Gambit (2012 film)

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Not to be confused with the Marvel comic character, Gambit.
Gambit Poster.jpg
Teaser poster
Directed by Michael Hoffman
Produced by
Written by Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
Story by Sidney Carroll
Music by Rolfe Kent[1]
Cinematography Florian Ballhaus
Distributed by CBS Films
Release dates
  • 7 November 2012 (2012-11-07) (premiere)
  • 21 November 2012 (2012-11-21) (United Kingdom)
Running time
89 minutes[2]
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Language English
Box office $14.2 million[3]

Gambit is a 2012 film directed by Michael Hoffman, starring Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman and Stanley Tucci. It is a remake of the 1966 film of the same name starring Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine. This version is scripted by Joel and Ethan Coen. It was set to be released in the United States on 12 October 2012,[4] but never came out theatrically and went straight-to-DVD on 25 April 2014.[5] The film premiered in Great Britain on 21 November 2012.


British art curator Harry Deane (Colin Firth) decides to seek revenge on his abusive boss Lord Shabandar (Alan Rickman) by conning him into buying a fake Monet ("Haystacks at Dusk"), a painting that has been missing since 1945, after being plundered by the Nazis. He teams up with a master art forger, the Major (Tom Courtenay), and travels to Alpine, Texas to find rodeo queen PJ Puznowski (Cameron Diaz,) whom he plans to recruit in his scheme. She agrees and the next day the three drive out to PJ's grandmother's mobile home out in the desert. They hang the fake Monet on the wall and take a picture with the painting in the background. The picture is to appear with an article on the rodeo queen that will be published in a magazine that is part of Shabandar's media empire.

Back in London, Harry meets with Shabandar and discusses the photos of PJ and her grandmother, turning the attention to the painting. Shabandar replies that it is a reproduction, based on the fact that it was hanging on the wall of a mobile home in Texas. Harry suggests that they at least check to see if the painting is real or not, because the painting is so rarely reproduced. Shabandar reluctantly agrees, and Harry tries to find PJ to follow up on the matter. He finds out from the Major that she is staying in a hotel in Dallas because the Texas passport office is there (PJ has never been out of the country). Meanwhile, Harry calls Shabandar and tells him that the painting might be genuine: PJ's grandfather was Sgt. Brian "Bulldog" Puznowski, part of the platoon that overran Carinhall, the private residence of Hermann Göring. Shabandar tells Harry that he does not want to seem overeager and to tell PJ that if she is ever in London, that he'd be glad to have a little chat. Harry is flustered, but picks PJ up from the airport after she has received a passport.

PJ proves to be slightly annoying to Harry, as she seems to be different than he imagined, but he knows she means well. That night at Harry's apartment, he is woken up by PJ skipping rope. They discuss the matter of a small expensive painting by Alfred Sisley over Harry's mantel, which PJ seems to like. Angered by the noise of the jumping, a neighbor comes in and punches Harry in the face. The next day, Shabandar is ready to see PJ and Harry. Shabandar makes conversation with PJ and pays little attention to Harry. PJ offers the painting to Shabandar for 12 million pounds sterling. When Shabandar asks about the price, PJ explains that it is oil. Harry offers to compare it to the original "Haystacks at Dawn" at Shabandar's estate. Shabandar agrees and flirts with PJ as she and Harry exit the office. He asks her to dinner at 8:00 PM that evening. PJ tells Shabandar to meet her at the Savoy Hotel, one of the most expensive hotels in the city.

When PJ and Harry arrive, they ask for a cheap room for one night. The clerk says that they are booked up, except for a comfortable suite overlooking the river, which Harry reluctantly pays for. Meanwhile, PJ is beginning to have second thoughts, and tells Harry that she doesn't mind being seduced by the wealthy Shabandar. Before entering the hotel room Harry turns his attention to a beautiful ming vase with two herons painted on it. PJ yells at him to "come on". Harry sets the vase down and makes his way to the hotel room.

At dinner in Criterion Restaurant, Shabandar introduces PJ to Martin Zaidenweber (Stanley Tucci). He tells PJ that Martin has been assigned to curate his private collection, to which PJ asks why Harry will no longer be assigned to it. Shabandar tells her that he feels that Harry is a bit of an idiot, to which Martin replies that Harry is a good man, but that he has a bad eye for art. Martin later inquires about the painting, and PJ tells him that it had been hanging in her house ever since she was a little girl.

In the limo ride back to the hotel, PJ discusses Harry's termination with Shabandar. He says that when he talks to Harry, he can never look him in the eye. PJ tells him that maybe he's just not looking deep enough. Meanwhile, Harry's bank accounts seem to be turning up empty and Harry is forced to contemplate selling the Sisley that PJ liked so much. PJ returns to Harry's apartment to find that he has emptied a sizable amount of cash out of a Mason jar. Harry tries to hide his money troubles from PJ, telling her that he plans to donate the cash to charity. When PJ tells Harry that the arrangement is not going to work out, there ensues an argument, in which PJ tells Harry that Shabandar is firing him. PJ tells Harry that she is going back to Texas to return to her job at the chicken processing plant. After she leaves, Harry gets a knock at the door. It is the same neighbor who complained about the noise the night before. He removes Harry's glasses and punches him in the face again.

The following morning at the Major's studio, Harry admits that the scheme is now far from over and decides to focus on getting rid of Martin and getting PJ out of the Savoy Hotel. Harry calls Martin while he is at the gym. Martin is caught off-guard and tells Harry that all is well in Germany. Harry asks if Martin has any jobs available at the exhibit in Germany and tells him that he is about to quit his job with Shabandar. He lies to Martin, telling him that Shabandar is having business problems and that his paycheck didn't clear last week. Martin begins to seem fearful as Harry says goodbye and hangs up the phone.

Later that evening, Harry goes to the Savoy Hotel and tells the clerk to take his credit card off of the bill for PJ's room. The clerk tells Harry that his credit card had already been removed from the bill, and that PJ was moved to a senior suite by Shabandar. He also informs Harry that he recently saw the two leaving in evening wear. PJ's hotel fees amount to several thousand pounds, maxing out Harry's second credit card. Meanwhile, Shabandar and PJ are out to dinner at a high-end sushi joint. Shabandar tells PJ that his rival businessman, Akira Takagawa, has wanted revenge ever since losing to Shabandar in a 1992 auction for the first Haystacks painting. Shabandar plans to buy several television channels from him at a discount, making him the third largest cable provider in all of Asia.

Back at the hotel, Harry lies to the clerk, telling him he left his distance glasses in PJ's room, in order to gain access to the room. Once upstairs, Harry is captivated by the gray vase again and decides to steal it. On his way down the hallway, he notices a sexually provocative note from Shabandar on the room service cart outside PJ's door. He chuckles, and while walking to the elevator with the vase in his hands, spots a hotel maid with a cleaning cart, exiting a room. Harry turns around and enters the closet to hide. The maid opens the door to pick up some clean towels and drink from a hidden bottle of gin, but does not notice him. She turns around, locking the door behind her, leaving Harry trapped. He hides the vase and opens a window, but realizes it is too steep of a drop.

At the sushi bar, PJ is helping Shabandar and the Japanese businessmen come to an agreement. Harry has decided to escape out the window with the vase, but manages to get his pants stuck while doing so. Harry removes his trousers after placing the vase on the ledge. His trousers fall into a tree, just as PJ and Shabandar pull up. Harry watches Shabandar kiss PJ, who is too distracted with watching Harry who has caught her attention from the ledge. As PJ and Shabandar enter the lobby, Harry enters a random suite through the window with the vase in his hands. He hears a knock at the door. A woman enters the room but does not notice him. Harry exits the suite but panics as he hears Shabandar and PJ in the elevator. As Shabandar begins to make sexual advances toward PJ, Harry comes out of the closet and gets her attention. Despite this, she accepts, and the two enter the hotel room. She invites Harry in as Shabandar's back is turned and confronts him. They argue again, and Harry escapes out the window. He then walks on the ledge and enters the same random suite, leaves through the front door and, without trousers, exits the hotel through the lobby.

The following day, Harry and PJ run into each other in the courtyard of the hotel. She tells him that he needs to stop trying to bamboozle Shabandar and to just be himself. He asks PJ to come back to the scheme and to play along at Shabandar's party that night. She agrees, with his promise that she will see a different Harry Deane at the party. That night, Harry and the Major arrive at the party and unload the painting and easel. The Major goes to check out the party, wishing Harry good luck. Harry meets up with PJ and Shabandar after setting up the painting. They discuss Shabandar being a nudist, a subject he proves to be very defensive about. He seems very angry at Harry and is about to fire him, but is distracted when PJ tells them to follow her. They walk to a stage where Takagawa is singing "Ain't That a Kick in the Head?" by Dean Martin. Harry sneaks away from the party to the Monet and the fake Monet.

Meanwhile, PJ has taken to the stage and is singing "Deep in the Heart of Texas" as a distraction to keep Shabandar from going upstairs to find Harry. When she tells him that Harry has gone upstairs to compare the paintings, Shabandar tells PJ that his genius security system, which he thought of himself, is currently activated. Harry hears a sound upstairs and turns around to see a small orange cat walking down the hall. As the cat walks closer, Harry notices that it is not a cat at all, but a lion. PJ rushes upstairs to defend Harry. She ropes the lion with a lasso. Harry thanks PJ and she goes to tell Shabandar to untie the lion. Shabandar is furious, blaming Harry, and saying that PJ could have been mauled. Harry defends his position, stating that it is in his job title to defend the collection. Shabandar tells Harry that he is fired and that Martin will be taking over his private collection.

Immediately, Martin comes out from behind the door with a magnifying glass, ready to inspect. Harry and PJ look off worriedly, unsure if Martin will recognize the painting as a forgery. After a short, tense inspection, Martin announces that the painting is real. But Harry suddenly speaks up and disagrees. He takes a solvent-infused wipe, rubs away at the painting and reveals a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II beneath the oil paint. Martin and Shabandar are both in disbelief, almost to the point of Martin vomiting. Martin shamefully exits and Shabandar declares that he no longer has any use for PJ. PJ tells him that he should have known better than to think there was a real Monet hanging in a Mobile home in Texas, and that he wouldn't have gotten anything other type of use out of her either. Shabandar then attempts to re-hire Harry, but he declines, saying that he refuses to work for a man who questions the intelligence of PJ, a woman he has come to love and admire.

Harry escorts PJ out of the mansion, as Shabandar stands, speechless. The following morning, the Major drives Harry and PJ to the airport. Harry admits that the scheme did not go exactly as planned, but that he still owes PJ her wages for her role in helping him. He gives her her plane ticket as they exchange a quick goodbye. Harry and the Major then go and meet with Takagawa and his men. It is revealed that the Major had painted copies for both "Dusk" and "Dawn" paintings. Harry had removed the staples on the canvas of the real "Dawn" painting and switched with its copy before the lion was released. Takagawa tells Harry that his payment for the real "Haystacks at Dawn" Monet, 10 million pounds, has been transferred to his Swiss bank account. Harry and the Major thank Takagawa, and head on their way. Meanwhile, while PJ goes through security, she finds the small painting that Harry had hung over his mantel. She smiles, just before boarding the plane. The end of the film shows Harry and the Major walking through the airport talking about Donald Trump's fascination with Picasso.



A remake of Gambit had been mooted for several years. Producer Mike Lobell saw the original film at its London premiere in 1966,[6] and in 1997, Lobell, who was then working at Universal, was looking for a film to remake; he suggested Gambit and Universal approved it.[6] He initially sent the original script to Aaron Sorkin to rewrite it; however, despite being keen to work on the project, the success of Sports Night and more especially The West Wing meant that he couldn't commit to completing the rewrite.[6] After Sorkin pulled out, Lobell met British producer Andy Paterson, director Anand Tucker and writer Frank Cottrell Boyce.[7] Boyce produced a script moving the story to Japan; despite this Lobell didn't think it was funny enough and decided to move on.[7] Hearing that Joel and Ethan Coen were looking for some rewrite work between films, Lobell gave them the script and they produced a "radical overhaul", moving the story to the United States. Despite having the Coen brothers on board the project remained in development hell. Initially, Alexander Payne was in talks to direct it, reuniting with Election star Reese Witherspoon, but was reluctant to work on a script he didn't write.[6]

Witherspoon was willing to remain on the project but only if producer Lobell could get Mike Nichols or Robert Altman to direct.[7] After the success of Gosford Park, Altman was keen to make another film in Britain, especially as Witherspoon was attached. However, prior to signing on, Altman backed out, feeling that the material was not suitable for him.[6] Nichols wasn't interested and the project stalled.[7]

Bo Welch was then attached to the project with Colin Firth starring as Harry Deane, with Jennifer Aniston and Ben Kingsley attached. After the box office failure of Welch's 2003 live action film of Dr Seuss's The Cat in the Hat Universal got cold feet and the project was again put into turnaround.[6] Outside of the studio system Lobell moved between different financiers in a bid to get the project moving. One group, Alcon Entertainment, had Gerard Butler lined up as Harry Deane, with Richard LaGravenese directing.[7] LaGravenese wanted a script polish, which took a long time, removing a lot of the work the Coen Brothers had done.[7] Again the project was stalled.

Speaking in September 2008, Colin Firth was asked about whether he would take the role of Harry Deane, and said, "No! It's a complete lie. It's been on IMDb and just sitting there." He also said: "The Coen brothers have written an absolutely brilliant script." Others reportedly discussed for the remake included Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock.[8]

The script was well known around Hollywood and in 2009 Lobell took a call from Roeg Sutherland at CAA.[7] Sutherland knew of a fledgling production company, Crime Scene Pictures, with equity financing from Southeast Asia, who were looking for a marquee project for their new company and felt that Gambit would fit the bill.[6] In 2010, Doug Liman was reportedly considering directing the film.[9] Although initially reluctant to take the project, Lobell persuaded Michael Hoffman to helm the film, and filming finally began in London in May 2011.[6][10]

In February 2011, John Underwood of reported that Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz were set to star as art curator Harry Deane and steer roper PJ Puznowski, who conspire to sell a fake work of art to a collector.[11] On May 15, 2011, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Stanley Tucci and Cloris Leachman had joined a cast that also included Alan Rickman and Tom Courtenay. The music is by Rolfe Kent, whose previous films include Up in the Air, Legally Blonde and Sideways.

The Art Gallery at Compton Verney House in South Warwickshire was used for filming some scenes during July 2011.[12] This location, however, is not acknowledged in the film's credits sequence.


The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rating of 18%, with 7 positive reviews out of 40.[13]

The film performed poorly at the box office, grossing only $1,957,362 in its UK run, for a worldwide gross of $14,214,365.[14]


  1. ^ "Rolfe Kent to Score 'Gambit'". Retrieved 6 September 2012. 
  2. ^ Gambit BBFC. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  3. ^ [1] The-Numbers.
  4. ^ "Release dates for Gambit". IMDb. Amazon. Retrieved 16 May 2012. 
  5. ^ "CBS Films Move 'Seven Psychopaths' up to October 12th, Delay 'Gambit' to Winter 2013". IndieWire. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "A 14-Year 'Gambit' Finally Provides a Big Payoff for Producer Mike Lobell". Deadline. 2 September 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "The Long Walk To Colin Firth". Sight & Sound. BFI: 16–17. November 2012. 
  8. ^ "Colin Firth Says Coen Brothers Film 'Gambit' Not Happening". MTV. Retrieved 19 September 2008. 
  9. ^ "'Fair Game' Director Doug Liman Circles Coen Brothers-Scripted 'Gambit' Redo". Deadline. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  10. ^ "'Gambit' Remake Gets Funding And Director". Deadline. Retrieved 25 November 2010. 
  11. ^ "Firth and Diaz to star in Coen-scripted Gambit remake". Best for film. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  12. ^ Reports in Coventry Telegraph 15 July 2011, and Kenilworth Weekly News 22 July 2011, and a press release from Compton Verney on completion of filming.
  13. ^ "Gambit (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  14. ^ "Gambit (2014) - International Box Office". The-Numbers. Retrieved 27 February 2016. 

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