All the King's Men (2006 film)

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All the King's Men
A cloud of smoke hangs about the silhouette of a man sitting in a chair. The film title written in red is written inside his shadow.
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteven Zaillian
Written bySteven Zaillian
Based onAll the King's Men
by Robert Penn Warren
Produced byKen Lemberger
Todd Phillips
Mike Medavoy
Arnold Messer
Steven Zaillian
CinematographyPaweł Edelman
Edited byWayne Wahrman
Music byJames Horner
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing[1]
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 written, directed and produced by Steven Zaillian 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 Oscar–winning film by writer-director Robert Rossen in 1949. The film narrates the rise to power and demise of the Governor Willie Stark (played by Sean Penn), taking his office in the American South. The fictional character is loosely based on the life of Louisiana governor Huey Long, in office between 1928 through 1932. Elected as a U.S. senator, he was 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.


Jude Law (left) and Sean Penn in the film


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" and was considered a contender by Entertainment Weekly even before its initial opening.[2][3]

The world premiere was held at the Toronto International Film Festival[4] 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.


Box office[edit]

All the King's Men grossed $7.2 million in the United States and Canada, and $2.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $9.5 million, against a production budget of $50 million.[1]

In the film's opening weekend it made $3.7 million from 1,514 theaters, finishing seventh. It then dropped to 11th place with a gross of $1.5 million in its second weekend, and by its third weekend fell to 27th place with $285,993.[5]

Critical response[edit]

James Carville, executive producer, at the film's premiere.

In spite of its high-profile cast, direction and production team, All the King's Men was a massive failure, both with critics and at the box office.[6] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds approval rating of 11% based on 159 reviews, with an average rating of 4.30/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "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."[2] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 37 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[7]

A. O. Scott of 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."[8] 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".[9]

Richard Roeper also gave the remake a less than stellar review.[10] Michael Phillips put it on his Worst of 2006 list.[11]

Some reviews were positive. Richard Schickel of Time magazine liked the movie, arguing that "it's much more faithful to the tone of the novel" than the original.[12] 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."[13]


The film was featured in Nathan Rabin's 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."[14]

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, the $11.5 million sequel 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."[15]


The film's score was composed by James Horner, who had previously worked with Zaillian 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
Movie Music UK
Movie Wave
  • "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. ^ a b "All the King's Men (2006)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "All The King's Men (2006)". Retrieved December 19, 2021 – via
  3. ^ What happened to the remake of "All the King's Men"?|
  4. ^ "2006 TIFF Archive". Archived from the original on 2007-02-17.
  5. ^ "All the King's Men - Domestic". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  6. ^ "All the King's Men". People.
  7. ^ "All the King's Me Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  8. ^ A.O. Scott (2006-09-22). "Southern Fried Demagogue and His Lurid Downfall". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-10.
  9. ^ Michael Medved. "All The King's Men". Archived from the original on 2006-10-22. Retrieved 2006-12-10.
  10. ^ All the King’s Men, Jet Li’s Fearless, Flyboys, Jackass Number Two, The Science of Sleep, 2006 — Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews
  11. ^ The Worst of 2006 — Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews
  12. ^ Richard Schickel (2006-09-10). "He Had a Great Fall". Time. Archived from the original on November 25, 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-10.
  13. ^ Kenneth Turan (2006-09-22). "'All the King's Men'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2007-01-02. Retrieved 2006-12-10.
  14. ^ Nathan Rabin (2007-02-15). "My Year Of Flops: CaseFile #7: All The King's Men". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2007-03-07.
  15. ^ Scott Martelle (2006-10-03). "A 'King'-sized collapse". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2006-12-30.
  16. ^ Soundtrack Album Information

External links[edit]