Boxing Helena

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Boxing Helena
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch
Produced by Philippe Caland
Carl Mazzocone
Screenplay by Jennifer Chambers Lynch
Story by Philippe Caland
Starring Sherilyn Fenn
Julian Sands
Bill Paxton
Kurtwood Smith
Art Garfunkel
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography Bojan Bazelli
Frank Byers
Edited by David Finfer
Main Line Pictures
Distributed by Orion Classics (USA)
Republic Pictures (non-USA)[1]
Entertainment Film Distributors (UK)
Release dates
  • September 3, 1993 (1993-09-03)
Running time
107 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2 million
Box office $1,796,389[2]

Boxing Helena is a 1993 American romance and horror film directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch, and starring Sherilyn Fenn, Julian Sands, and Bill Paxton.[3] The plot follows a surgeon whose growing obsession with a woman leads him to amputate her limbs and hold her captive in his home after she suffers a car accident.

The film garnered notoriety prior to its release after protracted legal battles with Madonna and Kim Basinger, both of whom backed out of the leading role of Helena. It debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 1993, where it received critical praise. After receiving an NC-17 rating by the MPAA, the film was given an R-rating on appeal and released in the United States in September 1993, but received critical backlash and was a financial failure.


Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands) is a lonely Atlanta surgeon obsessed with a woman named Helena (Sherilyn Fenn). After she suffers a high grade tibial fracture in a hit-and-run motor vehicle accident in front of his home, he kidnaps and treats her in his house surreptitiously, amputating both of her legs above the knee. Later, he amputates her healthy arms above the elbow after she tries to choke him.

Though Helena is the victim of Nick's kidnapping and mutilation, she dominates the dialogue with her constant ridiculing of him for all of his shortcomings.

Eventually, Cavanaugh's actions are discovered by one of Helena's former co-workers. During a physical confrontation, Cavanaugh is killed, only to wake up and realize that the entire ordeal had been a dream he had at a hospital during Helena's surgery after the car accident.


  • Sherilyn Fenn as Helena[4]
  • Julian Sands as Dr. Nick Cavanaugh
  • Bill Paxton as Ray O'Malley
  • Kurtwood Smith as Dr. Alan Palmer
  • Art Garfunkel as Dr. Lawrence Augustine
  • Betsy Clark as Anne Garrett
  • Nicolette Scorsese as Fantasy Lover/Nurse
  • Meg Register as Marion Cavanaugh
  • Bryan Smith as Russell
  • Marla Levine as Patricia
  • Kim Lentz as Nurse Diane
  • Lloyd T. Williams as Sam the Clerk


A legal battle ensued when first Madonna,[5] then Kim Basinger backed out of the title role – eventually Basinger was the subject of an adverse jury verdict for over $8.1 million.[6] This caused Basinger to enter bankruptcy. The verdict was then set aside on appeal in 1994,[7] but the actress later settled for $3.8 million.[8]

Critical reception and box office[edit]

The film performed poorly at the box office.[9]

The film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival. However, the film received severe backlash from film critics upon its release.[10] Boxing Helena won Worst Director for Jennifer Lynch at the 14th Golden Raspberry Awards in 1994. An exception was critic Gene Siskel who, on the TV show Siskel & Ebert, admitted "I went to the theater to see it expecting the worst," and called it, "a brave little movie that explored the provocative issue of how some frustrated men channel their inability to love a woman into cruelty." Boxing Helena currently holds a 19% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 31 reviews.[11]


The score heard during the scene where Helena showers in a fountain, while a party crowd watches, was originally composed by Graeme Revell and based on the "Love Theme" used sparsely elsewhere in the film, with vocals by Bobbi Page. At the producers' request, "The Fountain Song", written and performed by Wendy Levy, replaced Revell's score in the DVD and subsequent releases.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thompson, Anne (July 5, 1992). "FILM; The Ins and Outs of 'Boxing Helena'". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Boxing Helena at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ "'Boxing Helena' Director's Debut Plunges Her Into Gender Wars". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 24, 2010. 
  4. ^ Fox, David J. (January 14, 1993). "Boxing Helena Rated NC-17". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 24, 2010. 
  5. ^ Jane Birnbaum (May 22, 1992). "Unarmed And Dangerous: Jennifer Lynch loses Madonna, Basinger, gains Fenn for Boxing Helena". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 1, 2010. 
  6. ^ Welkos, Robert W. (March 9, 1993). "Basinger Tells Court Why She Refused Script". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 24, 2010. 
  7. ^ Bloomberg Business News (September 20, 1994). "Basinger Bankruptcy Puts Georgia Bank On The Block". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 24, 2010. 
    Brennan, Judy; Boyer, Edward J. (September 23, 1994). "Damages Against Kim Basinger in Film Suit Voided : Courts: Appellate justices find the judge gave ambiguous instructions to jury in 'Boxing Helena' case. Verdict of $8.1 million threw film star into bankruptcy". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 24, 2010. 
  8. ^ For Kim Basinger, the "fire ball" is out – and Veronica Lake is in
    Weinstein, Steve (August 29, 1993). "MOVIES : Shadow Boxing : 'Helena' director fears that with the heavily publicized baggage about Madonna and Kim Basinger accompanying the film, practically no one will see without prejudice the movie she, David Lynch's daughter, made". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 24, 2010. 
  9. ^ Fox, David J. (September 8, 1993). "Labor Day Weekend Box Office : 'The Fugitive' Just Keeps on Running". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 24, 2010. 
  10. ^ Maslin, Janet (September 3, 1993). "Review/Film: Boxing Helena; A Kinky, Macabre Tale Of Erotic Fascination". The New York Times. Retrieved October 24, 2010. 
  11. ^ Boxing Helena at Rotten Tomatoes

External links[edit]