All the King's Men (2006 film)

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All the King's Men
All the kings men.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteven Zaillian
Produced byKen Lemberger
Todd Phillips
Mike Medavoy
Arnold Messer
Steven Zaillian
Written bySteven Zaillian
Based onAll The King's Men
by Robert Penn Warren
StarringSean Penn
Jude Law
Kate Winslet
James Gandolfini
Mark Ruffalo
Patricia Clarkson
Jackie Earle Haley
Anthony Hopkins
Music byJames Horner
CinematographyPaweł Edelman
Edited byWayne Wahrman
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • September 22, 2006 (2006-09-22)
Running time
128 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$55 million
Box office$9.5 million

All the King's Men is a 2006 American political drama film based on the 1946 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel of the same name by Robert Penn Warren. All the King's Men had previously been adapted into a Best Picture–winning film by writer-director Robert Rossen in 1949. It was directed by Steven Zaillian, who also produced and scripted. The film is about the life of Willie Stark (played by Sean Penn), a fictional character resembling Louisiana governor Huey Long, in office 1928 through 1932. He was elected as a US Senator and assassinated in 1935. The film co-stars Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Patricia Clarkson and Jackie Earle Haley.


Jack Burden, a Louisiana news reporter, takes a personal interest in Willie Stark, an idealistic small-town lawyer and parish treasurer. Circumstances develop that result in Tiny Duffy, a local political leader Burden knows, urging Stark to run for governor. Burden’s upbringing makes him familiar with the undercurrent of politics – he was raised by his loving godfather Judge Irwin, a former state attorney general, while his good friend, Dr. Adam Stanton, and his sister Anne Stanton—also Burden’s former lover—are the children of a former governor. Burden therefore decides to take Duffy's advice and travels as a reporter on Stark's campaign for governor.

The politically astute Burden soon deduces, and Duffy strategist (and Stark mistress) Sadie Burke confirms, that Duffy is using Stark to split his party's vote and thus allow the opposing party to win. They tell Stark, who begins to give speeches in a straightforward manner to appeal to the public, in defiance of the advice given to him by Duffy. His vigorous strategy attacks the corruption of the existing players and promises schools and roads for his “fellow ignorant hicks”, resulting in Stark winning the election. He manages Duffy by making him his lieutenant governor. Stark recruits Burden to work for him as an adviser.

Stark proves to be a very persuasive governor, delivering on many of his new projects. Irwin disapproves of Stark and publicly supports an investigation of possible graft in the new spending. Burden points out that graft is the elite’s word for what the previous politicians had always done, while Stark openly tells his crowds that his “crooks, unlike theirs, are itty bitty” compared to the elite’s. Stark convinces Stanton to head a new public hospital while he begins having an affair with Anne, provoking Burke's jealousy and Burden's disappointment.

Irwin continues criticizing Stark as political controversies begin to unfold. Stark demands that Burden seek information on the judge to be used against him. Jack insists that there is no such information, but eventually discovers evidence of a bribe that Irwin used to get his appointment many years prior, leading an opponent to commit suicide. Following this revelation, Irwin himself commits suicide. Burden’s mother then tells him that Irwin treated him with such love because he was his biological father, which causes a great amount of guilt for Burden.

Stark utilizes many methods of corruption to consolidate his power, including patronage and intimidation. Adam is told that Stark is using the hospital project to rob the state and is framing him in the process. Burden and Anne both assure Adam that this is false. Adam also becomes enraged when he learns of Stark's affair with his sister. Adam waits at the state capitol and assassinates Stark, only to be immediately killed by the governor's bodyguard. It is later revealed that Adam was influenced by Duffy and Burke to murder Stark, allowing Duffy to succeed Stark as governor.


Actor Role
Sean Penn Willie Stark
Jude Law Jack Burden
Kate Winslet Anne Stanton
Anthony Hopkins Judge Irwin
James Gandolfini Tiny Duffy
Patricia Clarkson Sadie Burke
Mark Ruffalo Adam Stanton
Kathy Baker Mrs. Burden
Travis Champagne Tom Stark
Jackie Earle Haley Roderick "Sugar Boy" Ellis
Connor Fux Tennis Boy
Montgomery John Adam Stanton, Age 11
Carrie Christmann Anne Stanton, Age 9

Differences between the book and Zallian's screenplay[edit]

Jude Law (left) and Sean Penn in the film.
  • The film (with the exception of flashbacks) is set during the early 1950s. The book is set during the Great Depression, the period of Huey Long's ascendancy.
  • Jack’s doctoral research storyline is not in the film. His research was about Cass Mastern, an ancestor who lived in the Antebellum South and fought in the American Civil War. The book devotes an extensive passage to the story of Mastern and the way in which he unwittingly and drastically influences the lives of others, which many critics have argued serves as the novel's moral center. Jack walks away from his study of Mastern because he is unwilling to accept the way in which people's actions influence the fates of others.
  • The storyline of the book involving Tom Stark is removed. He is seen only a few times in the film. In the book Tom impregnates a girl, which threatens his father with a scandal.
  • The film ends a few minutes after Willie Stark’s assassination, explaining little (through newspaper headlines) about what takes place after the event. In the book, Jack Burden explains many things that take place after the assassination, which includes son Tom’s death.


Filming took place in New Orleans, Morgan City, Donaldsonville, at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge and many other places in Louisiana.

The film garnered strong Oscar "buzz" before its initial opening.[1] Entertainment Weekly in its August 18, 2006 issue included All the King's Men in its Oscar Preview, and said the film was most likely to win an Oscar.

The world premiere was held at the Toronto International Film Festival[2] on September 11, 2006, where the film was first screened to the press. A special screening was held at the Tulane University in New Orleans on September 16, 2006.


In spite of its high-profile cast, direction and production team, the film was a massive failure, both with critics and at the box office. Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes gave it a "Rotten" rating of 11%, based on 153 reviews with a consensus stating "With a scenery-chewing performance from Sean Penn, an absence of political insight, and an overall lack of narrative cohesiveness, these Men give Oscar bait a bad name."

A. O. Scott (The New York Times) expressed disappointment with the film: "Nothing in the picture works. It is both overwrought and tedious, its complicated narrative bogging down in lyrical voiceover, long flashbacks and endless expository conversations between people speaking radically incompatible accents."[3] Michael Medved gave All the King's Men two stars (out of four) calling it "depressing and disappointing", a "stodgy melodrama" and a "pointless, pretentious, plodding period-piece".[4]

There were, however, a few critics who endorsed it. Richard Schickel (Time Magazine) liked the movie, arguing that "it's much more faithful to the tone of the novel" than the original.[5] Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) praised the film's "undeniable moral seriousness" and the actors' "exceptional ensemble work." He argued that Zaillian's script and direction "expertly extracted the core of this greatest of American political novels, a work that is both of its time and outside it."[6]


The film was featured in Nathan Rabin's ongoing blog feature for The Onion's A.V. Club, "My Year of Flops". Of three categories (failure, fiasco, or secret success), he labeled All the King's Men as a failure and said of the film: "Zaillian’s dud manages the formidable feat of being at once histrionic and agonizingly dull, hysterically over-the-top yet strangely lifeless."[7]

Zaillian was stunned by the poor critical and box-office results of this film, which opened with only $3.8 million and barely made $7.2 million at the end of its run in US theaters. Another new wide release from the same weekend, Jackass Number Two, made $28.1 million. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Zaillian said that the film's poor performance was "like getting hit by a truck. ... I don't know what to make of it.... We're all a bit shellshocked. I feel like Huey Long must have felt -- you try to do good and they shoot you for it."[8]


The film's score was composed by James Horner, who had previously worked with Zallian on Searching For Bobby Fischer.

All the King's Men
Film score by
ReleasedSeptember 27, 2007 (2007-09-27)
LabelVarèse Sarabande
ProducerSimon Rhodes and James Horner
James Horner chronology
The New World
All the King's Men
Professional ratings
Review scores
Filmtracks3/5 stars
Movie Music UK5/5 stars
Movie Wave4/5 stars
ScoreNotes7/10 stars
SoundtrackNet4.5/5 stars

Track listing[edit]

  • "Main Title" – 4:30
  • "Time Brings All Things to Light" – 1:45
  • "Give Me the Hammer and I'll NAIL 'EM UP!" – 5:59
  • "Bring Down the Lion and the Rest of the Jungle Will Quake in Fear" – 3:34
  • "Conjuring the 'Hick' Vote" – 3:14
  • "Anne's Memories" – 2:47
  • "Adam's World" – 3:43
  • "Jack's Childhood" – 2:22
  • "The Rise to Power" – 3:17
  • "Love's Betrayal" – 2:54
  • "Only Faded Pictures" – 2:49
  • "As We Were Children Once" – 2:49
  • "Verdict and Punishment" – 6:00
  • "All Our Lives Collide" – 3:23
  • "Time Brings All Things to Light... I Trust It So" – 7:36

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rotten Tomatoes. "American reviews of 'All the King's Men'". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2006-12-24.
  2. ^ "2006 TIFF Archive". Archived from the original on 2007-02-17.
  3. ^ A.O. Scott (2006-09-22). "Southern Fried Demagogue and His Lurid Downfall". NY Times. Retrieved 2006-12-10.
  4. ^ Michael Medved. "All The King's Men". Archived from the original on 2006-10-22. Retrieved 2006-12-10.
  5. ^ Richard Schickel (2006-09-10). "He Had a Great Fall". Time. Retrieved 2006-12-10.
  6. ^ Kenneth Turan (2006-09-22). "'All the King's Men'". Log Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2007-01-02. Retrieved 2006-12-10.
  7. ^ Nathan Rabin (2007-02-15). "My Year Of Flops: CaseFile #7: All The King's Men". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2007-03-07.
  8. ^ L.A. Times (2006-10-03). "Extract of the interview with the L.A. Times". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2006-12-30.

External links[edit]