The Man Without a Face

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For the 1928 film serial, see The Man Without a Face (1928 serial).
The Man Without a Face
Man without a face movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mel Gibson
Produced by Bruce Davey
Dalisa Cohen (co-producer)
Written by Screenplay:
Malcolm MacRury
Isabelle Holland
Starring Mel Gibson
Nick Stahl
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Donald McAlpine
Edited by Tony Gibbs
Icon Productions
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s)
  • August 25, 1993 (1993-08-25)
Running time 114 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million
Box office $24,760,338 (US)[1]

The Man Without a Face is a 1993 American drama film starring and directed by Mel Gibson, in his first film as a director and actor. The film is based on Isabelle Holland's 1972 novel of the same name. Gibson's directorial debut received respectful reviews from most critics.


The film takes place in the late 1960s. For the past seven years, Justin McLeod (Gibson) has been living as a recluse painter. McLeod, a former teacher, has lived an isolated existence ever since a car accident left him disfigured down the right side of his face and chest by burns sustained in the post-crash fire.

A young boy, Chuck, sees McLeod on a ferry and is intrigued by and slightly scared of him. Chuck needs a tutor to help him pass a military academy's entrance exam and McLeod seems to be the only one that truly believes he can and will succeed. Eventually, Chuck is able to persuade McLeod to become his teacher and the two develop a friendship.

Chuck keeps his daily meetings with McLeod a secret to avoid the scorn of being associated with the disfigured man with a past shrouded in mystery. No one knows much about McLeod and few people made an effort to get to know him, making McLeod the object of gossip, speculation and suspicion.

When Chuck's mother learns that her son has been visiting Mcleod, she and the rest of the town are convinced that McLeod must have been molesting Chuck, despite Chuck's adamant denials. Chuck researches McLeod's car accident, which involves the death of another boy, but is made to see a psychiatrist.

Chuck inevitably confronts McLeod to learn the truth of his disfigurement and relationship with the boy. Because McLeod was in a car accident with a student of his, he was branded a pedophile, exiled from his hometown, and convicted of involuntary manslaughter, having served three years in prison. Once his relationship with Chuck is openly known, McLeod is once again railed out of town and ordered by the authorities to have no contact with Chuck.

On his way out of town, McLeod leaves Chuck a note wishing him the best of luck in his academic goals and reminds him to be tolerant with people who are different. In the film's finale, Chuck is shown graduating from the military academy and sees a familiar figure in the background, recognizing it as his tutor, the man without a face.



The Man Without a Face was filmed in Deer Isle, Maine and marked the film debut of Nick Stahl. Mel Gibson initially had planned only to direct the film, and he asked three other actors to play the role of Justin McLeod. However, due to difficulty securing funding, Gibson decided to star in the film.[citation needed] Scenes that take place at the School were filmed in Brunswick, Maine at Bowdoin College with the aid of the Local Brunswick High School to fill out the age appropriate stand ins.

Treatment of sexuality[edit]

The film's treatment of sexuality between Justin McLeod and Chuck Norstadt differs from the book by Isabelle Holland. In the original novel, McLeod behaves in a way that could be interpreted as child grooming, taking Chuck swimming and being affectionate to him. Chuck, meanwhile, seems to be attracted to McLeod as more than just as a father figure. There is one scene where it is strongly implied that McLeod sexually abuses Chuck in his bedroom. In the film, McLeod demonstrates no sexual interest in the boy at all, even though Chuck appears downstairs in his underwear when the police officer calls. Critics have noted that the book's criticism of homophobia had been obscured in the film version.[citation needed]

Gibson has expressed dislike for the book because of its implied sexual contact between McLeod and Chuck: "I read the script first and that's what I liked. The book is just – I'm sorry, but the guy did it. And you know, like, why? I just wanted to say something a lot more positive."[2]

Urban legend[edit]

Around the time of the releases of Gibson's films The Patriot and The Passion of the Christ, an internet rumour falsely attributed to radio commentator Paul Harvey claimed this film was based on an actual incident that happened to Gibson as a young man. It proved to be false.[3]


  1. ^ "The Man Without a Face (1993)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 20, 2010. 
  2. ^ Joanna Conners (August 22, 1993). "The Many Faces of Mel". The Plain Dealer. 
  3. ^ The Man Without a Face. Retrieved on 2011-09-30.

External links[edit]