Wolf (1994 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byMike Nichols
Screenplay by
Produced by
CinematographyGiuseppe Rotunno
Edited bySam O'Steen
Music byEnnio Morricone
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • June 17, 1994 (1994-06-17) (United States)
Running time
125 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$70 million[1]
Box office$131 million[2]

Wolf is a 1994 American romantic horror film directed by Mike Nichols and starring Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Spader, Kate Nelligan, Richard Jenkins, Christopher Plummer, Eileen Atkins, David Hyde Pierce, and Om Puri. It was written by Jim Harrison and Wesley Strick, and an uncredited Elaine May.[3][4] The music was composed by Ennio Morricone and the cinematography was done by Giuseppe Rotunno.


Will Randall, editor-in-chief of a large New York publishing house, runs over a large black wolf while crossing a country road in Vermont and is bitten in his attempt to help it. A few days later, tycoon Raymond Alden announces his takeover of the publishing house during a party, and the aging Will accepts a demotion to a position in Eastern Europe while his unscrupulous protégé Stewart Swinton is given his previous position. After stepping aside when his presence somehow frightens Alden's horse, the ailing Will meets Alden's headstrong but little-accomplished daughter Laura. Will soon finds his vitality increased and his senses sharpened, which leads him to suspect an affair between his wife Charlotte and Swinton when he smells Swinton's scent on Charlotte's clothing. Will's fear is confirmed when he surprises the two in Swinton's apartment. He angrily bites Swinton in the hand before leaving Charlotte.

Will begins a relationship with Laura and is allowed to spend the night at the Aldens' villa after suffering a fainting spell. Will emerges from his sleep in a transformed state and mauls a deer in the estate's park, awakening on the bank of a stream to find himself covered in blood. He visits pagan expert Dr. Vijav Alezais, who tells him that he is transforming into a wolf and gives him an amulet to prevent his transformation's completion. That night, during another transformation, Will breaks into a zoo, steals handcuffs from a policeman while evading arrest, and viciously attacks a group of muggers. He wakes up in his hotel, with no memory of the previous night.

Will organizes a mutiny of writers, who threaten to leave the publishing house unless he is retained as editor-in-chief. Alden agrees, and Will's first act is to fire Stewart, urinating on his shoes in a bathroom and claiming he is "marking his territory". While washing his hands, Will finds a mugger's fingers in his handkerchief and realizes he has wounded someone. He cuffs himself to a radiator in his hotel room, but Laura arrives and allays his fears. They spend the night together, but Will later leaves the hotel room unnoticed and roams through Central Park transformed. The next morning, Detective Bridger informs Will that Charlotte was found dead in Central Park with canine DNA on her.

That evening, Laura locks Will in a horse stable at his request and makes her way to the police station to give a statement. There she runs into Swinton, who is behaving brutishly and sporting golden eyes. Laura hurries away, making arrangements for her and Will to leave the country. Swinton follows Laura and invades the estate, killing two guards. When Swinton attempts to rape Laura, Will discards the amulet and fights Swinton, ruthlessly mauling him. Laura grabs a gun from one of the dead guards and finishes off Swinton by shooting him. Will, still in a half-human state, has a brief moment with Laura and then disappears into the New England woods before anyone else can arrive. Minutes later, Laura amazes Bridger with her heightened senses as she takes her leave. Will, having inexorably transformed into a wolf, howls for Laura in the woods as Laura's eyes begin to change.



Screenwriter Jim Harrison left the production because of creative differences with director Mike Nichols, claiming, "I wanted Dionysian, but he wanted Apollonian. He took my wolf and made it into a Chihuahua. I cracked up for 10 minutes and then went out into the country and stood in front of a wolf den and apologized while my dog hid under the truck." Following his experience with the film, Harrison decided to leave Hollywood.[5]

Mia Farrow was initially signed on for the role of Charlotte Randall,[6] but was apparently considered too controversial a choice by the film company due to the then-current Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn affair.[7] She decided to take a pay cut to accommodate the studios but had to eventually bow out in the long run due to other scheduling conflicts.[7] Kate Nelligan was immediately cast instead.[7] Sharon Stone turned down the role of Laura Alden, eventually played by Michelle Pfeiffer.

Filming took place in New York City, Long Island, and Los Angeles.[8] The exteriors for Raymond Alden's country mansion were filmed at Old Westbury Gardens in Nassau County, New York.[9] Will Randall's publishing offices are in the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles, a location frequently used in movies.[10]

The film was shot from early April to late July in 1993.[6][11] Its release was delayed for six to eight months, in order to reshoot the poorly received ending.[4][12]

The wolves were professionally trained by employees from Thousand Oaks, California's Animal Actors of Hollywood and Palmdale, California's Performing Animal Troupe.


Box office[edit]

Wolf grossed $65 million domestically and $66 million internationally, for a total of $131 million worldwide.[2]

Critical response[edit]

Wolf holds a score of 62% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 60 reviews. The website's consensus reads, "Wolf misses the jugular after showing flashes of killer instinct early on, but engaging stars and deft direction make this a unique horror-romance worth watching".[13]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote, "So long as it stays confined to the level of metaphor, as it does in the first hour of Wolf, this idea really is irresistible."[14] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, "Wolf is both more and less than a traditional werewolf movie. Less, because it doesn't provide the frankly vulgar thrills and excesses some audience members are going to be hoping for. And more, because Nicholson and his director, Mike Nichols, are halfway serious about exploring what might happen if a New York book editor did become a werewolf".[15] Hal Hinson of The Washington Post wrote, "In its own delightfully peculiar way, the film is the only one of its kind ever made – a horror film about office politics ... The movie isn't wholly great; it starts to unravel just after the midway point. Still, there are charms enough all the way through to make it the most seductive, most enjoyable film of the summer".[16] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called it "a rapturous romantic thriller with a darkly comic subtext about what kills human values".[17]

Desson Howe of The Washington Post wrote that it "works beautifully when it's rooted in reality, when the Werewolf Thing functions as a multiple metaphor for unleashed-id sexuality and the law of the corporate jungle"[18] Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote, "The studio must convince the horror/special-effects crowd to attend a Jack Nicholson/Michelle Pfeiffer/Mike Nichols picture and persuade the film-makers' fans to see a genre pic... But no matter how snazzy the trappings, when you get down to it, this is still, at heart, a werewolf picture".[19] Time Out wrote, "Quite frankly, it's hard to fathom why exactly anyone would have wanted to make this slick, glossy, but utterly redundant werewolf movie... Overall, this is needlessly polished nonsense: not awful; just toothless, gutless and bloodless."[20]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[21]

Year-end lists[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Wolf won a Saturn Award for Best Writing for Jim Harrison and Wesley Strick's screenplay, and it was nominated for a further 5 Saturn Awards, in the categories of Best Horror Film, Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer), Best Supporting Actor (James Spader) and Best Make-up (Rick Baker).

Ennio Morricone was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television.

Award Category Recipient(s) Result
Grammy Awards Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or Television Ennio Morricone Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Horror Film Wolf Nominated
Best Actor Jack Nicholson Nominated
Best Actress Michelle Pfeiffer Nominated
Best Supporting Actor James Spader Nominated
Best Writing Jim Harrison and Wesley Strick Won
Best Make-up Rick Baker Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wolf (1994) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Wolf (1994)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
  3. ^ Turan, Kenneth (June 17, 1994). "'Wolf' Man Jack in the Wilds of N.Y. : The Nicholson-Pfeiffer thriller meanders down several paths--a satirical look at publishing, a star vehicle and a meditation on the nature of disease and immortality". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Harris, Mark (2021). Mike Nichols: A Life (1st ed.). Penguin Press. pp. 473–477. ISBN 978-0-39-956224-2.
  5. ^ Reynolds, Susan Salter (November 24, 2002). "A writer at life's banquet - Page 2". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved April 16, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Thompson, Anne (February 5, 1993). "Jack Nicholson's 'Wolf'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  7. ^ a b c Frook, John Evan (March 23, 1993). "Farrow ankles 'Wolf'". Variety. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  8. ^ "Wolf Film Locations". onthesetofnewyork.com. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  9. ^ "Movies and TV Shows at Old Westbury Gardens". oldwestburygardens.blogspot.com. February 20, 2009. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  10. ^ "Hollywood on Location 1994 Part 1". seeing-stars.com. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  11. ^ Snow, Shauna (March 24, 1993). "Movies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  12. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (June 12, 1994). "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book Editor?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  13. ^ Wolf at Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2024-01-02.
  14. ^ Maslin, Janet (June 17, 1994). "Movie Review - Wolf - Review/Film; Wolf Bites Man, Man Sheds His Civilized Coat". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 17, 1994). "Wolf". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  16. ^ Hinson, Hal (June 17, 1994). "'Wolf' (R)". The Washington Post.
  17. ^ Travers, Peter (July 14, 1994). "Wolf : Review". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on November 23, 2007.
  18. ^ Howe, Desson (June 17, 1994). "'Wolf' (R)". The Washington Post.
  19. ^ McCarthy, Todd (June 13, 1994). "Wolf Review". Variety. Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  20. ^ "Wolf Review. Movie Reviews - Film". Time Out. January 16, 2012. Retrieved November 19, 2009.
  21. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  22. ^ Clark, Mike (December 28, 1994). "Scoring with true life, 'True Lies' and 'Fiction.'". USA Today (Final ed.). p. 5D.
  23. ^ Lovell, Glenn (December 25, 1994). "The Past Picture Show the Good, the Bad and the Ugly -- a Year Worth's of Movie Memories". San Jose Mercury News (Morning Final ed.). p. 3.
  24. ^ Movshovitz, Howie (December 25, 1994). "Memorable Movies of '94 Independents, fringes filled out a lean year". The Denver Post (Rockies ed.). p. E-1.
  25. ^ Carlton, Bob (December 29, 1994). "It Was a Good Year at Movies". The Birmingham News. p. 12-01.

External links[edit]