LaGravenese).
Ruehl also won the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films Award for Best Supporting Actress, the American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, the Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.
Williams won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture in a Comedy/Musical.
Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson won an Artios Award from the Casting Society of America for Best Casting in a Feature Film (Comedy).
See also 
- "The Fisher King Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-10-29.
- Fox, David J. (1991-10-29). "Weekend Box Office `House Party 2' Takes Top Spot". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
- Fox, David J. (1991-10-31). "Terminator 2 About to Hit $200-Million Mark : Movies: While fall releases are in box-office slump, the summer smash climbs to 13th on all-time domestic ticket sales list.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-01.
- "The Fisher King > Overview". AllMovie.com. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2010-10-22.
- "The 64th Academy Awards (1992) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-02.
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- Dreams: The Fisher King