Erin Brockovich


2h 11m 2000

Brief Synopsis

A sexy single mother, while working for her lawyer, discovers a toxic spill and corporate cover-up.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Biography
Release Date
Mar 17, 2000
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 14 Mar 2000
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; Jersey Films; Universal Pictures
Distribution Company
Universal Studios
Country
United States
Location
Santa Ventura Studios, Ventura, California, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA; Boron, California, USA; Ventura, California, USA; Hinkley, California, USA; Barstow, California, United States; Boron, California, United States; Hinkley, California, United States; Los Angeles, California, United States; Ventura, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 11m

Synopsis

Erin Brockovich, a twice-divorced, unemployed mother of two young children and an infant, consults lawyer Ed Masry of the Van Nuys, California firm Masry and Vititoe, regarding claims for injuries she suffered in an automobile accident that was not her fault. Although Ed assures her that he can get her a large settlement, he loses the case. Some time later, Erin, who has been unable to get work, bullies her way into a job as a file clerk with Ed's firm. Erin also meets a new neighbor, George, who has a passion for motorcycles and whom her children adore. One day, while filing, Erin comes across a pro-bono case against the San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric Co. that Ed is handling on behalf of residents of Hinkley, California. When Erin asks Ed if she can assist with the case, he absent-mindedly agrees and Erin soon drives to Hinkley. There she meets with housewife Donna Jensen, who explains that both she and her husband Peter are seriously ill and that PG&E, a significant presence in the community, has been paying the family's medical bills as well as trying to buy their house. The Jensens suspect that hexavalent chromium, known as Chromium 6, in use at the PG&E plant, may be causing their illness. Later, Erin learns from a UCLA professor that chromium 6 is added to water as an anti-corrosive and that certain levels of chromium 6 contamination can cause all kinds of illnesses, some of which can prove fatal. On the professor's recommendation, Erin goes to the Lahontan Regional Water Board, which serves Hinkley, and by playing up to the naïve young, male clerk, is able to browse through hundreds of old records. Her rearch uncovers a cleanup and abatement order to PG&E to remove hexavelent chromium, because it is contaminating groundwater over a large area. When Erin returns to Ed's office, she learns that she has been fired, as he had misunderstood what she was doing. At home, although Erin is reluctant to become involved with another man, she begins a relationship with George. Later, Ed comes to see Erin, who is still unemployed, to tell her that the UCLA professor has examined the papers she found in Hinkley and concluded that the levels of chromium there could be responsible for the cancer in the Jensen family. Ed apologizes to Erin and, after she apprises him of her other discoveries, is persuaded to rehire her, with a raise and benefits. Weeks later, a PG&E representative meets with Ed and Erin and informs them that the company has made a generous offer to buy the Jensens' home, but denies any responsibility for their medical expenses. Soon, Tom and Mandy Robinson, who used to live across the street from the Jensens, come to tell Erin that Mandy has suffered five miscarriages and that their chickens have died with strange tumors, prompting them to wonder if they are also victims of the chromium use. Ed and Erin then go to Hinkley, meet with other residents and inform them that his firm will represent them against PG&E. If they win the case, his fee will be forty percent of whatever is awarded, but if they lose, his fee will be zero. Erin then interviews several other families with serious illnesses, hoping to add more families to the claim. Although Ed, who is close to retirement age, begins to worry about battling a giant company like PG&E, knowing that they could keep him in court, at great expense, for years, he is willing to continue, if Erin can produce significant evidence. Erin then collects water samples around Hinkley. Nine months later, Ed and Erin attend a community picnic in Hinkley, seeking to add more names to their growing list of four hundred and eleven plaintiffs. The case is costing a great deal and Ed is forced to take a second mortgage on his house. He feels that the punitive damages claim hinges on whether the PG&E head office in San Francisco was aware of what was going on in Hinkley and uses a legal ploy of bringing a preliminary suit against PG&E in the San Bernardino County Court for damages and medical expenses due to ground water contamination. Although PG&E submits a motion to strike the claim, the judge rules in favor of the residents and reprimands PG&E's lawyers, who later offer Ed and Erin a twenty-million dollar settlement, which they decline. Meanwhile, Erin's relationship with George and her children is deteriorating, as she is seldom home. George asks her to quit her job, but she cannot because it has brought her recognition, along with great self-respect, and she no longer is willing to adjust her life to the needs of the men in her life. Although Erin asks George to stay, he reluctantly leaves. Erin is angered when she learns that Ed has engaged a new partner, Kurt Potter, an expert in toxic cases, to work on the Hinkley litigation, but Kurt has given Ed a check covering all expenses to date. Later, Ed presents Erin with a check for five thousand dollars and buys her a new car. The case now has six hundred and thirty-four plaintiffs and Kurt devises a new legal strategy. Feeling that if they go to trial, PG&E could stretch out the matter with appeals for ten years or more, he recommends that they agree to binding arbitration whereby the case is heard only by a judge, whose decision is final and cannot be appealed. Erin reminds Ed that the residents are expecting a trial, but he agrees with Kurt. Erin, who feels that Ed is pushing her out of the case, has difficulties with Teresa, Kurt's prim, condescending co-counsel, but surprises her with her knowledge of the plaintiffs' backgrounds. Kurt tells Ed that they must establish that the PG&E head office knew that the water was bad prior to 1987 and did nothing about it. In order to use the binding arbitration strategy, it is necessary that ninety percent of the plaintiffs agree to it, so Ed addresses a meeting at the Hinkley community center and eventually convinces almost everyone that this is their best chance to get money needed to meet ongoing medical expenses. However, they are still about two hundred and fifty signatures short, so Erin stays in a nearby motel and goes door-to-door, seeking the additional signatures. She asks George to come there and look after the children and he agrees. One night, after securing a bartender's signature, Erin is approached by Charles Embry, whom she thinks is trying to pick her up, but Charles tells her that he used to work at the plant and that his forty-one-year-old cousin has just died from cancer after working in the water cooling towers. Charles tells Erin that he was assigned to destroy a lot of documents, most of which were dull, but some of which were related to water readings in holding pools and test wells. After getting information from the documents that Charles did not destroy, Ed and Erin present Kurt with the necessary six hundred and thirty-four signatures plus incriminating memos from the PG&E head office to the Hinkley plant. Later, Erin and George return to Hinkley, and Erin takes him to meet Donna. Erin tells Donna the news that the judge has ruled that PG&E will pay the plaintiffs three hundred and thirty-three million dollars. She then tells the overjoyed and relieved Jensens that they will receive five million dollars. Back in the office, the still-contentious Erin is working on another case when Ed gives her a bonus check, but warns her that the figure is not exactly what they discussed. Erin is outraged that Ed is underestimating her value, but rendered speechless when she sees that the check is for two million dollars.

Crew

Thomas A. Curran

Grip

Dale E. Anderson

Set Dresser

Julian Andraus

Apprentice Editor

Glenn Arcaro

Editorial intern

John Axelrad

Avid Assistant Editor

James Badstibner

Office prod Assistant

Peter Bankins

Props Master

Robert Bankins

Props Assistant

Bart Barbuscia

Set Dresser

Adam Barker

Plaster foreman

Jason Bedig

Leadman

Gavin J. Behrman

Assistant accountant

Rich Bennetti

Transportation co-capt

Bill Bernstein

Music Editor

Randy Berrett

Rigging grip

Loren Bess

Driver

David Betancourt

Foley mixer

Damon Bingham

Assistant to Mr. Shamberg

Larry Blake

Supervisor Sound ed/Re-rec mixer

Brent Blom

Set Dresser

Scott A. Bobbitt

Leadman

Clelio Boccato

Office prod Assistant

Richard Boris

Greensman

Julian Bratolyubov

Music preperation

Joe Brennan

Boom Operator

Gary Brewer

Set Dresser

Corey C. Bronson

Set Costume

Frederic W. Brost

Unit Manager

Brumby J. Broussard

Cast Assistant

Bob Brown

B Camera 1st Assistant

Keri Bruno

Set prod Assistant

Charles Bukey

Key grip

John Bullard

Propmaker foreman

Sarah Bullion

Art Department Assistant

Gary Burritt

Negative cutter

Susan Cabral-ebert

Key makeup artist

Russell Caldwell

Gaffer

Pat Carman

Driver

Jack Carpenter

Camera car driver

Jon Carpenter

Transportation Coordinator

Glenn M. Carrere

Set Dresser

Byron Carter

Camera car driver

Richard E. Castro

Assistant accountant

Thomas Causey

Prod Sound mixer

Gary Cheek

Driver

Michael Chock

Addl Sound Editor

David Clark

Paint foreman

Roydon Clark

Stunt double

Bonnie Clevering

Julia Roberts' hair Designer

Anne V. Coates

Editing

Sam Cobb

Constr medic

Martin Coblenz

Driver

Michael A. Contreraz

Laborer

Jordan Corngold

Assistant Music Editor

Frank Lucky Costello

Standby painter

Carole Cowley

Visual Effects prod

Sheryl Crow

Composer

Carmen Cuba

Casting Associate

Natasha Cuba

Assistant to Ms. Sher & Mr. Shamberg

Keith P. Cunningham

Assistant art Director

Buck Damon

Music consultant

Monica De Armond

Post-prod Assistant

John W. De Blau

Light consultant

Stacy De La Motte

Camera loader

Brad Dean

2d Assistant Editor

Richard Dean

Julia Roberts' makeup

Elena Del Rio

Costume Supervisor

Danny Devito

Producer

Andy Dewar

Composer

Ken Diaz

Tattoo Designer

Tommy Dickson

Loc projectionist

Louis Dinson

Driver

Ronald B. Dinson

Driver

Charles Drake

Craft service

Bill Duffin

Propmaker

Michael Jon Duffin

Propmaker

P. Caleb Duffy

Loc prod Assistant

Wayne L. Duncan

Grip

Guy Duquette

Driver

Ezra Dweck

Foley Editor

Frank Endewardt

Best boy Electrician

Tony Eng

DGA trainee

Charles Enzen

Driver

Rich Epstein

Cast Assistant

E. J. Butch Ertel

Loc projectionist

Eddie Esparza

Laborer

Louie Esparza Jr.

Propmaker

Louie Esparza

Labor foreman

Scott Fair

Driver

John O. Falvey

Assistant to Mr. Finney

Julie Feiner

Addl Sound Editor

Bob Fidalgo

Labor foreman

Dawn Fintor

Foley

Eric Flickinger

Recording

Gerard Forrest

Loc foreman

Harold Fowler

Set medic

Isaac Friedman

B Camera 2d Assistant

Jennifer Fukasawa

Assistant to Ms. Shamberg

Brad Furman

Assistant to Ms. Roberts

J. Armin Garza Ii

Insert car driver

Marc C. Geschwind

Stand-in

Hank Giardina

Paint Supervisor

Wiliam W. Gideon

Gen foreman

Stephen A. Gindorf

Propmaker

Aaron Glascock

Dial Editor

Baylis Glascock

Addl Assistant Sound Editor

Bernard Glavin

Driver

David L. Glavin

Driver

Diane Glavin

Driver

Leon L. Glavin

Driver

Chris Gorden

Driver

Bernard Gough

Hairstylist

Cheryl Gould

Set Dresser

Billy Grace

Driver

Susannah Grant

Writer

Jane E. Graves

Assistant loc Manager

Brian D. Gray

Propmaker

Shane Greedy

Transportation capt

Gordon Greer

Set medic

Werner Hahnlein

Special Effects Assistant

Ronald E. Hairston

Craft service

Cheri Hall

1st Assistant accountant

Quentin Halliday

Assistant loc Manager

Dave Hallinan

2d Assistant Director

Kevin Hannigan

Special Effects

Tabby Hanson

Stunt double

Donald S. Harback

Driver

Tom Hardisty

Rec

John Hardy

Executive Producer

William Harrison

Special Effects foreman

Keith Hartley

Rigging Electrician

Richard Hartley

Rigging gaffer

Leah Holmes

Post prod accountant

Chris Horvath

Composer

Blair Huizingh

Art Department Coordinator

Mike Hutmacher

Driver

Barry Idoine

A Camera 1st Assistant

Alicia Irwin

Foley

Gregory Jacobs

1st Assistant Director

Karen Jarnecke

Assistant prod Coordinator

J. Larsen Jay

Prod Secretary

David T. Jernigan

Driver

Mirasol Jimenez

Cast auditor

James E. Johnson

Driver

Pops Johnson

Driver

Joseph Keideth

Security for Ms. Roberts

Michael Keller

Re-rec mixer

Steven J. Kerlagon

Paint foreman

Paul Kerr

Composer

Rich King

Extras casting

Richard Kite

Sound utility

Patricia Klawonn

Set Design

Andrew Knowland

Greensman

Karen Kornbau

Propmaker

Thomas M. Krigbaum

Driver

Jay Krymis

Extras casting

Bud Kucia

Welding foreman

Jeffrey Kurland

Costume Design

Michael La Corte

Set prod Assistant

Richard Lagravenese

Contract Writer

Jennifer Lagura

Set Dresser

Gary M. Lang

Electrician

J. T. Lannen

Driver

Hal Lary

Driver

Ken Lavet

Loc Manager

Robin L. Le Chanu

Prod Coordinator

Devlin Lerew

Propmaker

Denise N. Lewis

Office prod Assistant

Mark Tait Lewis

Digital compositor

Sindy Lin

Assistant to Ms. Sher

Keri Littledeer

Set medic

Cris Lombardi

A Camera op

Alberto Christiano Lombardo

Assistant Props master

Arthur G. Lopez

Laborer

Gail Lyon

Co-producer

Brian Macleod

Composer

Mike Malone

On-set dresser

Caitlin Maloney

Assistant to Mr. Soderbergh & Mr. Hardy

Caitlin Maloney

Post-prod Supervisor

David Marquette

Rec

Bob Marshak

Still Photographer

Antoine Mascaro

Chef

Masako Masuda

Set Design

Thomas J. Mcgowan

Studio teacher

Janis Mekaelian

Key Costume

Ernie L. Menchaca Jr.

Laborer

Ken Merritt

Driver

Kristen Toscano Messina

Set Decoration

Philip Messina

Production Design

Carla Meyer

Dialect coach for Mr. Finney

Rhona Meyers

Key Costume

Deborah Mills-whitlock

Hair Department head

Taina Mirach

Prod intern

Dice Miyake

Grip

John Moore

Propmaker foreman

James Morioka

Assistant Sound Editor

Leslie Morris

Music contractor

Rebecca Morton

Assistant to Mr. LaGravenese

Christa Munro

Art Director

Darryl Murchison

Electrician

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Biography
Release Date
Mar 17, 2000
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 14 Mar 2000
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; Jersey Films; Universal Pictures
Distribution Company
Universal Studios
Country
United States
Location
Santa Ventura Studios, Ventura, California, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA; Boron, California, USA; Ventura, California, USA; Hinkley, California, USA; Barstow, California, United States; Boron, California, United States; Hinkley, California, United States; Los Angeles, California, United States; Ventura, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 11m

Award Wins

Best Actress

2000
Julia Roberts

Best Actress

2001
Julia Roberts

Best Actress

2000
Julia Roberts

Award Nominations

Best Director

2000
Steven Soderbergh

Best Original Screenplay

2000

Best Picture

2000

Best Supporting Actor

2000
Albert Finney

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The opening and ending cast credits of this film differ slightly in order. The picture concludes with the following superimposed titles: "The settlement awarded to the plaintiffs in the case of Hinkley vs PG&E was the largest in a direct action lawsuit in United States history. PG&E claims they no longer use hexavalent chromium in any of their compressor plants and that all of their holding ponds are lined to prevent groundwater contamination. Erin and Ed have seven other cases pending, including one against PG&E regarding a plant in Kettleman Hills, CA."
       As confirmed by a April 14, 1998 Hollywood Reporter news item, Julia Roberts was interested in appearing in Erin Brockovich early in the film's production history. ADaily Variety news item on April 9, 1999 reported that Universal Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment would collaborate to produce Erin Brockovich, splitting costs and profits. Universal would distribute the film in the U.S. and Canada, while Columbia TriStar Distributors Intl. would handle it in the rest of the world. This arrangement was similar to one they had made for the 1999 release The Bone Collector. A New York Times news item of May 14, 1999 estimated that the film's budget would be $55 million, and an article in the Los Angeles Times on March 21, 2000 gave the final budget figure as $50.8 million. The same Los Angeles Times article stated that Roberts was paid $20 million for her role, becoming the first actress in film history to receive that amount. The picture eventually went on to gross over $125,000,000 in the United States and Canada.
       Sequences from the television programs The Young and the Restless and Wheel of Fortune were used in the backgrounds of certain scenes of the picture. Portions of Erin Brockovich were filmed on location in Hinkley, Boron, Barstow, Ventura and Los Angeles, CA. According to the film's presskit, some residents of Hinkley who were involved in the actual case appeared in the picture as extras and in secondary roles.
       The real Erin Brockovich and Ed Masry appear very briefly in the film in a restaurant sequence, she as a waitress and he as a customer in a booth adjacent to one in which Roberts is sitting. An Los Angeles Times article on March 16, 2000 revealed that Masry had been a minor film actor as a child, appearing in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) and The North Star (1943). Judge LeRoy A. Simmons, who officiated at the original PG&E hearing in Barstow, appeared as himself in the film. According to director Steven Soderbergh's commentary on the DVD release of the film, the first cut of the film ran for three hours and fifteen minutes, over an hour longer than the final release version. Many of the deleted scenes appear as added content on the DVD.
       The film opens with the following written statement: "This film is based on a true story." However a disclaimer title at the film's conclusion reads: "While this picture is based upon a true story, some of the characters have been composited or invented, and a number of incidents fictionalized." A Time article of May 1, 2000 quoted one of the film's executive producers, Carla Santos Shamberg, as saying that she bought the rights to the stories of Brockovich and Masry and "you're allowed in movieland to fictionalize, but the essence of the story is true. Unless we buy the rights to everyone's story, we have to fictionalize and condense." In the same article, a PG&E spokesman stated, "The movie is an entertainment vehicle, certainly not a documentary."
       On March 28, 2000, the Wall Street Journal printed an article on its editorial page by Hudson Institute fellow Michael Fumento, which stated that the suit against PG&E blamed hexavalent chromium (Chromium 6) for dozens of symptoms ranging from breast cancer to Hodgkin's disease, miscarriages and spinal deterioration. Fumento argued that while the Environmental Protection Agency does consider the chromium a carcinogen, it is linked only to cancers of the lung and septum and is carcinogenic only when inhaled in massive amounts over many years. Fumento added that most of this medical evidence was discovered after PG&E made the settlement in 1996. On April 6, 2000, the Wall Street Journal printed a letter from Brockovich and a legal associate refuting Fumento's article and stating that Chromium 6 has been studied for more than a century and that the EPA and other researchers agree that the chromium can also cause injury as a result of ingestion and dermal exposure.
       Upon the film's release, several residents of Hinkley were angered, as they felt they had been portrayed "as a bunch of hicks." The Time article of May 1, 2000 reported that the Hinkley residents believed the film makes it appear that justice was done when, in fact, only six hundred of the town's one thousand residents received a monetary award. They also stated that the film's success had made it difficult for them to obtain health insurance and had frightened off potential property buyers. The article was also stated that the residents, who were sworn to secrecy as part of the agreement with PG&E, received varying, inequitable awards.
       An article in The Observer(London) on April 16, 2000 reported that a number of the beneficiaries were preparing to sue Masry's firm, claiming that the lawyers kept the money for six months without paying interest and that there was no logic to the varying amounts of money they received, which were frequently substantially less than the approximately $300,000 each plaintiff should have received from the $196 million net amount remaining after lawyers' fees. The article stated that neither the lawyers nor PG&E would release records of their accounting.
       An October 18, 2001 Los Angeles Times article reported that Brockovich was now director of environmental research for Masry's law firm and was active on the lecture circuit. Brockovich was sued by her second husband, Steven Brockovich, for defamation after she alleged that he failed to pay child support for their daughter. The outcome of the suit has not been determined. Brockovich was also targeted by her first husband, Shawn Brown, and her ex-boyfriend, Jorg Halaby (who is portrayed in the film by Aaron Eckhardt), who attempted to extort $310,000 from her by threatening to claim that she had had an affair with Masry. With the help of Brockovich, the FBI arrested Halaby and Brown, and although the charges against them were later dropped, their lawyer, John Reiner, was found guilty of two counts of attempted extortion and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion in late March 2001.
       Brockovich and Masry remained in the public eye after the film's release. On December 21, 2001, Brockovich hosted the first of a new reality-based television series. The initial program focused on efforts to rebuild a New York City playground following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In late November 2001, Masry was elected to the Thousand Oaks City Council and now serves as Mayor Pro Tem. In addition to being selected as one of AFI's top ten films of 2000, Erin Brockovich was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Soderbergh was also nominated in the same year for Traffic), Best Screenplay written directly for the screen and Best Supporting Actor (Finney), and Roberts won the award for Best Actress. Golden Globe Awards nominations received by the picture included Best Picture, Drama, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor, with Roberts winning for Best Actress, Drama.

Miscellaneous Notes

Nominated for the 2000 award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film from the Directors Guild of America (DGA).

Nominated for the 2000 Golden Laurel Award for Best Motion Picture from the Producers Guild of America (PGA).

Voted one of the 10 best films of 2000 by the American Film Institute (AFI).

Winner of 2000 award for Best Director from the New York Film Critics Circle.

Winner of the 2000 award for Best Actress (Julia Roberts) by the London Film Critics Circle.

Winner of the 2000 award for Best Director from the National Society of Film Critics.

Winner of the 2000 award for Excellence in Contemporary Costume Design for Film by the Costume Designers Guild (CDG).

Winner of the 2000 awards for Best Director and Best Actress (Julia Roberts) from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Winner of two 2000 awards, including Best Actress (Erin Brokovich) and co-winner of Best Director along with "Traffic" (USA/2000) by the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Also nominated for the award for Best Picture.

Winner of two 2000 awards, including Best Actress (Julia Roberts) and Best Supporting Actor (Albert Finney), from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

Winner of two 2000 awards, including Best Director and Best Actress (Julia Roberts) from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.

Released in United States Spring March 17, 2000

Expanded Release in United States April 7, 2000

Released in United States on Video August 15, 2000

Began shooting May 25, 1999.

Completed shooting August 6, 1999.

Re-released in United Kingdom March 23, 2001.

Released in United States Spring March 17, 2000

Expanded Release in United States April 7, 2000

Released in United States on Video August 15, 2000

Nominated for the 2000 award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen from the Writers Guild of America (WGA).