By W. Edward Clark
Mountain Communities – While not a critical box office success, The Insider received overwhelmingly positive reviews when it was released in November of 1999.
Critics were particularly impressed with Russell Crowe’s sensitive performance of Jeffrey Wigand, a mild-mannered chemist who becomes an unwitting pawn in the tobacco industry’s efforts to hide the truth about smoking.
Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe), a mild-mannered corporate chemist, arrives home from his job at a large Kentucky tobacco company with the news he has been fired. Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), a producer on CBS’ 60 Minutes, approaches Wigand initially seeking help translating some technical documents. When Bergman learns Wigand is locked in a restrictive confidentiality agreement with the tobacco company, he becomes intrigued and presses the chemist to tell his story and blow the whistle on big tobacco.
Initially, Wigand refuses. But when he and his family receive death threats he gives in to Bergman’s prompting. In the interview, Wigand admits that his former employer intentionally makes its cigarettes more addictive, and that he was fired after refusing to support this. Bergman later arranges a security detail for Wigand’s home. However, the Wigand’s suffer marital stress as a result of the tobacco company’s constant threats.
CBS refuses to air the Wigand interview, fearing a lawsuit. Bergman contacts the New York Times, who publishes the interview and takes CBS to task for caving in to the tobacco companies. Later, Bergman resigns from CBS and Wigand, his life pretty much destroyed, returns to his quiet life as a high school chemistry teacher.
According to “More Magnificent Mountain Movies” by W. Lee Cozad, Big Bear was chosen for its winter location in a scene where Bergman (Pacino) meets two FBI agents at the North Shore Café in Fawnskin.
Although it barely broke even at the box office, The Insider went on to garner seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Crowe), and received some of the best reviews of any film in 1999. It received near-unanimous critical praise and director Quentin Tarantino included it in his list of top 20 films released since 1992 (the year he became a director).
GOOFS AND TRIVIA
- The real Jeffrey Wigand asked that there be no smoking anywhere in the film. With the exception of one cigarette puff in the Middle East opening sequence, his request was granted
- The courtroom where Jeffrey Wigand gives his deposition is not a set. The filmmakers used the actual courtroom in Jackson County Mississippi where the real Wigand’s deposition was given.
- Val Kilmer was considered for the role of Jeffrey Wigand until producer Pieter Jan Brugge suggested Russell Crowe
- When Bergman talks to Wigand on the phone outside his beach house, he goes into the sea far enough for water to touch his shorts. But they are dry when he comes back inside the house
- The driver’s window changes from open to closed, to open again when Wigand tells his wife he’s been fired and then drives off
- On one occasion when Bergman receives a phone call from Jeffrey Wigand, a film crewmember’s face is reflected in the window behind him
- In the scene when Wigand is leaving Louisville, Kentucky to testify in Mississippi, the airport shown is not Louisville International Airport; it’s John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana.