Roxanne (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byFred Schepisi
Produced byMichael I. Rachmil
Daniel Melnick
Screenplay bySteve Martin
Based onCyrano de Bergerac
by Edmond Rostand
Music byBruce Smeaton
CinematographyIan Baker
Edited byJohn Scott
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • June 19, 1987 (1987-06-19)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12 million (est.)[1]
Box office$40,050,884 (domestic)[2]

Roxanne is a 1987 American romantic comedy film directed by Fred Schepisi and starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah. It is a modern retelling of Edmond Rostand's 1897 verse play Cyrano de Bergerac, adapted by Steve Martin. Rostand is mentioned in the opening credits.


Charlie "C.D." Bales, the fire chief of a small ski town is an intelligent, humorous, charismatic, athletic and skilled man. Regardless, he is rather sensitive about his abnormally large nose, which many in town have learned not to talk about; he cannot have it surgically altered due to a dangerous allergy to anesthetics. Still, he is close to many residents, especially his god-sister, Dixie, who owns the town diner and several rental homes. When the beautiful Roxanne Kowalski, a graduate student in astronomy, arrives to search for a new comet during the summer, he, along with many other men in town, becomes immediately attracted to her. Roxanne adores C.D. as a friend, preferring instead Chris McConnell, a fresh in town handsome but dim-witted fireman, here to train the local, but quite incompetent, firefighters.

Roxanne goes to C.D. for help when Chris fails to advance their relationship further than curious glances. After seeing him pick up a book by Sartre for a friend, she wrongly believes Chris is deeply intelligent. When C.D. informs Chris of Roxanne's interest, Chris feels sick as he is intimidated by women in general. Chris starts to write her a letter, but takes all day with little result. He convinces C.D. to write the letter, with prose that soon woos Roxanne. When informed that Roxanne wants to meet him, Chris again feels sick and refuses to meet until C.D. comes up with a plan to allow him to be as brilliant as his letter makes him appear. Chris arrives at Roxanne's house with a hunter's cap on, hiding the earphones that relay C.D.'s words.

When the equipment fails, Chris bungles the meeting by speaking his own crass thoughts. After, Roxanne storms back into the house furious and Chris begs C.D. to fix his mess again. At first Chris attempts to repeat what he's being prompted from under a tree beneath Roxanne's window, but soon also ruins that. Then they switch jackets and hats so C.D. can speak as Chris. They achieve their goal, and she invites Chris in to make love.

Roxanne has to go out of town for a week. She leaves her hotel address with C.D., asking him to have Chris write to her. Instead of informing Chris, C D. writes her several times a day, each letter more incredible than the last. As C.D. is writing a new letter to her in Dixie's diner, he is told Chris is on his way to see Roxanne since she returned early, leaving the letter behind to go find Chris. Dixie starts reading the letter. C.D. arrives at Roxanne's home and after a game of ding dong ditch, warns Chris that Roxanne would be mentioning some letters that he supposedly wrote. She tries to get Chris to be the man in the letters, revealing that his looks are only secondary for her. Feeling ill due to knowing that his looks are all he has, Chris runs out, leaving her confused. Dixie puts the last letter under Roxanne's door with a note revealing that C.D. is its author. After reading it, Roxanne calls C.D. over.

Chris prepares to leave town with bartender Sandy, whom he met while Roxanne was away. When she asks if he has told Roxanne (the women are acquaintances), he replies that he will write her a letter since he has a history of it.

C.D. arrives, unaware that Roxanne knows the truth. She asks him to read one of the letters and then to look at the back, which shows that Dixie revealed its true author. She explodes in anger that he lied to her and punches him in the nose. He retorts that he simply wanted to tell her how he felt about her, but she was only interested in Chris's attractiveness. When he reminds her that it only took a few nice words for Chris to get her into bed, she throws him out. As he prepares to say more, he stops and sniffs the air. He slowly walks back to the firehouse and alerts his team, who then "follows his nose" until they find and extinguish a fire in a barn that if not contained, could burn down the entire town. During their celebration afterwards someone mentions his nose and although everyone thinks C.D. will get upset, for once he doesn't.

Back home, sitting on his roof, C.D. hears someone speaking his words to him. It's Roxanne, declaring that she realized that it was C.D.'s personality that she loved, not Chris' looks. After she declares her love, C.D. stylishly descends from the roof and they reconcile. During the credits, she reveals that she named the comet "Charlie" (C.D.'s first name), but after her father.



Steve Martin had always been a fan of the José Ferrer version of Cyrano de Bergerac:

I remember just thinking it was the greatest thing I ever saw. I think it's because the character is so strong. He's like a very smart version of what, coincidentally, is popular in movies today. He's smarter than everybody else, quicker than everybody else, wittier than everybody else and tops everybody. That's what the original Cyrano is like. And this just sort of takes that vicious edge off it.[1]

In the early 1980s Martin had the idea of updating the play, only with the difference that Cyrano would get the girl in the end. He decided to write the screenplay himself, writing 25 drafts over three years.[1]

The film was greenlit at Columbia by then-production chief Guy McElwaine. He was replaced by David Puttnam who liked the script, continued the studio's support and suggested the casting of Daryl Hannah. It was the first film released under Puttnam's auspices at Columbia.[3]

Roxanne was filmed in the summer of 1986 in the town of Nelson, British Columbia.[4] Steve Martin chose to use the local fire hall on Ward Street as a primary set. Although the movie has references to the town's name being "Nelson", it is portrayed as being in the USA. The mailboxes which figure in the plot are USPS blue, not Canada Post red. In the bar scenes, neon signs for Miller beer show the advertising slogan of the time: "Made the American Way", which was not used in Canada.

Steve Martin's nose makeup took 90 minutes to apply every day and two minutes to take off. "God how I hated that thing", he said.[1]


Critical response[edit]

Roxanne received an 88% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 40 reviews, with the consensus being: "Though its sweetness borders on sappiness, Roxanne is an unabashedly romantic comedy that remains one of Steve Martin's funniest".[5] Metacritic gave film a score of 73 based on 19 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6]

Roger Ebert hailed the film as a "gentle, whimsical comedy", giving it a 3 and half stars of four, also stating: "What makes "Roxanne" so wonderful is not this fairly straightforward comedy, however, but the way the movie creates a certain ineffable spirit".[7]

It is number #71 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies".


It has also won and has been nominated for a number of awards, including:[8]

References to the play[edit]

  • The historical Cyrano de Bergerac wrote of a journey to the Moon and to the Sun, and Roxanne alludes to this in a scene where Bales jokes about UFOs and aliens. Additionally, that scene mirrors one in the play where Cyrano pretends to fall out of a tree to distract another wooer of Roxanne.
  • The names of all three main characters are based on their counterparts in the play. C.D. Bales has the same initials as Cyrano de Bergerac, Roxanne's name is a slight alteration of Roxane, and Chris is a shortened form of Christian.
  • The "20 Nose Insults" speech in the film mirrors a similar speech in the play. It even adapts a line from the play:
Cyrano: "Oh, how you must love the little birds so much that when they come and sing to you, you give them this to perch on."
C.D.: "You must love the little birdies to give them this to perch on."
  • C.D.'s position in the firefighters is similar to Cyrano's leadership of the Gascon Cadets.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Shales, Tom (19 June 1987). "Steve Martin, Taking It All In: His Setbacks Behind Him, He's Riding High With 'Roxanne' Steve Martin's Success". The Washington Post. p. D1.
  2. ^ "Roxanne". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved October 4, 2010.
  3. ^ Benson, Sheila (14 June 1987). "THE DEATH OF ELIOT NESS WAS EXAGGERATED". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ Cawley, Janet (5 Oct 1986). "Film: Hollywood North Producers take advantage of Canada's variety". Chicago Tribune. p. L6.
  5. ^ Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^ "Roxanne Reviews". Metacritic.
  7. ^ Roger Ebert review of Roxanne
  8. ^ IMDb Awards list

External links[edit]