Year of the Comet

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Year of the Comet
Year of the Comet.jpg
Directed by Peter Yates
Produced by Nigel Wooll
Peter Yates
Alan Brown
Phil Kellogg
Written by William Goldman
Music by Hummie Mann
Cinematography Roger Pratt
Edited by Ray Lovejoy
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • April 24, 1992 (1992-04-24)
Running time
91 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million
Box office $2,791,515

Year of the Comet is a 1992 romantic comedy adventure film about the pursuit of the most valuable bottle of wine in history. The title refers to the year it was bottled, 1811, which was known for the Great Comet of 1811, and also as one of the best years in history for European wine.

It stars Tim Daly, Penelope Ann Miller and Louis Jourdan in his last film role prior to his retirement from film acting. Peter Yates directed William Goldman's original screenplay. Executive Producers: Alan Brown, Phil Kellogg.


Margaret Harwood (Miller), the mousy daughter of esteemed wine merchant Sir Mason Harwood (Richardson), discovers a magnum of wine, vintage 1811, bearing Napoleon's seal. Sir Mason instantly offers it to his best customer, T.T. Kelleher (Rimmer), who sends his friend, Oliver Plexico (Daly) to retrieve it. Three other interested parties converge on the valuable rarity: a Greek billionaire, to whom Margaret's unscrupulous brother has independently sold the bottle; an amoral French scientist (Jourdan), who believes it contains the secret to a rejuvenation formula that he will kill to obtain; and a murderous thug (Brimble), who wants to sell it himself.

The bottle changes hands several times as the parties race across Europe from the Scottish Highlands to Èze. In the end, the criminals are defeated, and Margaret and Oliver fall in love. Sir Mason offers the bottle in private auction to both the legitimate "owners", but they are outbid by Oliver, who is revealed as a multimillionaire adventurer scientist. Against advice, Oliver opens the $5 million bottle and freely shares the excellent wine.



William Goldman said he was inspired to write the film by his love of red wine, and a desire to do a romantic adventure comedy thriller in the vein of Charade (1963). He wanted to set it in the most romantic places he knew (London, the Scottish highlands, the French Riviera) which meant it became a chase focusing around a bottle of wine. Goldman created a wine, the most valuable in history, making it a large bottle for dramatic purposes.

He wrote the script in 1978, the second of a three picture deal he had with Joseph E. Levine following A Bridge Too Far. Goldman says he had Glenda Jackson in mind for the female lead, with Cary Grant his inspiration for the male lead (although Levine wanted to use Robert Redford). The script was not filmed in the late 1970s but rights were later bought by Castle Rock who made it in the early 1990s.[1]

The movie was filmed on location in France, Scotland including the ferry chase scene at Kyleakin, and at the Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England.

"Wine is really the hero of this film," said Peter Yates.[2]

Daly wore a mustache in the film:

I thought it was kind of dope. [Laughs.] I mean, it was a little Robert Redford-esque, don’t you think? Or something. I kind of like it. It drove me crazy, though. I was always, like, pulling at it or licking it. But I thought it added a certain—I mean, it either added some panache, or it made me look like a ’70s porn star. Take your pick.[3]


Goldman says the film previewed poorly, which he attributed to the audience's lack of enthusiasm for red wine. A new opening sequence was added where the male hero says he hates red wine and has to be dragged to a tasting but he says it did not work. "There was nothing we could do because no matter how we fussed this was a movie about red wine and the moviegoing audience today has zero interest in red wine."[4]

Tim Daly later recalled:

What a bummer, man. I loved that movie, I loved doing it. It was just a great part for me! And that was my shot, right? That was my shot to be a movie star. I mean, on paper, it was a William Goldman script, Peter Yates directing, it was a Castle Rock production, it had a good budget—and the movie just did not work. But I still think—as I recall, I think I was pretty good in that movie. [Laughs.] I mean, I don’t blame myself for the lack of success. There was also the added novelty that it was released the weekend of the Rodney King riots, where every white person in the United States was locked in their safe room. So I don’t think a lot of folks were traipsing out to the movies. I think it may still hold the record for being the biggest flop in Castle Rock history. A dubious distinction.[3]

The film went on to perform disappointingly at the box office.

Critical reaction[edit]

The film holds a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of May 2015.[5]

Rita Kempley of the Washington Post said, "(Screenwriter) Goldman ... just happens to be (director) Yates's neighbor in the south of France. Yates, whose achievements include The Dresser, and Goldman, who is the screenwriter's screenwriter, wanted to make a movie about their three favorite things: the Scottish Highlands, the Riviera and red wine. And that's exactly what they did. The scenery's pretty and one can practically smell cork."[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Goldman p 51-52
  2. ^ At the Movies: A bottle of 1811 Lafite as hero of a William Goldman screenplay Murder and other goings-on in Monte Carlo. Love and intrigue in China. Lawrence Van Gelder. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 21 June 1991: C8.
  3. ^ a b "Tim Daly on Madam Secretary, voicing Superman, and killing Steven Weber" By Will Harris AV Club: Random Roles Sep 19, 2014 accessed 20 Sept 2014
  4. ^ Goldman p57
  5. ^, "Year of the Comet". Accessed 22 March 2015.
  6. ^ Rita Kempley, "Year of the Comet" Review, Apr. 27, 1992
  • Goldman, William, Which Lie Did I Tell?, Bloomsbury, 2000

External links[edit]