Weeds (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by John D. Hancock
Produced by Bill Badalato
Written by John D. Hancock
Dorothy Tristan
Music by Angelo Badalamenti
Melissa Etheridge
Orville Stoeber
Cinematography Jan Weincke
Edited by David Handman
Jon Poll
Chris Lebenzon
Distributed by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG)
Release dates
October 16, 1987 (1987-10-16)
Running time
115 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2,325,444

Weeds is a 1987 American drama feature film about a prison inmate who writes a play that catches the attention of a visiting reporter. The film was directed by John D. Hancock, and stars Nick Nolte, Ernie Hudson, and Rita Taggart.


Lee Umstetter (Nick Nolte) is incarcerated in San Quentin for armed robbery, serving "life without possibility" (with no chance of parole). After two failed suicide attempts, Lee begins to read books from the prison library. He attends a performance of Waiting for Godot given for the prisoners and is deeply moved. He begins to write plays about imprisonment and then stages them, too.

One is a social-protest musical extravaganza about life in the penitentiary. It attracts visitors and earns Lee the regard of a San Francisco theatre reviewer (Rita Taggart) who persuades the governor to release him.

Lee organises an acting troupe made up of former convicts: a shoplifter (William Forsythe), a murderer (Ernie Hudson), an embezzler (Lane Smith), a pimp (John Toles-Bey), a flasher (Mark Rolston), and others.

Lee's work doesn't make the same impact outside the prison as it did inside. Touring in a camper, with no money, the men are torn by impulses to revert to their former criminal behaviour.


The New Yorker's film critic Pauline Kael observed, "The film is about their efforts to become professional men of the theatre. It's about the ways in which working together changes them and the ways in which it doesn't." [1]

Hancock, who was the director of the San Francisco Actors Workshop, did some work with the convict Rick Cluchey and his San Quentin Drama Group (whose late 1960s show The Cage toured the US and Europe).[citation needed] The film grew out of Hancock's contact with Cluchey's company and out of his and Dorothy Tristan's research into other prison theatre groups.[citation needed]


The movie received mixed reviews.[2][3]

The movie was a moderate success at the box office.[4]

It did well on VHS.[5]


  1. ^ Kael, Pauline. Hooked, Dutton, 1989.
  2. ^ Thomas, Kevin (16 October 1987). "MOVIE REVIEWS : 'Weeds' Makes Full Use of Nick Nolte's Versatile Presence". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-07-14. 
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (16 October 1987). "Film: Nolte in 'Weeds'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-07-14. 
  4. ^ "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. 20 October 1987. Retrieved 2012-07-14. 
  5. ^ "VIDEO CHARTS : Babies Booming, 'East L.A.' Rising". Los Angeles Times. 26 May 1988. Retrieved 2012-07-04. 

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