Deep Impact (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Deep Impact
Deep Impact poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMimi Leder
Produced byDavid Brown
Richard D. Zanuck
Written byBruce Joel Rubin
Michael Tolkin
Music byJames Horner
CinematographyDietrich Lohmann
Edited byPaul Cichocki
David Rosenbloom
Distributed byParamount Pictures
(North America)
DreamWorks Pictures (through United International Pictures)
Release date
  • May 8, 1998 (1998-05-08)
Running time
121 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$80 million[1]
Box office$349.5 million[2]

Deep Impact is a 1998 American science-fiction disaster film[3] directed by Mimi Leder, written by Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin, and starring Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni, Elijah Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Maximilian Schell, and Morgan Freeman. Steven Spielberg served as an executive producer of this film. It was released by Paramount Pictures in North America and by DreamWorks Pictures internationally on May 8, 1998. The film depicts the attempts to prepare for and destroy a 7-mile (11 km) wide comet set to collide with Earth and cause a mass extinction.

Deep Impact was released in the same summer as a similarly themed film, Armageddon, which fared better at the box office, while astronomers described Deep Impact as being more scientifically accurate.[4][5] Both films were similarly received by critics, with Armageddon scoring 39% and Deep Impact scoring 44% on Rotten Tomatoes, with Deep Impact grossing over $349 million worldwide on an $80 million production budget. It was the final film by cinematographer Dietrich Lohmann, who died before the film's release.[6]


On May 8, 1998, teenage amateur astronomer Leo Biederman discovers an unusual object near the stars Mizar and Alcor at a star party. His teacher has Leo take a picture of the object that he then sends to astronomer Dr. Marcus Wolf. Wolf realizes that the object is a comet on a collision course with Earth. Wolf races to alert authorities but is killed in a car accident.

One year later, MSNBC journalist Jenny Lerner investigates the sudden resignation of Secretary of the Treasury Alan Rittenhouse and his connection to "Ellie", supposedly a mistress. After interviewing Rittenhouse, she is taken by the FBI to see President Tom Beck. After this, she finds out that Ellie is really an acronym: "E.L.E." ("extinction-level event"). Due to Lerner's investigation, President Beck makes an announcement earlier than planned: the comet, that has been named Wolf-Biederman, is headed for Earth and it is 7 miles (11 km) long, large enough to cause a mass extinction, and possibly wipe out humanity. He also reveals that the United States and Russia have been constructing an Orion spacecraft called the Messiah in orbit that will transport a team, led by Mission Commander Oren Monash and including veteran astronaut Captain Spurgeon "Fish" Tanner, to the comet, hoping to alter its path with nuclear weapons.

After landing on the comet, the crew rigs nuclear bombs beneath the surface, but are caught in outgassing explosions when sunlight heats up the comet. Monash is permanently blinded by unfiltered sunlight and suffers severe facial burns, while Dr. Gus Partenza is flung into space by an outflow of gas. When the bombs detonate, the ship is damaged by the blast and the team loses contact with Earth. President Beck announces that the bombs only split the comet into two smaller pieces, nicknamed "Biederman" (1.5 miles (2.4 km) long) and "Wolf" (6 miles (9.7 km) long), both still heading for Earth.

Beck then imposes martial law and reveals that governments worldwide have been building underground shelters. The United States' shelter is in the limestone caves of Missouri. A lottery selects 800,000 Americans under age 50 to join 200,000 selected individuals, as well as a massive supply of food, populations of significant animals, and the seeds of plant species. Lerner and the Biederman family are chosen, but Leo's girlfriend Sarah Hotchner and her family are not. Leo marries Sarah to try to save her family but fails. Sarah refuses to leave without her parents.

A last-ditch effort to deflect the comets with ICBMs fails. Biederman will strike the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Hatteras, generating megatsunamis of 3,500 ft (1,100 m) high. Wolf will hit western Canada, creating a huge cloud of dust and molten particles that will block out the Sun for two years, killing all life on the surface in only a matter of weeks. Leo returns home looking for Sarah, but her family has left for the Appalachian Mountains and are stuck in a massive traffic jam. Leo catches up to them on a motorcycle. Sarah's parents tell Leo to take Sarah and her baby brother to higher ground.

Meanwhile, Lerner gives up her seat in the last evacuation helicopter to her friend Beth and Beth's young daughter. She joins her estranged father Jason at their family beach house, where they reconcile. Biederman hits the water, creating a megatsunami that destroys the East Coast of the United States. Lerner, Jason, and Sarah's parents are among the thousands that are killed by the tsunami. Leo, Sarah, and her baby brother are able to reach the higher grounds of the Appalachian Mountains safely.

Unable to safely attempt a second landing, the crew of Messiah decide to obliterate Wolf by undertaking a suicide mission. After they say goodbye to their loved ones by video conference, they fly directly into a large deep crevasse created by out-gassing, and use their remaining nuclear warheads to blow Wolf into smaller pieces that burn up harmlessly in Earth's atmosphere.

After the waters recede, President Beck speaks to a large crowd at the United States Capitol which is being rebuilt, encouraging them to remember and honor the heroes for their sacrifice.


  • Robert Duvall as Captain Spurgeon "Fish" Tanner, a veteran astronaut who becomes the rendezvous pilot of the Messiah.
  • Téa Leoni as Jenny Lerner, an MSNBC Journalist.
  • Elijah Wood as Leo Biederman, a teenage astronomer who discovers the Wolf-Biederman comet.
  • Vanessa Redgrave as Robin Lerner, the mother of Jenny.
  • Maximilian Schell as Jason Lerner, the estranged father of Jenny.
  • Morgan Freeman as Tom Beck, the President of the United States.
  • James Cromwell as Alan Rittenhouse, the Secretary of the Treasury who resigns in light of the Wolf-Biederman comet threat.
  • Ron Eldard as Commander Oren Monash, the Mission Commander for the Messiah.
  • Jon Favreau as Dr. Gus Partenza, the medical officer of the Messiah.
  • Laura Innes as Beth Stanley, the co-worker of Jenny.
  • Bruce Weitz as Stuart Caley, Jenny's boss at MSNBC.
  • Mary McCormack as Andrea "Andy" Baker, the pilot of the Messiah.
  • Richard Schiff as Don Biederman, the father of Leo.
  • Betsy Brantley as Ellen Biederman, the mother of Leo.
  • Katie Hagan as Jane Biederman, the younger sister of Leo.
  • Leelee Sobieski as Sarah Hotchner, the girlfriend of Leo.
  • Blair Underwood as Mark Simon, the navigator of the Messiah.
  • Dougray Scott as Eric Vennekor, the co-worker of Jenny.
  • Mark Moses as Tim Urbanski, another co-worker of Jenny
  • Aleksandr Baluev as Colonel Michail Tulchinsky, a nuclear specialist from Russia and crew member of the Messiah.
  • Mike O'Malley as Mike Perry, Leo's teacher.
  • Rya Kihlstedt as Chloe, Jason's second wife.
  • Charles Martin Smith as Dr. Marcus Wolf, an astronomer that Leo contacts about the comet.
  • Francis X. McCarthy as General Scott
  • Kurtwood Smith as Otis "Mitch" Hefter, a NASA worker.
  • Gary Werntz as Chuck Hotchner, the father of Sarah.
  • Denise Crosby as Vicky Hotchner, the mother of Sarah.
  • Caitlin and Amanda Fine as Claitlin Stanley, the daughter of Beth.
  • O'Neal Compton as Morten Entriken, Advisor to the President (specific title not given in film)
  • Alimi Ballard as Bobby Rhue
  • Jason Dohring as Jason
  • Hannah Leder as Holly Rittenhouse, the daughter of Alan Rittenhouse.
  • Christopher Darga as Section Leader


The origins of Deep Impact started in the late 1970s when producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown approached Paramount Studios proposing a remake of the 1951 film When Worlds Collide.[7] Although several screenplay drafts were completed, the producers were not completely happy with any of them and the project remained in "development hell" for many years. In the mid 1990s, they approached director Steven Spielberg, with whom they had made the 1975 blockbuster Jaws, to discuss their long-planned project.[7] However, Spielberg had already bought the film rights to the 1993 novel The Hammer of God by Arthur C. Clarke, which dealt with a similar theme of an asteroid on a collision course for Earth and humanity's attempts to prevent its own extinction. Spielberg planned to produce and direct The Hammer of God himself for his then-fledgling DreamWorks studio, but opted to merge the two projects with Zanuck and Brown, and they commissioned a screenplay for what would become Deep Impact.[7] In 1995, the forthcoming film was announced in industry publications as "Screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin, based on the film When Worlds Collide and The Hammer of God by Arthur C Clarke"[8] though ultimately, following a subsequent redraft by Michael Tolkin, neither source work would be credited in the final film. Spielberg still planned to direct Deep Impact himself, but commitments to his 1997 film Amistad prevented him from doing so in time, particularly as Touchstone Pictures had just announced their own similarly-themed film Armageddon, also to be released in summer 1998.[7] Not wanting to wait, the producers opted to hire Mimi Leder to direct Deep Impact, with Spielberg acting as executive producer.[7] Clarke's novel was used as part of the film's publicity campaign both before and after the film's release[9][10][11][12] and he was disgruntled about not being credited on the film.[13][14]

Jenny Lerner, the character played by Téa Leoni, was originally intended to work for CNN. CNN rejected this because it would be "inappropriate". MSNBC agreed to be featured in the movie instead, seeing it as a way to gain exposure for the then newly created network.[15]

Director Mimi Leder later explained that she would have liked to travel to other countries to incorporate additional perspectives, but due to a strict filming schedule and a comparatively low budget, the idea was scratched.[16] Visual effects supervisor Scott Farrar felt that coverage of worldwide events would have distracted and detracted from the main characters' stories.[16]

A number of scientists worked as science consultants for the film including astronomers Gene Shoemaker, Carolyn Shoemaker, Josh Colwell and Chris Luchini, former astronaut David Walker, and the former director of the NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center Gerry Griffin.[17]


Deep Impact – Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedMay 5, 1998
GenreFilm score
LabelSony Classical
James Horner chronology
Deep Impact – Music from the Motion Picture
The Mask of Zorro

The music for the film was composed and conducted by James Horner.


Box office[edit]

Deep Impact debuted at the North American box office with $41,000,000 in ticket sales. The movie grossed $140,000,000 in North America and an additional $209,000,000 worldwide for a total gross of $349,000,000. Despite competition in the summer of 1998 from the similar Armageddon, Deep Impact was still a box office hit and was the higher opener of the two.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

The film had a mixed critical reception. Based on 86 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, 45% of critics enjoyed the film, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A tidal wave of melodrama sinks Deep Impact's chance at being the memorable disaster flick it aspires to be."[18] Metacritic gave a score of 40 out of 100 based on 20 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[19]

Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times said that the film "has a more brooding, thoughtful tone than this genre usually calls for",[20] while Rita Kempley and Michael O'Sullivan of the Washington Post criticized what they saw as unemotional performances and a lack of tension.[21][22]

At the 1998 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, the film was nominated for Worst Supporting Actress for Leoni (lost to Lacey Chabert for Lost in Space) and Worst Screenplay For A Film Grossing More Than $100 Million (Using Hollywood Math) (lost to Godzilla).[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Deep Impact". The Numbers. Nash Information Services. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "Deep Impact". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
  3. ^ Stweart, Bhob. "Deep Impact". Allmovie. RhythmOne. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  4. ^ "Disaster Movies". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 23, 2008.
  5. ^ Plait, Phil (February 17, 2000). "Hollywood Does the Universe Wrong". TechMedia Network. Archived from the original on October 12, 2010.
  6. ^ Oliver, Myrna (November 20, 1997). "Dietrich Lohmann; Widely Praised Cinematographer". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e Shapiro, Mark (May 1998). "When Worlds Collide Anew (On Location for Deep Impact...)". Starlog. New York, US: Starlog Group, Inc. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  8. ^ "Deep Impact". The Film Journal. Pubsun Corporation. 98 (1–6). 1995. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  9. ^ "Arthur C's Pool Of Knowledge". Saga Magazine. Saga plc. 1997. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  10. ^ "Deep Impact - Full Cast and Credits - 1998". Archived from the original on August 10, 2017. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  11. ^ TV Guide Film and Video Companion 2005. Barnes & Noble. 2004. p. 232. ISBN 978-0760761045.
  12. ^ Grant, Edmund (1999). The Motion Picture Guide 1999 Annual. Cinebooks. p. 94. ISBN 978-0933997431.
  13. ^ Coker, John L. III (September 1999). "A Visit with Arthur C.Clarke". Locus. Locus Publications. Retrieved May 14, 2008.
  14. ^ United States House Science Subcommittee on Space (1998). The threat and the opportunity of asteroids and other near-earth objects (Report). 4. United States Government Publishing Office. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  15. ^ Associated Press (April 30, 1998). "MSNBC gets role in Deep Impact after CNN declines". HighBeam Research. Cengage. Retrieved June 25, 2018.[dead link]
  16. ^ a b Leder, Mimi and Farrar, Scott. Audio commentary. Deep Impact DVD. Universal Studios, 2004.
  17. ^ Kirby, David A. (2011). Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema. MIT Press. ISBN 9780262014786.
  18. ^ "Deep Impact (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  19. ^ "Deep Impact Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  20. ^ Maslin, Janet (May 8, 1998). "Movie Review — Deep Impact". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  21. ^ Kempley, Rita (March 8, 2000). "'Deep Impact': C'mon Comet!". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  22. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael (March 8, 2000). "High Profile, Low 'Impact'". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
  23. ^ "The Worst of 1998 Winners". Retrieved September 8, 2019.

External links[edit]