Basil (film)

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Two men and a woman.
DVD cover
Directed by Radha Bharadwaj
Produced by Radha Bharadwaj
Written by Radha Bharadwaj
Based on
by Wilkie Collins
Starring Christian Slater
Jared Leto
Claire Forlani
Music by Richard G Mitchell
Cinematography David Johnson
Edited by Craig Nisker
Showcareer Limited Production
Distributed by Buena Vista International
Release date
  • 22 July 1998 (1998-07-22)
Running time
113 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Basil is a 1998 British historical drama film directed by Radha Bharadwaj and starring Christian Slater, Jared Leto, Claire Forlani and Derek Jacobi. It was based on the 1852 novel Basil by Victorian author Wilkie Collins. The adaptation is by Bharadwaj.


Basil (Jared Leto) is a young British aristocrat who grew up on the country estate of Windermere Hall. His father, Frederick (Derek Jacobi), is a traditionalist who believes that there are things people of their class should never do. One of those things is romancing the women of lower classes, and Frederick threatens to disinherit Basil as he did Ralph, his elder son, should he also succumb to this temptation.

Whilst on holiday from his studies in Oxford, young Basil happens to meet a commoner named John Mannion (Christian Slater) whom he later befriends, against his father's wishes and behind his back. Through John the young aristocrat meets Julia Sherwin (Claire Forlani), the beautiful daughter of a London merchant. Later, in a rash move shortly before he can inherit, and against the initial council of John, Basil secretly marries Julia. She uses his amorous advances to extract gifts and even his promise that she should own Windermere Hall. By chance, he finds Julia in bed with John, following which Basil viciously attacks him in the street, kicking him repeatedly.

Afterwards, Basil delivers Julia's child, then hears John coming up the stairs. Basil hides, seeing John with a mask covering his face. As Julia tries to lift it, John says, "Remember me as I was, not what I am now". Julia dies in John's arms after confessing the child is his, not Basil's.

All John wants is to take the child and leave. Basil hears this and chases after John with a knife. As they fight, Basil pulls down John's mask, revealing John's mutilated face. John sees the reflection of his face in the blade of the knife, leading him to take his life by jumping off a cliff.

Basil takes the newborn child and escapes to Ireland, naming her Clara, after his childhood friend and orphaned cousin Clara Fairfax. On his return to England over a decade later, whilst walking with his daughter, Basil chances to meets his cousin Clara. She then takes Basil's daughter for hot chocolate, telling him to speak once more to his aged father. Basil's father admits that he disowned both Basil, and Ralph before him, because his son's affairs both reminded him of his own betrayal of his bedridden wife in his youth. Basil's father now regrets his infidelity, professing he loved Basil's mother deeply. Basil and his father reconcile as the film ends.


  • Christian Slater as John Mannion
  • Jared Leto as Basil
  • Claire Forlani as Julia Sherwin
  • Derek Jacobi as Frederick, Basil's father
  • Crispin Bonham-Carter as Ralph
  • Sarah Hadland as Windmere House Chambermaid
  • Stephanie Bagshaw as Emma Mannion, John's sister
  • Jenny Downham as Anna, Ralph's wife
  • Ann Louise Grimshaw as Knitting Nurse
  • Carli Harris as young Clara Fairfax, Basil's cousin
  • Joanna John as Agnes, Basil's mother
  • Georgiana Johnson as young Clara, Basil's daughter
  • Jackson Leach as young Basil
  • Glenn Marks as Tramp
  • Hannah Morris as Regent's Park House Maid
  • Christopher Owen as Mr. Mannion, John's father
  • Rachel Pickup as Clara Fairfax, Basil's cousin
  • David Ross as Mr. Sherwin, Julia's merchant father
  • Matthew Steer as young Ralph
  • Maisie Tomlinson as a Maid in the Sherwin household
  • Jack Wild as Peddler
  • Guy Witcher as young John Mannion


The director’s cut for Basil was selected twice to be the closing night film for the Toronto International Film Festival’s Special Presentation series. The film was pulled from the festival screening at the last minute, foregoing an opportunity to screen at one of the world’s premier film festivals.[1] Basil was also chosen for a prime slot at the Los Angeles Film Festival.[2] In February 1998, Basil was screened at the American Film Market.[3]


Basil’s financiers released their cut of the film, complete with their choice of sound, design and music. This is the version that was subsequently released on cable, and then in videotape and DVD.

While American Film Market released the film theatrically on 4 March 1998, the film was released on videocassette on 1 February 2000 by Buena Vista Home Entertainment.[4] On 4 March 2003, Buena Vista Home Entertainment released a DVD for region 1,[5] while a DVD for region 2 was released on 12 April 2005 by ILC Video.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bharadwaj, Radha. "Basil". Closet Land. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  2. ^ "Radha Bharadwaj". Closet Land. Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  3. ^ "Basil (1998) – Misc Notes". TCM. Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  4. ^ "Basil (VHS)". Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  5. ^ LeVasseur, Andrea. "Basil (Walt Disney Video)". Allmovie. Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  6. ^ "Basil (ILC Video)". Allmovie. Retrieved 2010-07-02. [permanent dead link]

External links[edit]