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The Insider is a 1999 film that tells the true story of a 60 Minutes television series, as seen through the eyes of a real tobacco executive, Jeffrey Wigand. The 60 Minutes story originally aired in November 1995 in an altered form because CBS' then-owner, Laurence Tisch, objected. The story was later aired on February 4, 1996.

The film stars Al Pacino (Lowell Bergman), Russell Crowe (Jeffrey Wigand), Christopher Plummer (Mike Wallace), Bruce McGill (attorney Ron Motley), Diane Venora, Michael Gambon, Philip Baker Hall (Don Hewitt), Lindsay Crouse, Gina Gershon, Debi Mazar, Rip Torn and Colm Feore.

The movie was adapted by Eric Roth and Michael Mann from the Vanity Fair magazine article "The Man Who Knew Too Much" by Marie Brenner. It was directed by Mann.

It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Russell Crowe), Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Picture, Best Sound and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published.


In Lebanon, Hezbollah militants escort producer Lowell Bergman (Pacino) to Hezbollah founder Sheikh Fadlallah, where Lowell convinces him to be interviewed by Mike Wallace (Plummer) for CBS show 60 Minutes. In Louisville, Kentuckymarker, Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe) packs his belongings and leaves his Brown & Williamson office, returning home to his wife Liane (Venora) and two children, one of whom suffers from acute asthma. When Liane asks about the boxes in Wigand's car, he reveals that he was fired from his job that morning.

Returning home to Berkeleymarker, Californiamarker, Bergman receives an anonymous package containing documents relating to tobacco company Philip Morris, and approaches a friend at the FDA for the name of someone who can put the information in layman's terms. Bergman is referred to Wigand, and calls him at his home only to be steadfastly rebuffed. Curious with Wigand's refusal to even speak to him, Bergman eventually convinces him to meet at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville. In the privacy of their hotel room, Wigand agrees to translate the tobacco documents, but stresses that he cannot talk about anything else because of his confidentiality agreement. After leaving with the documents, Wigand appears at a meeting with Brown & Williamson CEO Thomas Sandefur (Gambon), who orders him to sign an expanded confidentiality agreement, under threat of revoking his severance pay, medical coverage and initiating legal proceedings. Wigand, enraged at the threats and believing that Bergman notified Sandefur about their confidential meeting, calls and accuses Bergman of treachery.

Bergman visits Wigand's house the next day and maintains that he did not reveal anything to Brown & Williamson. Reassured, Wigand talks to Bergman about the seven CEOs of 'Big Tobacco' perjuring themselves to the United States Congress about their awareness of nicotine's addictiveness, and that the CEOs should fear Wigand. Bergman says Wigand has to decide for himself whether to blow the whistle on big tobacco. Bergman returns to CBS Headquarters in New York Citymarker, where he and Wallace discuss Wigand's situation and the potential damage he could do to Big Tobacco. A lawyer at the meeting claims that Wigand's confidentiality agreement, combined with Big Tobacco's unlimited checkbook, would effectively silence Wigand under mountains of litigation and court costs. Bergman proposes that Wigand could be compelled to speak through a court of law which could give him some protection against Brown & Williamson should he do an interview for 60 Minutes.

The Wigand family move into a newer, more affordable house, and Wigand begins teaching chemistry and Japanese at a Louisville high school. One night while asleep, he's alerted by his daughter to sounds outside the house. Upon investigation, he discovers a fresh shoe print in his newly planted garden, and begins to become paranoid. The next night, Wigand and Bergman have dinner together, where Bergman asks Wigand about incidents from his past that Big Tobacco might use against him. Wigand reveals several incriminating incidents before declaring he can't see how they would affect his testimony. Bergman assures him they will.

Bergman contacts Richard Scruggs (Feore) and Ron Motley (McGill) who, with Mississippimarker's attorney general Mike Moore, are suing Big Tobacco to reimburse the state for Medicaid funds used to treat people with smoking-related illnesses. The trio express an interest in Bergman's idea and tell him to have Wigand call them. Meanwhile, Wigand receives death threats via email and finds a bullet in his mailbox, prompting him to contact the FBImarker who, after subtly accusing him of being emotionally unbalanced, confiscate his computer for evidence. Enraged over the threats to his family, Wigand phones Bergman and demands to fly to New Yorkmarker and tape his testimony immediately. During Wigand's interview with Wallace, Wigand states that Brown & Williamson is making their cigarettes more adictive. He continues by saying Brown & Williamson have consciously ignored public health considerations in the name of profit.

In Louisville, Wigand begins his new teaching job and talks to Richard Scruggs. Upon returning home, Wigand discovers that Bergman has given him some security personnel. Wigand's wife is struggling under the pressure and tells him so. Days later, Wigand travels to Pascagoula, Mississippimarker, where he receives a restraining order issued by the State of Kentuckymarker to prevent him from testifying. Though the restraining order, obtained by Brown & Williamson's lawyers, was thrown out in Mississippi, Wigand is told that if he testifies and returns to Kentucky he could be imprisoned. After a lengthy period of introspection, Wigand goes to court and gives his deposition, during which he says nicotine acts as a drug. Following his testimony, Wigand returns to Louisville, where he discovers that his wife and children have left him.

At this point the film shifts its emphasis from Wigand to Bergman. Bergman and Wallace go to a meeting with CBS Corporate about the Wigand interview. A legal concept has emerged, known as tortious interference. If two parties have an agreement, such as a confidentiality agreement, and one of those parties is induced by a third party to break that agreement, the third party can be sued by the other parties for any damages. It is revealed that the more truth Wigand tells, the greater the damage, and a greater likelihood that CBS will be faced by a multi-billion dollar lawsuit from Brown & Williamson. It is later suggested that an edited interview take the place of the original. Bergman vehemently disagrees, and claims that the reason CBS Corporate is leaning on CBS News to edit the interview is because they fear that the prospect of a multi-billion dollar lawsuit could jeopardize the sale of CBS to Westinghouse. Wallace and Don Hewitt agree to edit the interview, leaving Bergman alone in the stance of airing it uncensored.

A PR firm hired by Big Tobacco initiates a smear campaign against Wigand, dredging up details about his life and publishing a 500-page dossier. Through Wigand, Bergman discovers that Big Tobacco has distorted and exaggerated numerous claims, and convinces a reporter from the Wall Street Journal to delay the story until it can be disproven. Bergman contacts several private investigators who do begin their own investigation. Bergman releases his findings to the Wall Street Journal reporter and tells him to push the deadline. Meanwhile, due to his constant fights with CBS management, Bergman is ordered to go on vacation.

Soon after, the edited interview is broadcast. After telling Wallace bluntly over the phone what he thought of the news broadcast, Bergman attempts to call Wigand at his hotel but receives no answer. He instead calls the hotel manager, who opens Wigand's door but is stopped by the deadbolt. Peering into Wigand's room, the hotel manager spies Wigand sitting alone, lost in a daydream about the idyllic life he could have led without his testimony. Per Bergman's request, the hotel manager convinces Wigand to accept Bergman's phone call. Wigand screams at Bergman, accusing him of manipulating him into his position. Bergman tells Wigand that he is important to a lot of people and that heroes like him are in short supply. After hanging up, Bergman contacts the The New York Times and reveals the scandal that occurred at 60 Minutes, after which the Times publishes a scathing article. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal exonerates Wigand and reveals his deposition in Mississippi, while condemning Big Tobacco's 500-page smear as 'the lowest form of character assassination'. 60 Minutes finally broadcasts the full interview with Wigand.

In the final scene, Bergman talks to Wallace and he tells him that he is quitting saying, 'What got broken here doesn't go back together again'. The final shot is of him leaving the building. A series of title cards appear stating that a $246 billion settlement was made by tobacco companies with Mississippi and other States in their lawsuit and that Wigand lives in South Carolina. In 1996, Dr. Wigand won the Sallie Mae First Class Teacher of the Year award, receiving national recognition for his teaching skills. Lowell Bergman works for the PBS show Frontline and teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeleymarker.


When Mann was in post-production on Heat, Bergman was going through the events depicted in The Insider. Bergman discussed his trials and tribulations with Mann. The director knew of Bergman's reputation as a man of his word and was intrigued. They had met in 1989 and talked about a few projects but nothing happened. Over the years, the two men kept in touch, talking about Bergman's experiences and at one point Mann was interested in doing a movie on an arms merchant in Marbellamarker that Bergman knew. Mann first conceived of what would become The Insider (then known only as "The Untitled Tobacco Project") between the Wigand-lite aired interview in November 1995 and February 1996, when the segment aired in its entirety and Bergman was asked to leave 60 Minutes.

With a budget set at $68 million, 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 Central Intelligence Agency. 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 Monicamarker, Roth met Wigand. The whistle blower was still under his confidentiality agreement and would not break it for Roth or Mann. Roth remembered his first 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 Canadamarker 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 50's during the events depicted in the film). Crowe was not able to talk to Wigand about his experiences because he was still bound to 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 to 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.

Wigand requested a ban on cigarettes in the film. However, as the character Wigand enters the airport, shortly before receiving his subpoena, a woman in the background is seen smoking a cigarette, also, a Lebanesemarker soldier seen smoking briefly while Bergman is being transported to the Hezbollah meeting site.

The courtroom where Wigand gives his deposition is not a set. The filmmakers used the actual courtroom in Pascagoula, Mississippimarker where the real Wigand's deposition was given.

The man playing Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore is not an actor. Moore plays himself.

During a scene where Pacino and Crowe are speaking in a parked car, a large clockface can be seen in the background. This is actually the Colgate Clock, located on the facade of the Colgate factory in Clarksville, Indianamarker, directly across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentuckymarker, where the majority of the film was shot.


Trouble began before The Insider was even released. Don Hewitt and Wallace accused Mann of extreme dramatic license and working with Bergman to transform him into a hero at the expense of the two men. They also said that Bergman negotiated a movie deal with Mann while the case was still going on. They claimed that Bergman was frequently on the phone with Mann and took notes during all CBS meetings.

Wallace, in particular, was upset that the film would not portray him in the most flattering way. He had read an early draft of the screenplay and objected to how quickly he changed his mind and publicly criticized CBS. Mann and Roth agreed to make some changes. Despite revisions, Wallace continued to voice his concerns in the Los Angeles Times and Brill's Content that he would be portrayed unfairly in the movie.

After The Insider was released, Brown and Williamson accused the Walt Disney Company of distorting the truth. They took out a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal to counter promotional appearances Wigand and those associated with the film were doing. The tobacco company also had representatives at screenings in eight cities handing out cards asking patrons to call a toll-free number that would answer questions about the film.

Brown and Williamson sent at least one cautionary letter to Disney concerning The Insider without having seen the film. Their problems with the movie came from two scenes: one where Wigand finds a bullet in his mailbox with a threatening note and a scene where Wigand is trailed by a menacing figure at a golf range. Wigand actually reported the first event, while Mann has acknowledged that the second scene was in fact fictional and created for dramatic effect, although according to the Vanity Fair article on which the movie is based, there were other death threats on Wigand not detailed in the movie.


The Insider received near-unanimous 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 127 reviews.

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." Janet Maslin of The New York Times 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."

Peter Travers from Rolling Stone magazine wrote, "With its dynamite performances, strafing wit and dramatic provocation, The Insider offers Mann at his best - blood up, unsanitized and unbowed." Critic Andrew O'Hehir in his review for Salon felt that the film "isn't just beautiful to watch on an epic scale, it expertly builds tension by integrating an electronic score by Pieter Bourke and Lisa Gerrard and the terrific editing work of William Goldenberg, David Rosenbloom and Paul Rubell."


Christopher Plummer won awards from the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics for his performance as Mike Wallace. Russell Crowe won multiple awards for his role, including the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, the London Film Critics' Circle Award, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, and the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor, among many others. In 2006, Premiere ranked Crowe's performance #23 of the 100 Greatest Performances of All Time. Eric Roth and Michael Mann won the Humanitas Prize in the Feature Film category in 2000.

The film was nominated in 2000 for seven Academy Awards, winning none, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Crowe.

Box office

In its opening weekend, the film grossed a total of $6,712,361 playing in 1,809 theaters with a $3,710 average. As of August 16, 2006, the film has grossed a total of $60,289,912 worldwide (Canada and the United States: $29,089,912; Overseas: $31,200,000).


Track listing

  1. "Tempest" – Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke – 2:51 (from their "Duality" album)
  2. "Dawn of the Truth" – Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke – 1:59
  3. "Sacrifice" – Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke – 7:41 (from their "Duality" album)
  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 (special edit for the film)" – 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

  • "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


  1. The Insider at Rotten Tomatoes
  2. Roger Ebert review of The Insider
  3. Janet Maslin review of The Insider
  4. Peter Travers review of The Insider
  5. Andrew O'Hehir review of The Insider
  6. Premiere's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time: 24-1

External links

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