The Accused (1988 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jonathan Kaplan|
|Produced by||Stanley R. Jaffe|
|Written by||Tom Topor|
|Music by||Brad Fiedel|
|Cinematography||Ralf D. Bode|
|Edited by||O. Nicholas Brown|
Gerard B. Greenberg
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$37.7 million|
The Accused is a 1988 American legal drama film directed by Jonathan Kaplan, written by Tom Topor and starring Jodie Foster, Kelly McGillis, Bernie Coulson, Leo Rossi, Ann Hearn, Carmen Argenziano, Steve Antin and Tom O'Brien. Foster portrays Sarah Tobias, a young waitress who is gang-raped by three men at a local bar. She and deputy district attorney Kathryn Murphy (played by McGillis) set out to prosecute the rapists as well as the men who encouraged them.
Set in Washington state, but filmed mainly in Vancouver, British Columbia, it is loosely based on the 1983 gang rape of Cheryl Araujo in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and the resulting trial which received national coverage. The film explores the themes of classism, misogyny, Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), slut shaming, victim blaming and women's empowerment.
The Accused premiered at the 39th Berlin International Film Festival, where it competed for the Golden Bear. It was released in limited theatres on October 14, 1988 by Paramount Pictures and was highly controversial upon release, mostly due to its graphic representation of gang rape. The film became a critical and commercial success grossing over $37 million worldwide, against its $6 million budget and was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the Top 10 films of the year. Reviewers praised the film's audacity, the authenticity of the portrayal of subject matter, and for being the first film to deal with the horrors of rape and its aftermath on a victim's life. Foster's performance marked her breakthrough into adult roles, earning numerous accolades including the Academy Award for Best Actress.
On April 18, 1987 at a local bar called "The Mill," 24-year-old working-class woman Sarah Tobias (Jodie Foster) is brutally gang raped by three drunk bar patrons, while onlookers cheer them on. Deputy district attorney Kathryn Murphy (Kelly McGillis) is assigned to the rape case. Her superior instructs her to offer a plea bargain to the defendants that requires some jail time. They plead guilty to charges of reckless endangerment and are sentenced to prison. Sarah is enraged by the deal, as there is no acknowledgment that the men raped her.
Sarah rams a pickup truck after recognizing its driver as one of the patrons from the bar who had been cheering during the rape, and being outraged by his crude proposition of her. Her injuries require hospitalization, during which Murphy visits her. Sarah tells her that she feels betrayed due to not being able to tell her side of the story and feeling Murphy did not represent her interests. After this, Murphy decides to prosecute the men who cheered the rape for criminal solicitation. Sarah's friend Sally, a waitress at the bar where the rape took place, picks three men out of a line-up as being those who encouraged the attackers. They get three different defense attorneys for the ensuing trial.
Sarah testifies that she was raped. College student Kenneth Joyce (Bernie Coulson), a friend of one of the rapists, testifies to watching the rape before he made a 911 call to notify the police. After Murphy's closing statement and a single summation from the three defense lawyers, the jury deliberates for a long time. They ask several times for Joyce's testimony to be reread to them.
In the end, the jury convicts the three defendants. As the trial provided testimony and evidence that the men raped Sarah, the three men already serving prison time for reckless endangerment are unlikely to be granted parole.
- Kelly McGillis as Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Murphy
- Jodie Foster as Sarah Tobias
- Bernie Coulson as Kenneth Joyce
- Leo Rossi as Cliff "Scorpion" Albrect
- Ann Hearn as Sally Fraser
- Carmen Argenziano as District Attorney Paul Rudolph
- Steve Antin as Bob Joiner
- Tom O'Brien as Larry
- Peter Van Norden as Attorney Paulsen
- Terry David Mulligan as Lieutenant Duncan
- Woody Brown as Danny
- Tom Heaton as Jesse
- Andrew Kavadas as Defendant Matt Haines
- Scott Paulin as Attorney Ben Wainwright
- Tom McBeath as Defendant Stu Holloway
- Kim Kondrashoff as Kurt
—Topor explaining the importance to make the film
Screenwriter Tom Topor was inspired to write the film after the trial of Cheryl Araujo became national news. Dawn Steel called him to ask if he'd be interested in doing a movie on the subject. Sherry Lansing and Stanley Jaffe from Paramount Pictures were subsequently signed on to produce the film. Topor interviewed 30 rape victims and numerous rapists, prosecutors, defense attorneys and medical professionals. Jonathan Kaplan met with Steel and discussed the possibility of making a film on the subject. The original draft of the script mainly focused on the lawyer's story. However, Kaplan wanted the rape victim to be as prominent as the lawyer; the script also featured a pool table (reflecting the real life incident), but the producers were concerned with being sued, so it was changed to a pinball machine.
Following the test screenings, the film received the lowest scores in the history of Paramount. According to Lansing, "The audience thought that Jodie's character deserved the rape." The studio executives wanted to put the film on the shelf and were looking for ways to prevent it from being released. Lansing asked for another screening with just women, which was far more successful. Of the 20 women in the room, 18 had experience with rape — either they or someone they knew had been raped. When tested again months later, it was given one of the highest scores in studio's history.
The studio was looking for a bankable actress who could sell the film. Numerous actresses were offered for the part of Sarah Tobias including Jennifer Grey, Meg Ryan, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Beals, Ally Sheedy and Kelly Preston, but all of them rejected the film due to its gruesome and controversial themes. Foster, who had recently graduated from Yale and didn't make any successful films during her time at school, wasn't the prime choice for the producers. Following numerous auditions as well as rejection from various established actresses, she was finally cast in the part.
Jane Fonda was initially attached to play Kathryn Murphy but left the project as she found the script exploitative and poorly written. Ellen Barkin, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sigourney Weaver, Debra Winger, Meryl Streep and Geena Davis were also considered for the part. Kelly McGillis, who just came off Top Gun (1987) was cast for the bankable prospects of the film. McGillis was initially offered to play Sarah but declined, citing her personal experience. She acknowledged at the time of the film's release that she herself had survived a violent attack and rape in 1982 when two men broke into her apartment. Based on her experience, she took on the role of Murphy. Brad Pitt auditioned for the part of Ken Joyce.
Foster viewed the film as a last ditch effort to give her acting career a much needed boost. She had taken a sabbatical from Hollywood to attend Yale, which was prolonged due to John Hinckley's assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan (which he carried out as a means to impress Foster with whom he had been obsessed after seeing her in Taxi Driver) in March 1981. After recovering from the media frenzy surrounding her following the incident, she had experienced a bit of a dry spell upon her return to acting. Most of her films had a lukewarm response both with critics and at the box office. She stated that she would have retired from acting had The Accused followed suit. Ultimately, the film's success revitalized her career.
Principal photography for The Accused began on April 22, 1987 and concluded on June 2, 1987. Although set in Washington state, it was filmed mainly in Vancouver, British Columbia. The gang rape scene was highly controversial at the time of its release, as being the longest, most graphic and boldest representation of sexual assault in mainstream cinematic history. It took five days to complete and the filming was a difficult experience for the cast and crew involved. Everyone felt protective of Foster and worried how traumatic the situation could be for her. In an interview, Foster explained that the rape scene was meticulously rehearsed beforehand, so there would be no unpleasant surprises for anyone involved in the actual scene. She has stated that she does not remember filming the scene and completely blacked out and broke blood vessels in her right eye from crying during the shooting of the scene. The male actors were also overwhelmingly upset. Leo Rossi (who played Cliff "Scorpion" Albrect, the bystander), recalled the experience of Woody Brown (who played Danny, one of the rapists) following the filming of the scene, in which he bolted from the set and threw up in his trailer. Complex ranked the rape scene from the film #16 on its list of "The 53 Most Hard-To-Watch Scenes in Movie History".
|1.||""I'm Talking Love""||Vanessa Anderson||3:35|
|2.||""At This Moment""||Billy Vera & The Beaters||2:30|
|3.||""Kiss of Fire""||James Harman||3:50|
|4.||""Love to the Limit""||Only Child||3:21|
|5.||""Love in Return""||Gina Schock||2:20|
|6.||""Middle of Nowhere""||Gina Schock and Vance DeGeneres||2:10|
|7.||""Walk in My Sleep""||House of Schock||1:50|
|8.||""Mojo Boogie""||Johnny Winter||2:50|
The Accused was released in limited theatres in North America on October 14, 1988. Although it was supposed to be released in April, it was deferred to October due to the Writers Guild of America's strike. The film premiered at the 39th Berlin International Film Festival in 1989, where it competed for the Golden Bear.
In its opening weekend in North America, The Accused was #1 at the box office, grossing $4.3 million in 796 theaters. The film grossed a total of $37.07 million worldwide, against a $6 million budget, becoming a commercial success.
The Accused received positive reviews, especially for Foster's performance. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 90% based on 21 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 65 out of 100 indicating "generally favourable reviews".
In a positive review, writing of the two criminal prosecutions in the film, Roger Ebert finds that the lesson of the trial "may be the most important message this movie has to offer...that verbal sexual harassment, whether crudely in a saloon back room or subtly in an everyday situation, is a form of violence - one that leaves no visible marks but can make its victims feel unable to move freely and casually in society. It is a form of imprisonment." Rob Beattie from Empire, gave the film five out of five stars, calling it phenomenal and called the controversial rape scene "devastating, harrowing and utterly convincing". Judy Steed of The Globe and Mail called it "An experience that is sometimes unbearable and always riveting". Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "A consistently engrossing melodrama, modest in its aims and as effective for the clichés it avoids as for the clear eye through which it sees its working-class American lives".
Marjorie Heins, in the 1998 book The V-Chip Debate: Content Filtering from Television to the Internet, said that educators worried that the film would "receive V ratings and be subject to at least a presumption against curricular use in many public schools."
Awards and nominations
At the 61st Academy Awards, Foster won the award for Best Actress. This was the film's only nomination, thus marking the first occurrence of such an event since 1962 (when Sophia Loren won for Two Women) that the winner of the category won for a film with a single nomination. In 2006, Foster's performance was ranked #56 on Premiere's 100 Greatest Film Performances of all-time.
|Award/Festival||Category||Recipient and nominee||Result|
|Academy Awards||Best Actress||Jodie Foster||Won|
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Actress||Nominated|
|Chicago Film Critics Association Awards||Best Actress||Nominated|
|David di Donatello Awards||Best Foreign Actress||Won|
|Jupiter Awards||Best International Actress||Nominated|
|Boston Society of Film Critics||Best Actress||runner-up|
|Kansas City Film Critics Circle||Best Actress||Won|
|Los Angeles Film Critics Association||Best Actress||runner-up|
|National Board of Review||Best Actress||Won|
|New York Film Critics Circle||Best Actress||runner-up|
|National Society of Film Critics||Best Actress||runner-up|
|People's Choice Awards||Favourite Dramatic Motion Picture Actress||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama||Won|
|National Board of Review||Top Ten Films||The Accused||Won|
|Berlin International Film Festival||Golden Bear||Jonathan Kaplan||Nominated|
- Aestheticization of violence, includes a discussion of Kaplan's use of a violent rape scene in The Accused
- List of films based on actual events
- 61st Academy Awards
- Cheryl Araujo, rape victim whose case inspired this film
- Ford, Rebecca (January 16, 2014). "'The Accused' Oral History: A Brutal Rape Scene, Traumatized Actors and Producers' Fights to Make the Movie". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
- Kelly McGillis, as told to Kristin McMurran (November 14, 1988). "Memoir of a Brief Time in Hell". People. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
- van Meter, Jonathan (January 6, 1991). "Child of the Movies". The New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
- Hollinger 2012, p. 46
- Borone, Matt (March 16, 2018). "The 53 Most Hard-To-Watch Scenes in Movie History". complex.com. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
- "Berlinale: 1989 Programme". berlinale.de. Retrieved March 9, 2011.
- "The Accused (1988)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
- "The Accused". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
- "The Accused Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 19, 2013.
- Roger Ebert (October 14, 1988). "The Accused", Chicago Sun-Times
- Beattie, Rob (October 14, 2015). "The Accused Review". Empire. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
- Canby, Vincent (October 14, 1988). "The Accused Review". The New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
- Marjorie Heins, "Three Questions About Television Ratings," in The V-Chip Debate: Content Filtering from Television to the Internet, ed. Monroe E. Price. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers (1998): 54
- "100 Greatest Movie Performances of All Time by Premiere Magazine". filmsite.com. April 2006. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
- Aquino, John T. (2005). "Big Dan's Tavern Rape Trial (1983) / Film: The Accused (1988)," in Truth and Lives on Film: The Legal Problems of Depicting Real Persons and Events in a Fictional Medium. McFarland. pp. 140–143. ISBN 0786420448.
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