O (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tim Blake Nelson
Produced by Eric Gitter
Daniel Fried
Anthony Rhulen
Screenplay by Brad Kaaya
Based on Othello 
by William Shakespeare
Starring Mekhi Phifer
Josh Hartnett
Julia Stiles
Elden Henson
Andrew Keegan
Rain Phoenix
Anthony Johnson
John Heard
Martin Sheen
Music by Jeff Danna
Cinematography Russell Lee Fine
Edited by Kate Sanford
Rhulen Entertainment
Daniel Fried Productions
Chickie the Cop
Distributed by Lionsgate
Release dates
  • August 31, 2001 (2001-08-31)
Running time
94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $19,210,835 [1]

O is a 2001 American drama film, and a loose modern adaptation of William Shakespeare's Othello.

The film's intended release date was April 1999, but due to the Columbine High School massacre, the film was shelved for two years by its original distributor, Miramax Films. Ultimately, it was sold along with director Kevin Smith's film Dogma to Lionsgate. It was directed by Tim Blake Nelson and written by Brad Kaaya. It contains many different styles of music, ranging from rap to opera. It was filmed in Charleston, South Carolina.

Told in a contemporary high school setting, Othello is now Odin James ('OJ') (Mekhi Phifer), star of the basketball team and the school's only African American student. Desdemona is Desi (Julia Stiles), the dean's daughter and Odin's girlfriend. Iago is Hugo (Josh Hartnett), the coach's steroid-addicted son, who plants seeds of doubt that fester in Odin's mind, leading them all to a violent fate. Roderigo is Roger (Elden Henson), a rich but troubled student who wants to go out with Desi, and like many others in the film, is easily manipulated by the cunning Hugo. Cassio is Michael Cassio (Andrew Keegan), another basketball player and a close friend to both Odin and Desi. Emilia is Emily (Rain Phoenix), Desi's best friend and Hugo's girlfriend. Brabantio is Dean Brable (John Heard), the president of the school and Desi's father. The duke of Venice is the basketball coach, also known as Duke (Martin Sheen). Bianca (Rachel Schumate) is Brandy, Michael's love interest.


The film starts during a basketball game. At the last minute Odin scores the basket that wins the game for his team. Later at an awards ceremony Duke presents the MVP award to Odin for his efforts, an award he shares with Michael. At a party celebrating the victory, Hugo plans with Roger to tell Desi's father that Odin raped her in order to split them up so that Roger can woo her. Roger, however, is only a pawn in Hugo's ultimate plan to destroy Odin.

Later in another game Odin's team wins once again. At the celebration party, Hugo engineers a fight between Roger and a very drunk Michael, who is temporarily suspended from the team. Hugo tells Michael to ingratiate himself with Desi so that she will talk to Odin on his behalf. Soon afterward, Hugo tells Odin that Desi and Michael have been spending a lot of time together, and that she may be cheating on him. Odin doesn't believe this at first, but gradually comes to suspect them. Odin questions Desi, but she calms him down and he believes her. In the meantime, Hugo manipulates Emily into stealing a scarf for him that Odin had given to Desi. Hugo, in turn, gives it to Michael in hopes that Odin will believe that Desi gave Michael the scarf, and so is cheating on him.

Meanwhile, Desi and Odin are having passionate sex at a motel. During their lovemaking, Odin sees an image of Michael on top of Desi in the mirror; angered, he becomes very rough with Desi, to the point that she cries out for him to stop, a plea he ignores. Afterward, they lie together staring in opposite directions.

After a dunk contest in which Odin himself performs a dunk that pulls the rim and breaks the glass backboard and assaults a ball boy, Hugo tells Odin about the scarf, convincing him that Desi is cheating on him. Enraged, Odin vows to kill her; Hugo then promises to kill Michael. Hugo, with Odin and Roger, plans to kill Michael and Desi. Hugo and Roger attempt to kill Michael in a carjacking, but it does not go as planned: Roger and Michael struggle, Hugo hits Michael with a crowbar, knocking him unconscious. Roger shoots Michael in the leg, and then Hugo turns the gun on Roger and kills him after telling him that Desi is dead.

Odin and Desi are in Desi's room talking and Odin is pretending to make up with her. They are making out on the bed when suddenly Odin attacks her; she fights back, but he finally strangles her. Emily rushes into the room and sees Desi's body; she soon finds out what Hugo has done. She begins telling Odin that Hugo told her to steal the scarf and exposes his plot. Hugo tells her to shut up, but she refuses, so he shoots and kills her. Odin finally realizes that Hugo has been manipulating him the entire time, and demands to know why; Hugo refuses to answer. When the police arrive, Odin tells them what happened, and commits suicide, shooting himself in the heart. The story ends with Hugo being taken into police custody, saying (in voice over) that he will have his day in the spotlight.



The film has received moderately positive reviews. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports a 64% approval rating with an average rating of 6.1/10 based on 124 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "Though well-intentioned and serious in its exploration of teen violence, O is an uneven experiment that doesn't quite succeed."[2] On Metacritic, the film achieved an average score of 53 out of 100 based on 26 reviews, signifying "mixed or average reviews".[3]


It was nominated for a Black Reel award for best actor Mekhi Phifer. Also won the Golden space needle award for Seattle international Film festival for best director Tim Blake Nelson.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "O (2001)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "O (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 27, 2015. 
  3. ^ "O Reviews". Retrieved July 27, 2015. 

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