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Reversal of Fortune

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Reversal of Fortune
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBarbet Schroeder
Screenplay byNicholas Kazan
Based onReversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case
by Alan Dershowitz
Produced by
CinematographyLuciano Tovoli
Edited byLee Percy
Music byMark Isham
  • Reversal Films, Inc.
  • Sovereign Pictures
  • Shochiku Fuji Co. Ltd.
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release dates
  • September 12, 1990 (1990-09-12) (TIFF)
  • October 19, 1990 (1990-10-19) (United States)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$15.4 million

Reversal of Fortune is a 1990 American epic biographical true crime trial drama thriller film adapted from the 1985 book Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case, written by law professor Alan Dershowitz. It recounts the true story of the unexplained coma of socialite Sunny von Bülow, the subsequent attempted murder trial, and the eventual acquittal of her husband, Claus von Bülow, who had Dershowitz as his defense attorney.[1] The film was directed by Barbet Schroeder and stars Jeremy Irons as Claus, Glenn Close as Sunny, and Ron Silver as Dershowitz. Screenwriter Nick Kazan originally envisioned Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer in the role of Claus von Bülow, but was thrilled with Irons' performance. Irons earned the 1990 Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the film.



The story is narrated by Sunny von Bülow, who is in a coma after falling into diabetic shock after a Christmas party. Her husband, the dissolute European aristocrat Claus von Bülow, is charged with attempting to murder the hypoglycemic Sunny by giving her an overdose of insulin. Claus's strained relationship with his wife and his cold and haughty personal demeanor leads most people to conclude that he is guilty. In need of an innovative defense, Claus turns to law professor Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz is initially convinced of Claus's guilt, but takes the case because von Bülow agrees to fund Dershowitz's defense of two poor black boys accused of capital murder. Employing his law students as workers, Dershowitz proceeds to defend Claus, wrestling with his client's unnerving personal style and questions of von Bülow's guilt or innocence.





The film was shot in numerous estates in Rhode Island and New Jersey, and the Knole house in Old Westbury, New York. At least one courtroom scene was shot at the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department in Brooklyn, New York.

Despite the fact that the house where the facts happened was Clarendon Court, as also mentioned in dialogue, the establishing shot intentionally avoids the house and ends instead with a view of The Breakers, another grandiose property nearby built for Cornelius Vanderbilt II.



The film received mostly positive reviews and holds a 92% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 7.9/10 from 51 reviews. The site's consensus states: "Featuring exceptional performances and a cunning script, Reversal of Fortune doubles as a tantalizing mystery and ruthless satire of the rich."[2] It has a score of 93 on Metacritic with 18 reviews [3]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result
20/20 Awards Best Actor Jeremy Irons Won
Best Actress Glenn Close Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nicholas Kazan Nominated
Academy Awards[4] Best Director Barbet Schroeder Nominated
Best Actor Jeremy Irons Won
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Nicholas Kazan Nominated
Artios Awards[5] Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film Casting – Drama Howard Feuer Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards[6] Best Actor Jeremy Irons Won
Best Screenplay Nicholas Kazan Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[7] Best Actor Jeremy Irons Won
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Film Nominated
David di Donatello Awards[8] Best Foreign Actor Jeremy Irons Won
Golden Globe Awards[9] Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Jeremy Irons Won
Best Director – Motion Picture Barbet Schroeder Nominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Nicholas Kazan Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards[10] Best Actor Jeremy Irons Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards[11] Best Actor Won
Best Screenplay Nicholas Kazan Won
Nastro d'Argento Best Cinematography Luciano Tovoli Nominated
National Board of Review Awards[12] Top Ten Films 5th Place
National Society of Film Critics Awards[13] Best Film 3rd Place
Best Actor Jeremy Irons Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards[14] Best Film Runner-up
Best Director Barbet Schroeder Nominated
Best Actor Jeremy Irons Runner-up
PEN Center USA West Literary Awards Best Screenplay Nicholas Kazan Won
Political Film Society Awards Exposé Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards[15] Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Nicholas Kazan Nominated

In 2015, the 25th anniversary of Entertainment Weekly named Reversal of Fortune on its list of the 25 best films of the past 25 years.[16]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See also



  1. ^ State v. von Bulow, 475 A.2d 995 (R.I. 1984).
  2. ^ "Reversal of Fortune (1990)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  3. ^ "Reversal of Fortune". www.metacritic.com. Retrieved 2024-04-16.
  4. ^ "The 63rd Academy Awards (1991) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  5. ^ "Nominees/Winners". Casting Society of America. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  6. ^ "BSFC Winners: 1990s". Boston Society of Film Critics. 27 July 2018. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  7. ^ "1988-2013 Award Winner Archives". Chicago Film Critics Association. January 2013. Retrieved August 24, 2021.
  8. ^ "Cronologia Dei Premi David Di Donatello". David di Donatello. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  9. ^ "Reversal of Fortune – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  10. ^ "KCFCC Award Winners – 1990-99". kcfcc.org. December 14, 2013. Retrieved July 28, 2021.
  11. ^ "The 16th Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards". Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  12. ^ "1990 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  13. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. December 19, 2009. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  14. ^ "1990 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  15. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on December 5, 2012. Retrieved June 6, 2010.
  16. ^ "EW's 25 Best Movies in 25 Years". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  17. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  18. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). 16 November 2011. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)