Legal Eagles

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Legal Eagles
Legal eagles.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byIvan Reitman
Produced byIvan Reitman
Sheldon Kahn
Screenplay byJim Cash
Jack Epps, Jr.
Story byIvan Reitman
Jim Cash
Jack Epps, Jr.
Music byElmer Bernstein
CinematographyLaszlo Kovacs
Edited byWilliam Gordean
Pem Herring
Sheldon Kahn
Northern Lights Entertainment
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • June 18, 1986 (1986-06-18)
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million
Box office$93,151,591

Legal Eagles is a 1986 American trial comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman, written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. from a story by Reitman and the screenwriters, and starring Robert Redford, Debra Winger, and Daryl Hannah.


Tom Logan (Robert Redford) is an Assistant District Attorney in the New York City District Attorney's Office, who is on his way to becoming the new District Attorney. Into his life enters Laura Kelly (Debra Winger), an attorney who is representing Chelsea Deardon (Daryl Hannah). Chelsea is accused of stealing a painting from millionaire Mr. Forrester (John McMartin). However, Chelsea claims that the painting is actually hers, as her father made it for her and signed it to her on her 8th birthday 18 years ago – the same day that her father and most of his paintings went up in smoke in a mysterious fire.

Kelly eventually manages to talk Logan into helping them (after she creates an impromptu press conference at the dinner where Logan is being introduced as the new candidate for District Attorney). However, things turn even more mysterious when Forrester suddenly drops all charges against Chelsea since he has swapped the painting for a Picasso with museum curator Victor Taft (Terence Stamp), Kelly and Logan find out about this after they go to Forrester's house to ask him about the alleged crime. That night police detective Cavanaugh (Brian Dennehy) comes up with proof that the paintings that supposedly were lost in the fire—which were worth millions in insurance—are still in existence and that Chelsea's father was murdered and the murder was covered up, something which he claims put a strain on his career since it was his investigation. Chelsea also continues coming on to Logan, coming to his apartment being fearful of someone following her. When Logan goes to investigate, he is shot at but the shooter misses and escapes. Logan agrees to continue trying to protect Chelsea while Kelly and him continue her investigation into the paintings. After an attempt by Taft to blow up a warehouse with incriminating information—which almost blows Logan and Kelly up as well—Logan and Kelly find evidence of a massive insurance fraud between Taft, Deardon and Joe Brock, a third man who was sent to prison.

Chelsea goes to Taft's apartment with a gun, with the intent to threaten him and obtain information. What happens then is not seen but Chelsea goes back to Logan's apartment after being there. She tells him what she had done, claims that Taft managed to get the gun from her and hit her and she is now afraid of the repercussions. Logan's daughter from his ex-wife, Jennifer (Jennifer Dundas), is there and does not take kindly to her which leads her to worsen Logan's ex-wife's view on what is actually happening when she comes to take their daughter to her home and finds Chelsea in Logan's apartment. After they are alone Logan makes Chelsea a bed for her to sleep on her own but during the night Chelsea goes into Logan's bed and he fails to resist, they sleep together. Next morning police bust into Logan's room waking both up and arresting Chelsea for Taft's murder. Logan's career as an Assistant District Attorney is finished. Logan reluctantly teams up with Kelly, which is also encouraged by Logan's daughter who thinks the two make a good couple. Realizing that a sculpture Taft claimed to them was priceless but told Chelsea was worthless, Logan goes to find Cavanaugh while Kelly and Chelsea go to an exposition in honor of Taft to find the sculpture. Before they can make it far an assassin tries to run them over with a car, saving Kelly the lawyers split ways long enough for Logan to go on his way pursuing the assassin who fights back but fails to kill Logan since he is hit by a taxi, taking this opportunity Logan steals the man's wallet with information he had taken from them through a bug while Kelly comes to his rescue in Logan's car that she barely manages to drive there since she does not know how to drive. They split again with Logan going to the police department to find Cavanaugh and have him bring the police force while Kelly and Chelsea go to Taft's museum where the exposition in his honor is being held. There, the person they thought was Cavanaugh reveals himself as Joe Brock, Logan finds out on his own since the real Cavanaugh is a different man, a cop that wasn't aware that someone had been using his identity. Logan, having realized that Cavanaugh was not who he thought he was, races to the gallery. Brock forces Kelly and Chelsea to break open the hollow sculpture, grabs the painting inside and cuffs Chelsea to a table while struggling with Kelly, eventually leaving her unconscious. He then sets fire to another part of the gallery, forcing an evacuation as a way to leave with the painting and without anyone noticing. Logan arrives and interrupts Brock's escape, Logan and Brock fight, with Brock eventually falling to his death. Logan finds Kelly and Chelsea, grabs the painting and the three escape from the burning gallery, where Chelsea tearfully reveals the signature "To Chelsea" on the back of the painting. After all charges against Chelsea are dropped, Logan's former boss offers to take him back, based on Logan's publicity. Logan, however, decides to stay with Kelly, and the two set up an office together.



The script was written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps who were represented by Creative Artists Agency (CAA). The film was originally meant to be a vehicle for Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray, the latter a CAA client, and was written as a buddy movie. Murray pulled out and then Robert Redford, another CAA client, expressed interest in doing a romantic comedy, so it was rewritten to be a Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn-type movie. It was set up at Universal, run by CAA client Frank Price and directed by Ivan Reitman, another CAA client. Tom Mankiewicz was called in to rewrite the script.[1][2]


The film's score was composed and conducted by Elmer Bernstein, his final collaboration with Ivan Reitman. The soundtrack album was released by MCA Records, featuring selections from the score re-recorded in England under the composer's baton, and the songs "Good Lovin'" by The Rascals, "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf, and Daryl Hannah's "Put Out The Fire" (which she performs onscreen). Rod Stewart's "Love Touch" was featured in the movie, but being a Warner Bros. Records exclusive it does not appear on the album.


The film received mixed reviews and holds a 47% on Rotten Tomatoes based on reviews from 15 critics.[3]

With production costs of $40 million, the film was one of the most expensive ever released up to that point. It grossed a total of $49,851,591 in North America and $43,300,000 internationally, totaling $93,151,591 worldwide.[4]


  1. ^ Tom Mankiewicz, My Life as a Mankiewicz: An Insider's Journey Through Hollywood (with Robert Crane) University Press of Kentucky 2012 p 278-279
  2. ^ Evans, Bradford (17 February 2011). "The Lost Roles of Bill Murray". Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  3. ^ Legal Eagles at Rotten Tomatoes
  4. ^ Legal Eagles at Box Office Mojo

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