The Professor and the Madman (film)

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The Professor and the Madman
The Professor and the Madman (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFarhad Safinia (as P. B. Sherman)
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Todd Komarnicki
  • Farhad Safinia (as P. B. Sherman)
Based onThe Surgeon of Crowthorne
by Simon Winchester
Music byBear McCreary
CinematographyKasper Tuxen
Edited byDino Jonsater
Distributed byVertical Entertainment
Release date
  • May 10, 2019 (2019-05-10) (United States)
Running time
124 minutes
  • United States
  • Ireland
Budget$25 million[1]
Box office$5.4 million[2]

The Professor and the Madman is a 2019 biographical drama film, directed by Farhad Safinia (under the pseudonym P. B. Sherman), from a screenplay by Safinia, and Todd Komarnicki, based on the 1998 book The Surgeon of Crowthorne (released under the same title used for the film in the U.S. and Canada) by Simon Winchester. It stars Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, Natalie Dormer, Eddie Marsan, Jennifer Ehle, Jeremy Irvine, David O'Hara, Ioan Gruffudd, Stephen Dillane, and Steve Coogan.


The film is about the professor, James Murray, who in 1857 began compiling the Oxford English Dictionary and led the overseeing committee, and W. C. Minor, a doctor who submitted over 10,000 entries while he was undergoing treatment at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum.[3]



Mel Gibson worked on adapting the book The Surgeon of Crowthorne for over 20 years before production began in 2016. Gibson, who originally intended to direct, hired his Apocalypto co-screenwriter Farhad Safinia to replace him, while he remained in the role of James Murray. Sean Penn entered early talks to join the film as William Chester Minor in August 2016.[4] In August, Natalie Dormer signed on for a role.[5] In September, Ioan Gruffudd joined the cast.[6]

Filming commenced in Dublin in September 2016.[7][8] Set photos from November revealed Steve Coogan, Laurence Fox and Jennifer Ehle as part of the cast.[9][10]

Legal issues[edit]

In July 2017, Gibson and his production company Icon Productions sued the production company Voltage Pictures over their desire to control certain aspects of the production. They refused final cut privileges and an additional five days of production in Oxford.[11][12]

On 19 June 2018, Judge Ruth Kwan of the Los Angeles County Superior Court rendered a judgment denying Gibson's motion for summary adjudication.[13] The multiple lawsuits were settled in a confidential settlement in April 2019. Gibson and Safinia issued statements distancing themselves from the project and calling the version released by Voltage "a bitter disappointment".[14] They did not participate in the promotion of the film. Safinia was not recognized for directing or co-writing the film, being credited instead under a pseudonym, "P. B. Shemran".[15]


Theatrical release in markets outside the U.S. began in March and April 2019. In January 2019, Vertical Entertainment acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film.[16] The U.S. release date was May 10, 2019, with simultaneous limited theatrical release and video on demand.[17] Vertical Entertainment did not report number of screens or the domestic gross.[18]

Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 38% based on 16 reviews, with a weighted average of 5.2/10.[19] Nick Allen of gave the film 1½ stars, calling it "the latest fiasco in bad movie history ... the presence of Gibson and his co-star Sean Penn give the project a stuffy sanctimoniousness."[20] Jay Weissberg, reviewing for Variety, stated: "For those that have been anticipating this curious, much-delayed oddity, the good news is that Gibson is fine; it's everything else that doesn't work."[15]


  1. ^ Maddaus, Gene; Maddaus, Gene (22 September 2017). "Judge Denies Director's Bid to Seize and Destroy 'The Professor and the Madman'".
  2. ^ "The Professor and the Madman (2019) – Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  3. ^ McNary, Dave (2 August 2016). "Mel Gibson, Sean Penn Starring in 'The Professor and The Madman'". Variety. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  4. ^ Jaafar, Ali (2 August 2016). "Sean Penn In Early Talks To Join Mel Gibson In 'Professor And The Madman'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  5. ^ "'Game of Thrones' Star Natalie Dormer Joins Sean Penn, Mel Gibson in 'Professor and the Madman' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  6. ^ Lodderhose, Diana (30 September 2016). "Ioan Gruffudd Joins Mel Gibson & Sean Penn For 'The Professor And The Madman'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  7. ^ "Braveheart Mel returns to the screen as a Borders teacher". Border Telegraph. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  8. ^ Barnes, Julie-Anne (18 December 2016). "Mel Gibson plays a Scot in new film but won't face ridicule for accent this time". Daily Record. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  9. ^ "Steve Coogan joins Mel Gibson on The Professor and the Madman set". Daily Mail. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  10. ^ "Mel Gibson sports bulging false belly on set of new period film". Daily Mail. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  11. ^ Maddaus, Gene (2017-08-01). "Mel Gibson Sues Voltage Pictures Over Final Cut of 'Professor and the Madman'". Variety. Retrieved 2017-09-08.
  12. ^ "Mel Gibson Sues Producer for Sabotaging "Labor of Love" Film". The Hollywood Reporter. 31 July 2017. Archived from the original on 24 December 2017. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
  13. ^ Gardner, Eriq (20 June 2018). "Mel Gibson Loses Court Bid to Reclaim Rights to 'Madman' Film". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  14. ^ Patten, Dominic (2019-04-06). "Mel Gibson On 'The Professor & The Madman' 'Disappointment' & Legal Battle". Deadline. Retrieved 2019-08-04.
  15. ^ a b Weissberg, Jay (11 April 2019). "Film Review: Mel Gibson in 'The Professor and the Madman'". Variety. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  16. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (January 14, 2019). "Mel Gibson's 'The Professor And The Madman' To Get Theatrical Release Via Vertical After Legal Fight". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
  17. ^ Barfield, Charles (March 26, 2019). "'The Professor & The Madman' Trailer: Bearded Mel Gibson & Sean Penn Write The Dictionary". The Playlist. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  18. ^ "The Professor and the Madman (2019): Beset by Lawsuits". Bomb Report. Retrieved 2019-08-04.
  19. ^ "The Professor and the Madman (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  20. ^ Allen, Nick. "The Professor and the Madman Movie Review (2019) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2019-05-11.

External links[edit]