Wolf is a 1994 American romantic horror film directed by Mike Nichols and starring Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, James Spader, Kate Nelligan, Richard Jenkins, Christopher Plummer, Eileen Atkins, David Hyde Pierce and Om Puri. It was written by Jim Harrison and Wesley Strick, and an uncredited Elaine May. The music was composed by Ennio Morricone and the cinematography was done by Giuseppe Rotunno.
Plot[edit | edit source]
Will Randall is bitten by a black wolf while driving home in Vermont. Afterwards, he gets demoted from editor-in-chief of a publishing house when it gets taken over by tycoon Raymond Alden, who replaces him with Will's protégé Stewart Swinton. Will finds out that Swinton had begged Alden for the job behind Will's back and suspects that Swinton is having an affair with his wife Charlotte, after he smells Stewart's scent on her clothes. Will bites Stewart on the hand while entering his apartment and rushes to the room to find Charlotte half-naked. His worst fears are confirmed and he leaves without saying a word. Will becomes more aggressive as he starts taking on the characteristics of a wolf.
With the help of Alden's headstrong daughter Laura, Will sets out for his new life. His first werewolf transformation takes place at Laura's estate, where he wakes up at night and hunts down a deer. In the morning, Will finds himself on the bank of a stream, with blood all over his face and hands. He visits Dr. Vijav Alezais, who gives him an amulet to protect him from turning completely into a wolf. However, he can't persuade Will to infect him. That night, Will transforms into a werewolf again: he breaks into the zoo and steals handcuffs from a policeman. Muggers want his wallet, but Will attacks and bites the fingers off of one of them. He wakes up in his hotel, with no memory of what happened.
Will organizes a mutiny of writers, who threaten to leave the publishing house unless he is retained as editor-in-chief. Alden agrees and Will's first act is to fire Stewart, urinating on his shoes in a bathroom and claiming he is "marking his territory". While washing his hands, Will finds the fingers in his handkerchief and realizes he's wounded someone. He cuffs himself to a radiator in his hotel room, but Laura arrives and downplays his belief that he's werewolf. The next morning, Detective Bridger knocks on Will's door to inform him that Charlotte was found dead in Central Park with canine DNA on her. Will wonders if he murdered Charlotte, but doesn't know that Stewart killed her.
Believing Will is a murderer, Laura goes to the police station. There she runs into Stewart, who makes an animal-like pass at her while sporting increasingly obvious werewolf traits. Laura hurries away, making arrangements for her and Will to leave the country. After killing two guards at the estate, Stewart corners Laura in the barn with the intention to rape her, but Will intervenes and the two fight; in the end, Stewart is shot to death by Laura. Still in a half-human state, Will has a brief moment with Laura and then runs into the forest.
Minutes later, Laura herself shows heightened senses when the police arrive, telling Bridger that she can smell vodka on his breath. The final scene is a close-up of her eyes turning into golden wolf eyes (hinting that she herself has transformed into a werewolf), and of Will finally turning into a full wolf, presumably for eternity, howling for Laura.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Jack Nicholson as Will Randall
- Michelle Pfeiffer as Laura Alden
- James Spader as Stewart Swinton
- Kate Nelligan as Charlotte Skylar Randall
- Richard Jenkins as Detective Sgt. Carl Bridger
- Christopher Plummer as Raymond Alden
- Eileen Atkins as Mary
- David Hyde Pierce as Roy MacAllister
- Om Puri as Dr. Vijav Alezais
- Ron Rifkin as Doctor Ralph
- Prunella Scales as Maude Waggins
- Brian Markinson as Detective Wade
- Peter Gerety as George
- Bradford English as Keyes
- Stewart J. Zully as Gary
- Thomas F. Duffy as Tom
- David Schwimmer as Cop
- Allison Janney as Party Guest 2
- Lia Chang as Desk Clerk
Production[edit | edit source]
Screenwriter Jim Harrison left the production because of creative differences with director Mike Nichols, claiming, "I wanted Dionysian, but he wanted Apollonian. He took my wolf and made it into a Chihuahua. I cracked up for 10 minutes and then went out into the country and stood in front of a wolf den and apologized while my dog hid under the truck." Following his experience with the film, Harrison decided to leave Hollywood.
Mia Farrow was an early contender for the role of Charlotte Randall, but was apparently considered too controversial a choice by the film company due to the then-current Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn affair. Kate Nelligan was immediately cast instead.
Sharon Stone turned down the role of Laura Alden, eventually played by Michelle Pfeiffer. Filming took place in New York City, Long Island, and Los Angeles. The exteriors for Raymond Alden's country mansion were filmed at Old Westbury Gardens in Nassau County, New York. Will Randall's publishing offices are in the Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles, a location frequently used in movies.
This film was shot from early April to late July in 1993. Its release was delayed for six to eight months, in order to reshoot the poorly received ending.
Reaction[edit | edit source]
Box office[edit | edit source]
Wolf grossed $65 million domestically and $66 million internationally, for a total of $131 million worldwide.
Critical response[edit | edit source]
Wolf holds a score of 60% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 53 reviews.
Janet Maslin in the New York Times wrote, "So long as it stays confined to the level of metaphor, as it does in the first hour of Wolf, this idea really is irresistible." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times wrote,"Wolf is both more and less than a traditional werewolf movie. Less, because it doesn't provide the frankly vulgar thrills and excesses some audience members are going to be hoping for. And more, because Nicholson and his director, Mike Nichols, are halfway serious about exploring what might happen if a New York book editor did become a werewolf". Hal Hinson in the Washington Post wrote, "In its own delightfully peculiar way, the film is the only one of its kind ever made – a horror film about office politics ... The movie isn't wholly great; it starts to unravel just after the midway point. Still, there are charms enough all the way through to make it the most seductive, most enjoyable film of the summer". Peter Travers in Rolling Stone called it "a rapturous romantic thriller with a darkly comic subtext about what kills human values".
Desson Howe in The Washington Post wrote that it "works beautifully when it's rooted in reality, when the Werewolf Thing functions as a multiple metaphor for unleashed-id sexuality and the law of the corporate jungle" Todd McCarthy in Variety wrote, "The studio must convince the horror/special-effects crowd to attend a Jack Nicholson/Michelle Pfeiffer/Mike Nichols picture and persuade the film-makers' fans to see a genre pic... But no matter how snazzy the trappings, when you get down to it, this is still, at heart, a werewolf picture". Time Out wrote, "Quite frankly, it's hard to fathom why exactly anyone would have wanted to make this slick, glossy, but utterly redundant werewolf movie... Overall, this is needlessly polished nonsense: not awful; just toothless, gutless and bloodless."
Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
Year-end lists[edit | edit source]
Honorable mention – Mike Clark, USA Today Honorable mention – Glenn Lovell, San Jose Mercury News Honorable mention – Howie Movshovitz, The Denver Post Honorable mention – Bob Carlton, The Birmingham News
Awards and nominations[edit | edit source]
Wolf won a Saturn Award for Best Writing for Jim Harrison and Wesley Strick's screenplay, and it was nominated for a further 5 Saturn Awards, in the categories of Best Horror Film, Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress (Michelle Pfeiffer), Best Supporting Actor (James Spader) and Best Make-up (Rick Baker).
Ennio Morricone was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television.