Even Oscar buzz and critical praise can't change people's misconceptions

By Liane Bonin
December 14, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST
Jamal A. Wilson/Corbis Sygma

This past weekend the Los Angeles Film Critics Association added to the early Oscar buzz by awarding ”The Insider” awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Russell Crowe), and Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Plummer). But critical praise hasn’t translated into ticket sales. The film may never earn back its $68 million budget, having already dropped out of the top 10 with a lowly total of $25 million. Leading man Al Pacino says he’s disappointed by the movie’s failure to lure in fans, but he isn’t surprised. ”I think it was summed up for me when I met a stewardess on a plane who told me she’d seen the picture,” Pacino, 59, says. ”She was really happy she went, but she said she wasn’t going to go at first because she didn’t want to see a movie about tobacco. It made me realize that the perception of the film, no matter what you do, is that it’s about tobacco and it’s about TV.”

The studio behind the film, Buena Vista Pictures, had plenty of warning they were in for a box office debacle: The pre-opening tracking showed that audiences weren’t interested in a movie about a tobacco exposé — especially one that runs for two and a half hours. But Pacino doesn’t think trimming the film would have helped its box office. ”Length is relative,” he says. ”If something’s working, it doesn’t matter how long it is because you’re involved. When you become aware of time is when the sections of the film don’t work. I think in the process of cutting the film down, you eliminate this and you eliminate that, and then sometimes it’s shorter, but not short enough and not long enough.” Or put another way: At 150 minutes, ”The Insider” is an excellent movie that deserves to find an audience.

  • Movie
  • R
Complete Coverage