The Insider (film)

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Not to be confused with The Inside (film) or Inside Man.
The Insider
The insider movie poster 1999.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Mann
Produced by
Written by
Based on "The Man Who Knew Too Much
by Marie Brenner
Music by
Cinematography Dante Spinotti
Edited by
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release dates
  • November 5, 1999 (1999-11-05)
Running time
157 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $68 million [1]
Box office $60,289,912

The Insider is a 1999 American drama film directed by Michael Mann, from a script adapted by Eric Roth and Mann from Marie Brenner's Vanity Fair article "The Man Who Knew Too Much". The film stars Al Pacino and Russell Crowe, with supporting actors including Christopher Plummer, Bruce McGill, Diane Venora and, Michael Gambon.

It is based on the true story of a 60 Minutes segment about Jeffrey Wigand, a whistleblower in the tobacco industry,[2] covering the personal struggles of he and CBS producer Lowell Bergman as they defend his testimony against efforts to discredit and suppress it by CBS and Wigand's former employer.

Though not a box office success, The Insider received overwhelmingly positive reviews, with particular focus on Crowe's portrayal of Wigand, and Mann's direction. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role (for Russell Crowe).


During a prologue that is not directly related to the main plot, Lowell Bergman (Pacino) convinces the founder of Hezbollah, Sheikh Fadlallah, to grant an interview to Mike Wallace (Plummer) for 60 Minutes. While preparing for the interview, both Wallace and Bergman firmly stand their ground against the Sheikh's armed and hostile bodyguards' attempted intimidation and disruption.

In Louisville, Kentucky, Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe) leaves his office at the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, having been fired by CEO Thomas Sandefur (Gambon), only reluctantly admitting it to his wife Liane (Venora).

Bergman, seeking help with translating tobacco-related documents, is referred to Wigand by a friend at the FDA. Wigand agrees to help but refuses to discuss anything further, citing a corporate confidentiality agreement; Bergman senses a potential story.

Wigand is later summoned to a meeting with Sandefur, who seeks to financially compel him to sign a broader confidentiality agreement. Wigand angrily leaves, calling Bergman and accusing him of betrayal. Bergman visits Wigand's home and vigorously denies his accusations.

Wigand talks to Bergman, contrasting tobacco companies, who testified to Congress that nicotine was not addictive, with what he sees as the more conscientious healthcare industry, and admits to feeling conceited for presuming scientific principles while working for a tobacco company. Though apparently possessing very damaging information, Wigand hesitates to reveal anything that might threaten his family's medical coverage.

The Wigand family move into a more modest house, Wigand having taken a job as a high school teacher. One night his younger daughter Barbara sees someone outside. Wigand finds a fresh footprint in the garden, and receives a sinister phone call when he returns indoors.

Later, Bergman asks Wigand if any of his personal history could be used to discredit him. Wigand, in frustration, accuses Bergman of using him to profit from the public appetite for scandal. Bergman defends his journalistic integrity and scorns Wigand for using "cheap skepticism" to avoid deciding whether to proceed.

Bergman contacts Richard Scruggs (Feore), an attorney representing the State of Mississippi in a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. Bergman believes that being compelled to testify as a witness could shield Wigand from legal repercussions, were he to break confidentiality. Scruggs expresses interest, and asks Bergman to arrange a meeting.

Some time later Wigand receives an emailed death threat against him and his family, and finds a bullet in his mailbox. He contacts the FBI, but the agents who attend are callous and hostile, and confiscate his computer. Bergman contacts an FBI official in Washington DC, suggesting improper collusion between the agents and B&W corporate security. The official promises to investigate.

Wigand, enraged over the threats, demands to an interview with 60 Minutes. In the interview he states that B&W intentionally manipulate the nicotine in their cigarettes to make them more addictive, ignoring health considerations in the interest of profit, and states he was fired after refusing to assent to these actions. Bergman later arranges a three-man security detail for Wigand's home, and the Wigands suffer marital stress from the increased pressure.

During Wigand's journey to Mississippi to give his deposition, he is served with an order from a Kentucky court prohibiting his testimony, putting him at risk of arrest and jail on his return to Kentucky if he testifies. After long and intense introspection, Wigand decides to go to court anyway. After courtroom fireworks between attorneys representing Mississippi and B&W, Wigand is permitted to testify about the drug effects of nicotine. Wigand discovers on his return to Louisville that Liane has left him, taking their daughters with her.

Bergman, Wallace and Don Hewitt (Hall), the creator and executive producer of 60 Minutes, meet with CBS News' legal counsel, Helen Caperelli (Gershon). Caperelli invokes and describes a legal theory, tortious interference, whereby one who induces someone to break a legal agreement may be sued for "interfering." By this theory, Wigand's confidentiality agreement exposes CBS to potential legal action from B&W if the interview is broadcast.

Later, Eric Kluster (Tobolowsky), the president of CBS News, decides to omit Wigand's interview from the segment. Bergman vehemently objects, believing that CBS Corporate wishes to avoid jeopardizing the pending sale of CBS to Westinghouse, and that Caperelli and Kluster, as substantial CBS stockholders, have personal biases. Wigand is appalled when Bergman reports this development, and terminates contact.

An investigator, hired by parties not shown, investigates Wigand's personal history, passing their findings to the public relations firm of John Scanlon (Torn), which publishes and circulates a 500-page dossier on Wigand to the news media. Bergman learns that The Wall Street Journal will soon use the dossier as the basis of a piece questioning Wigand's credibility. Bergman believes the dossier to be a smear campaign, and arranges for Jack Palladino (playing himself), an attorney and investigator, to evaluate it. The editor of the Journal agrees to delay his story while two of his own reporters examine Palladino's findings.

Nonetheless, infighting at CBS News about the segment prompts Hewitt to order Bergman to take an immediate "vacation." During this, the abridged 60 Minutes segment airs. Bergman, after some difficulty, completes a call to Wigand, who is both dejected and furious, accusing Bergman of engineering his situation. Bergman defends his own motives and actions, praising Wigand and his testimony.

Bergman is urged by Scruggs to air the interview with Wigand, their own lawsuit under threat by a lawsuit from the governor of Mississippi. Bergman is powerless to help, and privately questions his own motives in pursuing the story. Bergman's wife persuades him to press on, and he contacts an editor at The New York Times, confirming that CBS Corporate forced the withdrawal of the 60 Minutes interview with Wigand, and disclosing the full story.

The next morning the story makes the front page of Times, and a scathing editorial titled "Self-Censorship at CBS" condemns CBS, accusing them of "betraying the legacy of Edward R. Murrow".[3] The Journal concludes the dossier is a largely unsubstantiated work of character assassination, and prints Wigand's deposition in its entirety. Bergman is accused by Wallace and Hewitt of betrayal, and attacks their capitulation to corporate pressure.

Eventually 60 Minutes airs the original segment, including the full interview with Wigand.[4] Despite this, Bergman tells Wallace that he intends to resign from CBS, believing 60 Minutes' credibility and integrity has been permanently tarnished.

The film ends with text cards summarizing the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, and the careers of Wigand and Bergman after the events of the film.



With a budget set at $68 million,[1] Mann began collecting a massive amount of documents to research the events depicted in the film: depositions, news reports and 60 Minutes transcripts. He had read a screenplay that Eric Roth had written, called The Good Shepherd, about the first 25 years of the CIA. Based on this script, Mann approached Roth to help him co-write The Insider. Mann and Roth wrote several outlines together and talked about the structure of the story. Roth interviewed Bergman numerous times for research and the two men became friends. After he and Mann wrote the first draft together, at the bar at the Broadway Deli in Santa Monica, Roth met Wigand. The whistle blower was still under his confidentiality agreement and would not break it for Roth or Mann. Roth's initial impressions of Wigand were that he came across as unlikable and defensive. As they continued to write more drafts, the two men made minor adjustments in chronology and invented some extraneous dialogue but also stuck strictly to the facts whenever possible. However, Mann and Roth were not interested in making a documentary.

Val Kilmer was considered by Mann for the role of Jeffrey Wigand. Producer Pieter Jan Brugge suggested Russell Crowe and after seeing him in L.A. Confidential, Mann flew Crowe down from Canada where he was in the middle of filming Mystery, Alaska on the actor's one day off and had him read scenes from The Insider screenplay for two to three hours. When Crowe read the scene where Wigand finds out that the 60 Minutes interview he did will not be aired, he captured the essence of Wigand so well that Mann knew he had found the perfect actor for the role. Crowe, who was only 33 years old at the time, was apprehensive at playing someone much older than himself when there were so many good actors in that age range. Once Crowe was cast, he and Mann spent six weeks together before shooting began, talking about his character and his props, clothes and accessories. Crowe put on 35 pounds for the role, shaved back his hairline, bleached his hair seven times and had a daily application of wrinkles and liver spots to his skin to transform himself into Wigand (who was in his early-to-mid-50s during the events depicted in the film). Crowe was not able to talk to Wigand about his experiences because he was still bound by his confidentiality agreement during much of film's development period. To get a handle on the man's voice and how he talked, Crowe listened repeatedly to a six-hour tape of Wigand.

Al Pacino was Mann's only choice to play Lowell Bergman. He wanted to see the actor play a role that he had never seen him do in a movie before. Pacino, who had worked with Mann previously in Heat, was more than willing to take on the role. To research for the film, Mann and Pacino hung out with reporters from Time magazine, spent time with ABC News and Pacino actually met Bergman to help get in character.

Pacino suggested Mann cast Christopher Plummer in the role of Mike Wallace. Pacino had seen the veteran actor on the stage many times and was a big fan of Plummer's work. Mann had also wanted to work with Plummer since the 1970s. Pacino told Mann to watch Plummer in Sidney Lumet's Stage Struck (1958), and afterwards he was the director's only choice to play Wallace—Plummer did not have to audition. He met with Mann and after several discussions was cast in the film.

For the scene in which the deposition hearing takes place, the filmmakers used the actual courtroom in Pascagoula, Mississippi where the deposition was given.[5]


The Insider was adapted from "The Man Who Knew Too Much", an influential article on tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, written by journalist Marie Brenner for the May 1996 issue of Vanity Fair.[6]

Wallace said that two-thirds of the film was quite accurate, but he disagreed with the film's portrayal of his role in the events; in particular, he objected to the impression that he would have taken a long time to protest CBS's corporate policies.[7]


Box office[edit]

The Insider was released in 1,809 theaters on November 5, 1999 where it grossed a total of $6,712,361 on its opening weekend and ranked fourth in the country for that time period. It went on to make $29.1 million in North America and $31.2 million in the rest of the world for a total of $60.3 million worldwide, significantly lower than its $90 million budget.[8] The film was considered to be a commercial disappointment. Disney executives had hoped that Mann's film would have the same commercial and critical success as All the President's Men, a film in the same vein. However, The Insider had limited appeal to younger moviegoers (studio executives reportedly said the prime audience was over the age of 40) and the subject matter was "not notably dramatic," according to marketing executives. Then-Disney chairman Joe Roth said, "It's like walking up a hill with a refrigerator on your back. The fact of the matter is we're really proud we did this movie. People say it's the best movie they've seen this year. They say, 'Why don't we make more movies like this?'"[9] After the film received seven Academy Awards nominations, Joe Roth said, "Everyone is really proud of the movie. But it's one of those rare times when adults loved a movie, yet they couldn't convince their friends to go see it, any more than we could convince people in marketing the film." [10]

Critical response[edit]

Despite the disappointing box office reception, The Insider received near-unanimous critical praise, garnering some of the best reviews of 1999 and of Michael Mann's career. It holds a 96% "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 132 reviews[11] and an 84 metascore on Metacritic.[12] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and half out of four stars and praised "its power to absorb, entertain, and anger".[13] Newsweek magazine's David Ansen wrote, "Mann could probably make a movie about needlepoint riveting. Employing a big canvas, a huge cast of superb character actors and his always exquisite eye for composition, he's made the kind of current-events epic that Hollywood has largely abandoned to TV—and shows us how movies can do it better".[14] In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin praised Russell Crowe as "a subtle powerhouse in his wrenching evocation of Wigand, takes on the thick, stolid look of the man he portrays", and felt that it was "by far Mann's most fully realized and enthralling work".[15] Time magazine's Richard Corliss wrote, "When Crowe gets to command the screen, The Insider comes to roiled life. It's an All the President's Men in which Deep Throat takes center stage, an insider prodded to spill the truth".[16] Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers wrote, "With its dynamite performances, strafing wit and dramatic provocation, The Insider offers Mann at his best—blood up, unsanitized, and unbowed".[17] However, Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B" rating and felt that it was "a good but far from great movie because it presents truth telling in America as far more imperiled than it is".[18]


In 2006, Premiere ranked Crowe's performance #23 of the 100 Greatest Performances of All Time.[19] Eric Roth and Michael Mann won the Humanitas Prize in the Feature Film category in 2000.

American Film Institute recognition:

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
Academy Awards[21] March 26, 2000 Best Picture Michael Mann, Pieter Jan Brugge Nominated
Best Director Michael Mann Nominated
Best Actor Russell Crowe Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Michael Mann and Eric Roth Nominated
Best Cinematography Dante Spinotti Nominated
Best Film Editing William Goldenberg, Paul Rubell, David Rosenbloom Nominated
Best Sound Andy Nelson, Doug Hemphill, Lee Orloff Nominated
British Academy Film Awards April 9, 2000 Best Actor Russell Crowe Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association 2000 Best Actor Russell Crowe Won
Boston Society of Film Critics December 12, 1999 Best Supporting Actor Christopher Plummer Won
Golden Globe Awards January 23, 2000 Best Film - Drama Nominated
Best Director Michael Mann Nominated
Best Actor - Drama Russell Crowe Nominated
Best Original Score Pieter Bourke and Lisa Gerrard Nominated
Best Screenplay Michael Mann and Eric Roth Nominated
London Film Critics' Circle March 2, 2000 Best Actor Russell Crowe Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association December 1999 Best Film Won
Best Director Michael Mann Nominated
Best Actor Russell Crowe Won
Best Supporting Actor Christopher Plummer Won
Best Cinematography Dante Spinotti Won
National Society of Film Critics 2000 Best Actor Russell Crowe Won
Best Supporting Actor Christopher Plummer Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards March 12, 2000 Male Actor in a Leading Role Russell Crowe Nominated
Satellite Awards January 16, 2000 Best Film - Drama Won
Best Director Michael Mann Won
Best Actor - Drama Russell Crowe Nominated
Al Pacino Nominated
Best Supporting Actor - Drama Christopher Plummer Nominated
Best Editing Nominated


The Insider (Music from the Motion Picture)
Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released October 26, 1999
Recorded 1999
Genre Soundtrack
Label Sony
Producer Lisa Gerrard and Pieter Bourke
Graeme Revell

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Performer Length
1 Tempest Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke 2:51
2 Dawn of the Truth Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke 1:59
3 Sacrifice Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke 7:41
4 The Subordinate Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke 1:17
5 Exile Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke 1:39
6 The Silencer Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke 1:38
7 Broken Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke 2:03
8 Faith Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke 3:01
9 I'm Alone on This Graeme Revell 2:02
10 LB in Montana Graeme Revell 0:50
11 Palladino Montage Graeme Revell 0:45
12 Iguazu Gustavo Santaolalla 3:12
13 Liquid Moon Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke 4:05
14 Rites (edit) Jan Garbarek 5:34
15 Safe from Harm (Perfecto Mix) Massive Attack 8:14
16 Meltdown Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke 5:40

Other music in the film[edit]

  • "Uotaaref Men Elihabek"—Casbah Orchestra
  • "Suffocate," "Hot Shots" and "Night Stop"—Curt Sobel
  • "Litany"--Arvo Pärt
  • "Smokey Mountain Waltz"—Richard Gilks
  • "Armenia"--Einstürzende Neubauten
  • "Two or Three Things"--David Darling

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Insider (1999): Metrics". Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  2. ^ The Insider (Motion picture). Touchstone Pictures. 1999. Event occurs at 2:33:32. Although based on a true story, certain elements in this motion picture have been fictionalized for dramatic effect. 
  3. ^ "Self-Censorship at CBS." The New York Times. November 12, 1995. Retrieved on October 9, 2014.
  4. ^ "04/FEB/96 CBS 60 MINUTES". 
  5. ^ "Jeffrey Wigand : The Insider". Retrieved 2016-07-29. 
  6. ^ Brenner, Marie (May 1996). "The Man Who Knew Too Much". Vanity Fair. 
  7. ^ "Mike Wallace". American Academy of Achievement. 24 May 2008. Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  8. ^ "The Insider". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  9. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (December 3, 1999). "At the Movies". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  10. ^ Patrick Goldstein (16 February 2000). "The Wind Shifts and So Does the Hunt". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 June 2016. 
  11. ^ "The Insider". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  12. ^ "The Insider". Metacritic. Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 5, 1999). "The Insider". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  14. ^ Ansen, David (November 8, 1999). "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes". Newsweek. Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  15. ^ Maslin, Janet (November 5, 1999). "Mournful Echoes of a Whistle-Blower". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  16. ^ Corliss, Richard (November 1, 1999). "Mournful Echoes of a Whistle-Blower". Time. Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  17. ^ Travers, Peter (December 8, 2000). "The Insider". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 10, 2011. 
  18. ^ "The Insider". Entertainment Weekly. November 12, 1999. Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  19. ^ Premiere's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time: 24-1
  20. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains Nominees
  21. ^ "The 72nd Academy Awards (2000) Nominees and Winners". Oscars. Retrieved November 19, 2011. 

External links[edit]