A History of Violence

1h 38m 2005

Brief Synopsis

Tom Stall is living a happy and quiet life with his lawyer wife and their two children in the small town of Millbrook, Indiana, but one night their idyllic existence is shattered when Tom foils a vicious attempted robbery in his diner. Sensing danger, he takes action and saves his customers and frie

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Sep 30, 2005
Premiere Information
World premiere at the Cannes Film Festival: 16 May 2005; Toronto Film Festival opening: 10 Sep 2005; Los Angeles and New York openings: 23 Sep 2005
Production Company
Benderspink; New Line Cinema
Distribution Company
New Line Cinema
Canada and United States
Toronto, Ontario, Canada; King City, Ontario, Canada; Millbrook, Ontario, Canada; New Tecumseth, Ontario, Canada; Scugog, Ontario, Canada; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Tottenham, Ontario, Canada
Screenplay Information
Based on the graphic novel A History of Violence , written by John Wagner, art by Vince Locke (New York, 1997).

Technical Specs

1h 38m


In the small town of Millbank, Indiana, Tom Stall runs the local diner, while his wife Edie runs a small law practice and rears their two children, teenager Jack and pre-schooler Sarah. Although Jack struggles with teenage angst and a bullying classmate, the family is happy with their uneventful lives, and Tom considers himself a lucky man. One quiet Saturday night, ruthless spree killers Leland and Billy drive into town and enter the diner. The self-effacing Tom allows himself to be bullied into keeping the diner open past closing time, then tells Leland to take what he wants from the till, but when Leland tells Billy to "start" with the waitress, Tom breaks the glass coffee pot against Leland's face, and in the melee that follows, grabs Leland's semi-automatic weapon, then quickly kills him and Billy, despite being wounded in the foot by Leland's knife. When Tom is released from the hospital, he does not like being labeled a hero by the television news programs, which laud him for saving the people in the diner from two spree killers, and consequently shuns a television reporter. A short time later, when Tom returns to the diner, which is crowded with customers and well-wishers, three thuggish-looking men in suits arrive, led by Carl Fogarty, who repeatedly addresses Tom as "Joey" and in a threatening manner, implies that Tom knows who he is because they knew each other years ago in Philadelphia. Edie, who is in the diner at the time, is frightened of the men and calls town sheriff Sam Carney, even though Tom wants to forget about the incident after the men leave. Later, Sam stops Fogarty's Town Car and tells him to leave Millbank, which he says is a nice town that looks after its own, then goes to Tom and Edie's house, where he tells them that Fogarty is a known mob killer, as are his two henchmen. Sam then hesitantly asks Tom if he is in the witness protection program, but Tom denies this and says he does not know the men. Early the next morning, while Tom is in the diner, he sees the Town Car again and, thinking that it is driving toward his house, phones Edie and frantically tells her to grab their shotgun because the men are coming to their house. Despite his wounded foot, Tom runs home, then realizes that he was mistaken about the car. Edie, and especially Jack, are worried about what is happening, but Tom dismisses their concerns. That afternoon, when Edie takes Sarah to buy shoes in the local mall, she panics when Sarah briefly disappears, and is startled to see Fogarty sitting on a bench looking at the child. Fogarty, whose face is badly scarred and missing an eye, says that Joey Cusack did that to him and he wants to speak with Joey. Meanwhile, at his high school, Jack is confronted by fellow student Bobby and two of Bobby's friends, but instead of making a joke of Bobby's taunts, as he had done in the past, Jack explodes in violence and badly beats Bobby. Later, Tom rebukes Jack for his actions, saying that their family does not settle things with violence, but Jack sarcastically responds that, instead, their family kills people. Tom angrily slaps Jack, causing the boy to run off. A short time later, Fogarty and his henchmen show up at the house, with Jack in the backseat of the Town Car. Fogarty orders Tom to come with him or he will start to hurt Jack. Tom tells Edie to get into the house with Sarah as he gradually walks closer to Fogarty, still denying that he is Joey. When one of the thugs reaches for Tom, he suddenly disables the man with martial arts, grabs his gun, then kills another man. Fogarty then wounds Tom, but as Fogarty moves closer to him to fire the fatal shot, Tom whispers "I should have killed you in Philly." Just then, Fogarty is killed by a shotgun blast fired by Jack. That night, when Edie visits Tom in the hospital, she angrily demands that he tell her if he really is Joey. When he does not deny it, she vomits, then refuses to listen to his pleas that he spent three years ridding himself of Joey and was reborn when he met her. She runs away from him, and when Tom returns home from the hospital, he finds that his things have been moved out of their room. Sam comes to the house to say that "things" just do not add up, but when Edie comes home, she calmly assures Sam that Tom is who he says he is, then starts to cry as Tom comforts her. After Sam leaves, Tom continues to hold Edie, but she pushes him away and, rushing up the stairs, screams "Joey" at him. In the stairway, they strike each other, then have rough sex, but afterward, instead of letting Tom kiss her, she pushes him away. That night, while Tom is sleeping on the couch, he is awakened by a phone call from his brother Richie, now a prominent mob boss in Philadelphia. He agrees to Richie's request to meet with him, then drives to Philadelphia, where one of Richie's henchmen takes Tom to Richie's suburban mansion. At first Richie kisses and warmly embraces his younger brother, but in his study, Richie tells Tom that his impetuousness has cost him a lot over the years and he must pay the price. While they talk, Richie's henchman grabs Tom from behind, trying to strangle him with a wire, but Tom puts his hand through the loop and overcomes him, then kills two other henchmen, first striking them with killing blows, then shooting them with the gun he picks up. After Tom runs out of the study, another henchman arrives, and Richie starts to leave the house through the open front door. Tom, however, has not left the house, and catching Richie and his henchman unaware, kills them. Early in the morning, Tom throws his weapon into a pond on Richie's property and ponders his fate. Later, he returns to his home as Edie, Sarah and Jack are eating dinner. After a few moments, Sarah silently sets a place at the table for her father and Jack passes the roast to him as Edie looks at Tom and he expectantly looks toward her.


Kevin Alanthwaite


Amanda Alden

Assistant prod Coordinator

Scotty Allan

Chief lighting tech

Kent Alterman

Executive Producer

Allan Angus

Generator op

Aon/albert G. Ruben Insurance Services, Inc.

Insurance provided by

Lynell Bangs

Prod accountant

John Bannister

Key scenic painter

Ken Barbet

Transportation capt

Cassandra Barbour

Rights & clearances

Patrick Baxter

Prosthetic lab tech

Debra Beers

Loc Manager

Jeff Behlendorf

Post-prod accountant

Chris Bender


Mark Bennett

U.S. casting

Barb Benoit

Visual Effects compositor

Dennis Berardi

Visual Effects Supervisor, Mr. X Inc.

Frenchie Berger

Gun wrangler

Pierre Berube

Best boy rigging Electrician

Zena Bielewicz

Camera loader

Jon Billings

Rigging grip

Darren J. Biro

Loc prod Assistant

Deryck Blake

Props Master

Samuel Bojin

Best boy Electrician

Deirdre Bowen


Russel Bowie

"A" Camera 1st Assistant

Cale Boyter

Executive Producer

Darrell "digga" Branch


Bernie Branston


Josh Braun

Executive Producer

Ciara Brennan

Set Costume

Paul Broucek

Executive in charge of Music for New Line

Daniel Brown


Jim Bruening

Picture analysis

Michael Bunt


Paul Burch


Malcolm Byard

Lead dresser

Luisa Cabiddu

Extras casting Coordinator

Chad Camelleri


Carlo Campana


Matthew Campbell

Costume truck Supervisor

Tim S. Campbell

Lead painter

Fiona Campbell-westgate

Visual Effects prod, Mr. X Inc.

Laurie Cartwright

Risk management

Cast And Crew Entertainment Service, Inc.


Peter Cobbin

Score mixed by

Anthony Codd


Rick Coffee

1st Assistant accountant, US

Sean Cohen

3D anim

John Coles


Christian Cooke

Re-rec mixer

James Coppella


Janet L. Cormack

Scenic assist

Elizabeth Cotnoir

Music prod Manager

Tisha Cowmeadow

Set Costume Supervisor

Chris Cozens

Auricle op

Neil Crawford

Const laborer

Denise Cronenberg

Costume Design

Joe Curtin

Const Coordinator

Greg Daprato

Set Dresser

Fernando Dasilva

Assistant loc Manager

Jon Davidson

Prod controller

Rob Del Ciancio

Visual Effects compositor

Tyler Delben

3d Assistant Director

Jack Deutchman

Post-prod Supervisor

Walter L. Dibacco


Bonnie Dickson

Compositing Assistant

Mike Diltz

Tape op, Mr. X Inc.

William Dobson

Set medic

Leon Dudevoir

Prod Executive

Jennifer Dunnington

Music Editor

Aric Dupere

Trainee Assistant Director

Stéphan Dupuis

Makeup Supervisor

Paul Dzatko


Mikes Eaves

Digital intermediate col timer


Digital intermediate

Jeff Egan

Prod safety

Tony Eldridge


Karen Elliott

Music Supervisor

Prudence Emery

Unit Publicist

Toby Emmerich

Executive Producer

Entertainment Clearances, Inc.

Rights & clearances

Bob Fernley

Digital intermediate Supervisor

Neal Flaherty

Assistant to Mr. Bender

Danielle Fleury

Assistant set dec

John Flynn


Michael Foster


Brad Francis


Candide Franklyn

Steadicam and "B" Camera op

Vic Fraser

Music preparation

Lorne Frederick


Alan Frey

Music prod Coordinator

Michael Gabourie


Ray Gabourie

Driver for Mr. Harris & Mr. Hurt

Walter Gasparovic

1st Assistant Director

Glen Gauthier

Sound Mixer

Daniel Gibson

Special Effects set forman

Luke Gibson

Assistant lead painter

Emily Glatter

Supervisor prod Coordinator

Jamie Gould

Re-rec Assistant

Alastair Gray

Dial Editor

Robin Greavette

Assistant loc Manager

Mary Lou Green-benvenuti

Key hairstylist

Justis Greene

Executive Producer

Wayne Griffin

Supervisor Sound Editor

Isobel Griffiths

Music contractor

Kevin Haeberlin

Lead dresser

J. Ryan Halpenny

2d Assistant art Director

Elspeth Haughton

Prod Coordinator

Ron Hines


Erik Holmberg

Executive in charge of prod

Scott Howes

Const laborer

Elaine Hughes

Craft service Assistant

Glenn Hughes

Picture vehicle capt

Ryan Hupponen

Prod office Assistant

Matthew Hussey

1st Assistant Sound Editor

Henry Ilola


Paul Jefferson

Head carpenter

Robert Johnson

Key grip

Michael K. Jones

Driver for Ms. Bello

Robin Joseph

Music clearances

Scott Kanyuck

Prod attorney

Lenita Karhunen

Transport office admin

Roger E. Kass

Executive Producer

Ryan Keaveney

Prod office Assistant

Norman Kelner


Zameret Kleiman

Extras casting

Gary Kleinsteuber

Special Effects rigging foreman

James Kohne


Alex Kontsalakis

Payroll acountant

Goro Koyama

Foley artist

John Kurlander

Score rec

Itsuko Kurono

Art Department apprentice

Greg Laporta

Electronic Music programming

Gordon Lebredt

Set Design

Jody Levin

Executive in charge of post prod

Mark Lewandowski

Video playback

Kelly Lofstrom

Contract admin

Jef Lonn

Visual Effects compositor

Brian Lumley


Andy Malcolm

Foley artist

Anna Malkin

Foley rec Assistant

Aaron Marshall

1st Assistant film Editor

Rick Marshall


Andrew Matthews

Executive in charge of film investment

James Mcateer

Art Director

Hugh Mccallum

Driver for Mr. Mortensen

Charles Mcglynn

Assistant Props master

Chris Mcguire


Matthew Mckenzie

ADR mixer

Jason Mclean


Colin Mclellan

ADR mixer

Duncan Mcleod


Sarah Mcmurdo

Visual Effects prod Manager, Mr. X Inc.

Richard Mcstay

Assistant head carpenter

Michael J. Meade

Props buyer

Heather Meehan

Unit Production Manager

Rafal Mickiewicz


Stuart Mitchell

Transportation capt

Don Morley


Kevin L. Murphy


Louise Muskala

Assistant to Mr. Greene

Chris Navarro

ADR rec

John E. Nelles

Dial coach

Peter Nicolakakos

Set Decoration

Anthony Nocera

Video Assistant

Frank Norris


Kyle O'connor

Loc prod Assistant

Michael O'farrell

Supervisor Sound Editor

Ricardo Olivero

Lab col timer

Josh Olson


Thomas Osmond


Jae Pak

1st Assistant art Director

André Paquin

2d Assistant accountant

Julie C. Paquin

1st Assistant accountant

Elizabeth S. D. "duff" Parker

Trainee Assistant Director

Thomas Pearce

2d Assistant head carpenter

Greg Pelchat

On set dresser

Sandy M. Pereira

2d Assistant film Editor

Jim Peters

Key greensman

Martha Pike

Digital intermEditoriate Editor

Christopher Pizzarelli

Key makeup artist

Paul Prokop

Executive in charge of finance

Marc Purdy

Best boy grip

Divyo Putney

Assistant hairstylist

Catherine Rankin

Negative cutter

Joshua Ravetch

Prod resources

Bruce Raymer


Dusty Reeves

Art Department Coordinator

Jen Ricci


Christopher Richards

Casting Assistant

Lauren Ritchie

Executive in charge of visual Effects

Carolyn Rohaly

Assistant to Mr. Cronenberg

Myles Roth


Dug Rotstein

Script Supervisor

Moshe Saadon

Boom Operator

Kenneth Samaroo

On set painter

Lalchan Samaroo


Emma Sanders

Post-prod Coordinator

Ronald Sanders


Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Sep 30, 2005
Premiere Information
World premiere at the Cannes Film Festival: 16 May 2005; Toronto Film Festival opening: 10 Sep 2005; Los Angeles and New York openings: 23 Sep 2005
Production Company
Benderspink; New Line Cinema
Distribution Company
New Line Cinema
Canada and United States
Toronto, Ontario, Canada; King City, Ontario, Canada; Millbrook, Ontario, Canada; New Tecumseth, Ontario, Canada; Scugog, Ontario, Canada; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Tottenham, Ontario, Canada
Screenplay Information
Based on the graphic novel A History of Violence , written by John Wagner, art by Vince Locke (New York, 1997).

Technical Specs

1h 38m

Award Nominations

Best Adapted Screenplay


Best Supporting Actor





During the opening credits, there is a sequence lasting several minutes in which "Leland" and "Billy" ruthlessly kill the proprietor, the maid and the maid's little girl in a motel in the Southwest. In the scenes taking place in Philadelphia, protagonist "Tom Stall" is always addressed as "Joey" or "Joey Cusack." "Carl Fogarty" also only addresses him as Joey.
       John Wagner and Vince Locke's graphic novel A History of Violence, which was the basis for the film, was the first in DC Comics' popular Paradox Graphic Mystery series. The second novel in the series, The Road to Perdition, previously was made into the Sam Mendes-directed film of the same title in 2002. The film adaptation of A History of Violence follows the graphic novel's basic story line, but with a number of important differences: Whereas the film offers few details of Tom's early life or the reason why he decided to remake himself, in the graphic novel, one of the book's three chapters, "The Brooklyn Murders," provides a detailed recounting of Tom's early life, as he relates it to "Edie." The film retains the first names of the main characters, but all of the mobsters' surnames have been changed from Italian to various ethnic groups. Tom's surname was changed from McKenna to Stall, and Joey's surname was changed from Muni to Cusack.
       Other differences include the fact that Tom was originally from Brooklyn, not Philadelphia, and that the character of "Richie" was changed from Joey's best friend, Richie Benedetto, in the graphic novel, to his brother in the film. The graphic novel gives a more sympathetic view of the young Joey, who was only fourteen when he left Brooklyn. Near the end of the graphic novel, Richie, who has been held prisoner by a mob boss and brutally tortured for more than twenty years, pleads with his childhood friend to kill him, which he reluctantly does.
       A plot point from the book which is not used in the film is that, in the graphic novel, Tom is missing a little finger, and when "John Torrino" (called Carl Fogarty in the film) first visits Tom's diner, he is wearing a vial containing the missing digit. This point is an important difference because, in the graphic novel, police identify Tom as Joey by testing his DNA against the finger after Torrino (Fogarty) dies. Two other major differences exist between the graphic novel and the film. The first is that, while in the film Edie turns on Tom and it is unclear at the end of the film if their relationship will ever recover, in the graphic novel, she does not waver in her feelings. Finally, in the graphic novel, it is Edie, not their son "Buzz" (called "Jack " in the film) who saves Tom's life by killing Torrino.
       As noted in reviews and news items, A History of Violence was Canadian director David Cronenberg's largest budgeted film to date, costing $30,000,000 to produce. The film marked the eleventh collaboration between Cronenberg and composer Howard Shore, a fellow Canadian. Costume designer Denise Cronenberg, who is the director's sister, previously has worked on several of David Cronenberg's films.
       Although most sources, including the film's program at the Toronto Film Festival, stated that it was a U.S. production, the film was shot at the Toronto Film Studios and at other locations in Ontario, Canada. The township of Millbrook, Ontario was the location site of the film's Millbrook, IN. As noted in the onscreen acknowledgments, the film was also shot in the Ontario townships of Scugog, King City, New Tecumseth and Tottenham, as well as the Everton Conservation area outside Toronto. Onscreen acknowledgments were also given to SAAN Stores Lts. and St. John's Rehab Hospital, where various scenes were shot.
       As noted in a Daily Variety article, as part of the film's exploitation, cable television channel CourtTV, in partnership with New Line Cinema, broadcast a two-hour block of programming tied to one of the themes of the film, that of someone living a double life. The programming was part of CourtTV's recently inaugurated "Red Carpet Treatment" shows highlighting new films that were topically connected to the channel's law and order theme.
       Reviews were almost universally laudatory of the film, with most praising the acting of Viggo Mortensen as Tom and Maria Bello as Edie, in particular. Many reviews pointed out the power of Cronenberg's theme of underlying violence set against a rural American background, with some noting that, for a film with an underlying theme of violence and brutality, there were relatively few short scenes that graphically portrayed violent acts. Although some critics suggested that the film was an indictment of America and its violent history, in interviews, Cronenberg denied that the picture specifically was an indictment of the U.S. or its policies. Several reviews compared the film to classic American Westerns, particularly The Gunfighter, the 1950 Twentieth Century-Fox film directed by Henry King and starring Gregory Peck as a former gunfighter who is trying to escape his violent past life.
       In addition to being selected as one of AFI's ten Movies of the Year, A History of Violence received two Academy Award nominations, for Josh Olson for Best Adapted Screenplay and William Hurt for Best Supporting Actor. The film also received two Golden Globe nominations, for Best Picture-Drama and for Best Actress-Drama (Bello). Additionally, Olson was nominated for a Writers Guild Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and he and authors Wagner and Locke were nominated for a USC Scripter award. Hurt also received an L.A. Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor. According to an December 11, 2005 Los Angeles Times news item, the film was also a "close runner-up" to the L.A. Film Critics' Best Picture winner Brokeback Mountain.

Miscellaneous Notes

Winner of the 2005 award for Best Supporting Actor (William Hurt) by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA).

Winner of the 2005 awards for Best Supporting Actor (William Hurt) and Best Supporting Actress (Maria Bello) by the New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC).

Winner of three 2005 awards including Best Film, Best Director and Best Canadian Film by the Toronto Film Critics Association (TFCA).

Winner of two 2005 award including Best Director and Best Supporting Actor (Ed Harris) by the National Society of Film Critics (NSFC).

Winner of two 2005 awards including Best Director and Best Supporting Actress (Maria Bello) by the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA).

Released in United States Fall September 23, 2005

Limited Release in United States September 23, 2005

Expanded Release in United States September 30, 2005

Released in United States on Video March 14, 2006

Based on the graphic novel "A History of Violence" published by Paradox Press/DC Comics.

Book is the first in the Paradox Mystery line, the second book in the series is "Road to Perdition."

Literary Sale Date 09/12/2002

Released in United States Fall September 23, 2005

Limited Release in United States September 23, 2005

Expanded Release in United States September 30, 2005

Released in United States on Video March 14, 2006

Voted one of the 10 best films of 2005 by the American Film Institute (AFI).