Wonder Boys


1h 52m 2000

Brief Synopsis

An unfinished novel, a stolen car, a murdered pet, an unstable student, a fed-up wife, a pregnant lover--it's safe to say that Grady Tripp has a number of issues to deal with this weekend. Grady is a 50-ish English professor who hasn't had a thing published in years--not since he wrote his award-win

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Feb 25, 2000
Premiere Information
Los Angeles and New York opening: 23 Feb 2000
Production Company
Mutual Film Company; Paramount Pictures
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Friendship, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh International Airport, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Hill District, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Modern Cafe, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States; Pittsburgh--Carnegie-Melon University, Pennsylvania, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Wonder Boys by Michael Cabon (New York, 1995).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m

Synopsis

On the first day of Wordfest, a Pittsburgh university's annual February literary event, the crises in professor Grady Tripp's life are making it difficult for him to concentrate on his creative writing class. His wife Emily has just left him, his once promising career has languished in the seven years since his first novel was published and he is having an affair with married university chancellor Sara Gaskell. After most of the students in Grady's advanced writers' workshop offer inane criticism of a story written by classmate James Leer, Grady drives to the airport to pick up his agent, Terry Crabtree, hoping Terry will not discover that Grady's long overdue novel is still unfinished. Terry has just met Miss Antonia Sloviak, assumed to be a transvestite by everyone but Terry, and takes her along to the Wordfest reception at Sara's house. Sara's pedantic husband Walter is too self-absorbed to be aware of Sara's affair, and while Walter expounds on his favorite topic, the cultural implications of the marriage of Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, Sara takes Grady into her bedroom. There she tells him she is pregnant, but realizes that complications in their lives make their future uncertain. Later, when Grady goes outside, he is startled to see the mysterious James standing in the snow, holding a pistol. James says that the pistol only shoots caps and explains that he is waiting there for Hannah Green, a sweet-natured student who rents a room in Grady's house. After James says that he and Hannah enjoy watching old movies together, Grady invites him into the house to see something. He takes James into Sara and Walter's bedroom and opens a locked closet that contains the prize of Walter's memorabilia collection, Monroe's fur-collared wedding jacket. When James starts to cry, saying the jacket looks lonely, Grady suggests they go, but as Grady leaves the bedroom, Poe, Walter's suspicious dog, starts to growl and lunges at Grady's ankle. James shoots the dog dead, shocking Grady, who grabs Poe's body and places it into the trunk of his beat-up car. Before going to the Wordfest keynote address, Grady finds a bottle of codeine in Terry's suitcase, takes a drink and offers some to James. In the auditorium, successful author Quentin Morewood, known to his friends as "Q," is giving the address, but is interrupted by periodic outbursts of laughter from James. Feeling weak, Grady leaves the auditorium and passes out in the foyer. Sara is kneeling over him when he awakens, worried about the panic attacks he has been having. She tells Grady that she has decided not to have the baby, but whispers "I love you," then leaves. When Q's address is over, Grady drives Antonia home while Terry and Q take James to a local bar called the Hi-Hat. On the way to her house, Antonia tells Grady that Terry's job is in jeopardy and he is depending upon Grady's new book to put his career back on track. At the Hi-Hat, Grady joins Terry, Q, Hannah and a passed out James. After the bar closes, Terry, Q and Grady pile into his car, while Hannah drives James to Grady's house because no one knows where James lives. As they start to leave, a man whom they earlier had jokingly named "Vernon Hardapple" approaches and says that Grady's 1965 maroon Ford Galaxy 500 is his car. Grady dismisses Vernon's strange behavior, then returns to the auditorium to pick up James's forgotten backpack, which he discovers contains a completed manuscript entitled The Love Parade . Later, at his house, Grady sees Monroe's jacket in the backpack. The next morning, after Grady lights his first marijuana cigarette of the day and starts page 2,611 of his novel, James awakens, and Grady tells him about shooting the dog and stealing the jacket. A young policeman comes to the door to say Walter has reported the jacket, as well as his dog, missing, and James is suspected. Grady does not reveal that James is there, and later drives with him to Sara's house. Although he tells her that he wants to be with her, she says that she still has not made a decision. Grady then takes James with him on the long drive to Emily's parents' house, and while Grady smokes more marijuana, James tells him increasingly more complicated stories about his life. Emily is not at her parents' house, but her physician father wraps Grady's injured ankle and tries to tell him that Emily left because Grady "wasn't there." On the trip back to Pittsburgh, Grady tells James he is a terrific writer then, when they stop at a highway restaurant, learns from directory assistance that "Carvel," the town which James claimed is his home, does not exist. Now realizing that James has made up everything, Grady searches his backpack and finds James's home phone number. Some time later, James's wealthy parents arrive. James reluctantly leaves with his cold parents, but again forgets his backpack. Grady spends much of the evening sitting in his car, smoking marijuana and reading James's novel. He arrives home while Terry is throwing a party and finds Hannah in her room, reading Grady's voluminous manuscript. Grady later tells Terry how good James's book is and Terry suggests that they "rescue" him. In the middle of the night they go to the Leer estate and find James in a large guesthouse. He is happy to leave with them but to make sure that his absence is not detected, Grady places Poe's body, which was still in his trunk, in James's bed. Back at Grady's house, as he places a call to Sara, he spots a van marked "Kraynik's Sporting Goods" slowly drive by. When Walter answers the phone, Grady confesses that he is in love with Sara. The next morning, Sara comes to see Grady and says that James's parents found Poe's body in their son's bed. Just as Grady confesses that James is upstairs, the police come to arrest him. James, who is in bed with Terry, cheerfully goes to jail, happily relating that Terry plans to publish his book and that Grady is the best teacher he ever had. Now Grady discovers that his car has been stolen, and goes to Hannah's room to borrow hers. She tells him that his novel is beautiful, but its length makes it obvious that he does not practice what he teaches, to make choices. Annoyed by her criticism of his "being under the influence" while writing, Grady grabs his manuscript and takes Terry with him to retrieve his car. On the way, Grady tells Terry that the Ford, which was given to him by a friend who owes him money, was probably stolen from Vernon. They then drive to Kraynik's Sporting Goods store and find the missing car. Grady grabs his bag of marijuana and James's gun from the glove compartment but does not find Monroe's jacket. He briefly passes out in another panic attack and awakens to find Oola, a pregnant waitress from the Hi-Hat, smiling at him and wearing Monroe's jacket. Then Vernon arrives and sees the gun. Fearing for Oola, who is his girlfriend, he starts to create a scene, prompting Terry to race across the street in Hannah's malfunctioning car. The car door opens, causing Grady's manuscript pages to fly into the wind as the car crashes into a wall. Vernon then drives Terry and the disconsolate Grady back to the university. Terry proffers that losing the manuscript may have been a blessing in disguise as Grady tries unsuccessfully to explain to Oola what his novel was about. Back on campus, Grady decides to let Oola keep the jacket and realizes that what he wants to do is help his students figure out "where they want to go." Inside the auditorium, Walter is announcing the "plums," publishing contracts given to local authors during Wordfest. James's book is announced as being published by Terry's company, which is also publishing Walter's book on Monroe and DiMaggio, The Last American Marriage . Grady leaves the auditorium and decides to give his remaining bag of marijuana to the janitor and begins to feel faint. Months later, in his study at Sara's house, Grady completes work on his book, writing that James was not expelled, but quit and moved to New York. Hannah is now a junior editor and although Grady lost his wife, his book and his job, he finally learned where he wanted to go. As Sara and their baby drive up, Grady looks lovingly at them, happy that he now has someone to help him get where he is going.

Crew

Jay Adams

Digital imaging tech

Dede Allen

Editing

Fran Allgood

Mr. Douglas' Costume

George Anderson

ADR Editor

Ted Andre

Digital compositor

Pete Anthony

Music orch and Conductor

William Armstrong

Composer

Bruce Babcock

Addl orch

Nancy Mosser Bailey

Extras casting

Joshua A. Baker

Production Assistant

Mark Barill

Scenic artist

Ron Bartlett

Re-rec mixer

Stacy M. Basil

Animal trainer

Donna Belajac

Loc casting Associate

Michael Bigger

Makeup Supervisor

Scott Blackwell

Special Effects foreperson

Bob Bornstein

Music preparation

Vincent Borrelli

Scenic artist

Dennis J. Braun

Transportation capt

Casey Brown

Production Assistant

Glenn Brown

2d Assistant Photographer

Nacio Herb Brown

Composer

Roger Aaron Brown

ADR voice

Jarrett Buba

Rigging Electrician

Pam Buchignani

Assistant to Mr. Rudin

Pat Buckley

Production Assistant

Kenneth Burgomaster

Synth programming

Susan Burig

Graphic Designer

Bill Burns

Assistant Sound Editor

John Butler

Set Dresser

Brian Buzzelli

Grip

Francine Byrne

Art Department Coordinator

Eva Z. Cabrera

Script Supervisor

Kymbra Callaghan

Makeup Artist

Nathan Carlson

ADR voice

Dan Casey

Video Assistant

Mike Castillo

Digital compositor

Konstantinos Christides

Score Coordinator

June Christopher

ADR voice

Kevin Clark

VFX Editor

Stacey S. Clipp

Avid Assistant film Editor

John A. Cohen

Assistant to Mr. Rudin

Leonard Cohen

Composer

Diane Collins

Costumes

Frank Connor

Still Photographer

Joseph Mathew Coscia

Hair stylist for Mr. Douglas

Marcus Daniel

Composer

Eben Davidson

Executive Assistant to Mr. Rudin

Sandy De Crescent

Orch contractor

Will Dearborn

Camera loader

Autry Dewalt

Composer

Norm Dlugatch

Music tech eng

Tommy Dolan

Assistant chief lighting tech

Raechel H. Donahue

ADR voice

Regis Donehue

Rigging grip

Cameron Douglas

Production Assistant

Terri Douglas

ADR voice

Norman Douglass

Stunts

Ned Dowd

Executive Producer

Denny Dressler

Production Assistant

Dennis Drummond

Supervisor Sound Editor

Kim Drummond

Dial Editor

Dennis Dubart

Set Dresser

Bob Dylan

Composer

Robert Eckenrode

Production Assistant

Gregory Edwards

Grip

Ray Edwards

Rigging grip

Kevin Elam

Visual Effects prod

Marie Elder

Prod accountant

Mercer Ellington

Composer

Jim Emswiller

Cable person

Kendall Errair

Costume Supervisor

John Evans

Electrician

Ben Famiglietti

Assistant to Mr. Rudin

Gregory Farrell

Chief rigging Electrician

Carol Fenelon

Music Supervisor

Vikki Ferguson

Loc casting Assistant

Robert Fernandez

Music rec and mixed by

Mali Finn

Casting

Bart Flaherty

Grip

Rolf Fleischmann

1st Assistant film Editor

Mark Forbes

Animal trainer

Jay Fortune

Chief lighting tech

Kirk Francis

Prod Sound mixer

Arthur Freed

Composer

Melisa Frick

Production Assistant

Don Fullilove

ADR voice

Richie Furay

Composer

Frank Garbutt

Stunts

Eileen Garrigan

Scenic artist

Thomas Garrigan

Assistant Props master

Katy Tatian Genovese

Payroll accountant

David Giammarco

Supervisor Sound Editor

Jessica E. Giannotta

Production Assistant

Thomas Gilligan

2d company grip

Alex Gillis

Poe animal replica created by

Dominic Gonzales

Music floor person

Galen Goodpaster

Assistant Sound Editor

Barbara Goodson

ADR voice

Megan Graham

Assistant Props master

Dwight Graves

Composer

James Graves

Composer

James Graves Jr.

Composer

Josh Greenstein

Production Assistant

Lisa Grundy

Associate Producer

Nicholas Guest

ADR voice

David Gurney

Rigging Electrician

Archie Hahn

ADR voice

Curtis Hanson

Producer

Peter Haran

Snow effects Coordinator

Tim Hardin

Composer

Robin Harlan

Foley artist

Jay R. Hart

Set Decoration

Lorenz Hart

Composer

Todd Hatfield

Scenic artist

Roland Hathaway

Snow Effects tech

Lindsey Hayes

Casting Assistant

Jim Heastings

Special Effects Assistant

Adam S. Hernandez

Apprentice film Editor

Phil Hetos

Col timer

Renee F. Hill

DGA trainee

Tanya Noel Hill

Music Editor

Lawrence Horn

Composer

Stephen Hough

Production Assistant

Lubo Hristov

[Visual Effects] art Director

Jeff Imada

Stunt Coordinator

Kevin Lamont Jackson

Stunts

Gary Jay

Camera Operator

Christopher Jenkins

Re-rec mixer

Mertis John

Composer

Gregory Jones

Head greensperson

Eva Kamienska-carter

Graphic Designer

George Karnoff

Lead person

Billy Kerwick

1st company rigging grip

Tim Kessler

Assistant to Mr. Downey

Graig Kitson

Addl film Editor

Jonathan Klein

Supervisor foley Editor

Steve Kloves

Screenwriter

Selma Kora

Assistant Props master

Bethany Koshinski

Production Assistant

Gary Kosko

Assistant art Director

Amy Kovalchick

Production Assistant

Donald Kraus

Transportation co-capt

Krystine Lankenau

Rotoscope artist

John Lennon

Composer

David Lingenfelser

Composite Supervisor

Annie Loeffler

2d 2d Assistant Director

Loop Troop

Voice casting

Susan Lukondi

Prod Secretary

Alisa B. Lumbreras

Scenic foreperson

James A. Mahathey

Assistant loc Manager

Dennis Maitland

Grip

Jim Malone

Chief rigging tech

Duane 'dc' Manwiller

1st Assistant Photographer/2d steadicam op

Dana L. Marker

Negative cutter

Mike Matesic

Const loc foreperson

Craig Mathieson

Digital compositor

Jonathan Mcgarry

2d Assistant Director

Frank Mcgough

Electrician

Caitlin Mckenna

ADR voice

Douglas C. Metzger

1st Assistant Director

Catherine Middleton

Assistant accountant

Jamie Midgley

Assistant to Mr. Douglas

Thomas Milano

Supervisor Music Editor

John D. Milinac

Special Effects Coordinator

Karen Minahan

Assistant Sound Editor

Kama Moiha

Digital compositor

Sarah Monat

Foley artist

John Morrisey

Assistant film Editor

Van Morrison

Composer

Chris Muchow

Electrician

Troy Muhammad

Electrician

Lucia Murillo

Assistant to Mr. Schroeder

Eric Myers

Unit Publicist

Lee Nagle

Rigging grip

Sujin Nam

Score Coordinator

Bridgitte Nance

VFX prod Assistant

Mark Narramore

Recording

Hope Anne Nathan

Production Assistant

Jean-pierre Nutini

Rigging Electrician

Sean O'connor

Digital compositor

Jeannine Oppewall

Production Design

David Page

Costumes

Angelique Palozzi

Assistant to Mr. Rudin

Steve Parys

Assistant loc Manager

Barbara Pastorik

Set dec buyer

Beatrix Aruna Pasztor

Costume Design

Ted Persons

Composer

Troy Peters

On-set dresser

Buster Pile

Const Coordinator

Ralph Pivirotto

Special Effects Assistant

Ray Pivirotto

Set Dresser

Jerry Pooler

Visual Effects Supervisor

Andy Potvin

Dolby Sound consultant

Phil Proctor

ADR voice

Gregg Puchalski

Scenic artist

Steve Purcell

Electrician

Aaron F. Quarles

Hair Supervisor

Sacha P. Quarles

Hairstylist

Eddie Quinn Sr.

1st company grip

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Feb 25, 2000
Premiere Information
Los Angeles and New York opening: 23 Feb 2000
Production Company
Mutual Film Company; Paramount Pictures
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Friendship, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh International Airport, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Hill District, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Modern Cafe, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States; Pittsburgh--Carnegie-Melon University, Pennsylvania, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Wonder Boys by Michael Cabon (New York, 1995).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m

Award Wins

Best Song

2000

Award Nominations

Best Adapted Screenplay

2000

Best Editing

2000

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

In the opening credits, Michael Douglas' name is listed above the film's title. Robert Downey, Jr.'s name is listed in the fifth position after the film's title, preceded by the word "and." In the end credits, Downey's name is the third credited after Douglas. The film is narrated intermittently by Douglas as his character, "Grady Tripp." When the picture ends, Grady is shown at a desk in the "Gaskell" house, completing work on the story that he has described in the narration and has been unfolding throughout the film.
       As noted in the onscreen credits, the film was shot entirely on location in Pittsburgh, PA. Although many of the college sequences were shot on the campus of Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, no specific name is used for the university depicted in the film. The house used for Grady's residence is located in the area of Pittsburgh known as "Friendship." According to the film's press book, although it was shot during winter months, unseasonably warm weather in March resulted in the use of snow-making machines for many of the film's exterior scenes.
       The term "wonder boys" refers to people who have had great success at an early age but find difficulty living up to, and repeating, that success. The character of "Emily" is seen only in a photograph. Throughout the film, Grady is shown typing his long-overdue novel on an electric typewriter. This fact becomes an important plot point near the end of the film when his only copy of the manuscript is scattered in the wind. At the end of the picture, Grady is shown using a laptop computer.
       The film's end credits include acknowledgments of thanks to the city of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Film Office, the Pennsylvania Film Office, Carnegie Melon University, Howard Johnson's Restaurants and the National Baseball Hall of Fame Library & Archive, Cooperstown, NY.
       Wonder Boys includes a number of allusions to classic motion pictures. The title of "James Leer's" novel The Love Parade refers to a 1929 Paramount musical directed by Ernst Lubitsch (See AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). "Carvel," which James says is his hometown, but which Grady discovers does not exist, was the name of the fictional town inhabited by "The Hardy Family," main characters in M-G-M's popular series from the 1930s and 1940s (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). As acknowledged in the end credits, small excerpts of the films The Picture of Dorian Gray and Babes in Arms (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 and 1941-50) as well as the television series Route 66 and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles are included in Wonder Boys.
       The film was based on the second novel of Michael Chabon, and was the first of his works to be adapted to the screen. Like Wonder Boys, Chabon's first novel, Mysteries of Pittsburgh, was also set in that city. According to a Variety news item, producer Scott Rudin acquired the film rights to Wonder Boys in April 1995 and signed Steve Kloves to write the screenplay. According to a November 12, 1999 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was partially financed by the Germany company, MFF Feature Film Productions GmbH & Co. KG, which is the copyright holder.
       Although the film opened to good to excellent reviews, it did not perform up to the filmmakers' expectations during its initial release. Los Angeles Times and Daily Variety news items reveal that Paramount executives decided to rerelease the film in early November 2000, with a new marketing plan that relied less on the art work of Douglas in the pink chenille bathrobe he wears during parts of the film.
       According to news items, following the film's initial release, the family of actor Alan Ladd, who died in 1964, took exception to his name being included in the list of celebrity suicides recited by Tobey Maguire, as James. Ladd's family noted that the circumstances of Ladd's death were unclear and May have been accidental. When the film was released on VHS and DVD, a small controversy erupted over purported artistic changes within the film, as noted in the written statement "Editorial content has been modified." According to news items, director Curtis Hanson stated that the only part of the film that was changed was the line of dialogue mentioning Ladd. As in the original the words were only heard, and not seen while spoken, no footage was altered.
       Novelist James Ellroy, who wrote the novel on which Hanson's previous film, L.A. Confidential, was based, can be seen briefly in the party sequence and is credited onscreen as a "Wordfest party guest." This film marked the feature film debut of actor Michael Cavadias as "Miss Sloviak." Wonder Boys screenwriter Kloves, director of photography Dante Spinotti and production designer Jeannine Oppewall also worked on L.A. Confidential.
       The film was named to a number of "top ten" lists, including AFI's list of the top ten American films of 2000. Bob Dylan won both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song, "Things Have Changed." The film was nominated for two additional Academy Awards, to Kloves for Best Adapted Screenplay and to Dede Allenn for Best Film Editing. Wonder Boys also received three additional Golden Globe nominations in drama categories, for Best Picture, Best Actor for Douglas and Best Screenplay for Kloves. Kloves, along with Chabon, also received USC's Scriptor Award for the year's Best Screenplay Adapted from a Novel.

Miscellaneous Notes

Nominated for the 2000 Award for Best Production Design in a Feature Film - Contemporary from the Society of Motion Picture & Television Art Directors/ Art Directors Guild (ADG).

Nominated for the 2000 award for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published from the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

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

Winner of the 2000 Golden Satellite Award for Best Actor - Comedy or Musical (Michael Douglas), from the International Press Academy.

Winner of two 2000 awards, including Best Supporting Actress (Frances McDormand) and Best Adapted Screenplay, along with "Traffic" (USA/2000), from the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Also nominated for the award for Best Picture.

Released in United States Winter February 23, 2000

Wide Release in United States February 25, 2000

Expanded Release in United States March 3, 2000

Limited re-release in United States November 8, 2000

Released in United States on Video January 9, 2001

Released in United States 2000

Shown at Melbourne International Film Festival (Opening Night) July 19 - August 6, 2000.

Began shooting February 2, 1999.

Completed shooting April 28, 1999.

Released in United States Winter February 23, 2000

Wide Release in United States February 25, 2000

Expanded Release in United States March 3, 2000

Limited re-release in United States November 8, 2000

Released in United States on Video January 9, 2001

Released in United States 2000 (Shown at Melbourne International Film Festival (Opening Night) July 19 - August 6, 2000.)

Co-Winner of the 2000 award for Best Screenplay, along with "Almost Famous" (USA/2000), from the Boston Society of Film Critics.