Citizen Cohn

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Citizen Cohn
Citizen Cohn.jpg
Genre Drama
Based on Citizen Cohn
by Nicholas von Hoffman
Written by David Franzoni
Directed by Frank Pierson
Starring James Woods
Music by Thomas Newman
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Executive producer(s) Linda Gottlieb
Mark Rosenberg
Paula Weinstein
Producer(s) Doro Bachrach
Cynthia Fitzpatrick
Alan Haft (associate producer)
Daniel Schneider [1] (associate producer)
Cinematography Paul Elliott
Editor(s) Peter Zinner
Running time 111 minutes
Production company(s) Breakheart Films
Spring Creek Productions
Distributor HBO
Original network HBO
Original release
  • August 22, 1992 (1992-08-22)

Citizen Cohn is a 1992 cable film covering the life of Joseph McCarthy's controversial chief counsel Roy Cohn. James Woods, who starred as Cohn, was nominated for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his performance. Citizen Cohn also stars Joe Don Baker (as McCarthy), Ed Flanders (as Cohn's courtroom nemesis Joseph Welch), Frederic Forrest (as writer Dashiell Hammett), and Pat Hingle (as Cohn's onetime mentor J. Edgar Hoover). It was directed by Frank Pierson. The movie was filmed on location in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


The film spans Cohn's life from childhood through his initial rise to power as McCarthy's right-hand man in the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearings and his eventual public discrediting a month before his death in 1986 from AIDS. It is told mostly in flashback as Cohn lies dying in a Virginia hospital, hallucinating that his many enemies (from Robert Kennedy to Ethel Rosenberg, a convicted Communist spy he sent to the electric chair) are haunting him. It concerns aspects of Cohn's life such as his closeted homosexuality and the measure of his culpability in the "Red Scare" of the 1950s. While the movie portrays Cohn in a decidedly unsympathetic light, it also depicts episodes in his life, such as the death of his beloved mother, in which he showed a more tender, compassionate side.


The real Roy Marcus Cohn (right) with Joseph McCarthy


Thomas Newman composed the largely minimalist film score.

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