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All the King's Men

Promotional poster
Directed by Steven Zaillian
Produced by Ken Lemberger
Mike Medavoy
Arnold Messer
Steven Zaillian
Written by Steven Zaillian
Robert Penn Warren
Starring Sean Penn
Jude Law
Kate Winslet
James Gandolfini
Mark Ruffalo
Patricia Clarkson
Jackie Earle Haley
Kathy Baker
Anthony Hopkins
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Paweł Edelman
Editing by Wayne Wahrman
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) September 22, 2006 (2006-09-22)
Running time 125 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $55 million
Gross revenue $9,450,897

All the King's Men is a 2006 film adaptation of the 1946 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren. It was directed by Steven Zaillian, who also produced and scripted.

The story is about the life of Willie Stark (played by Sean Penn), a fictional character resembling Louisiana governor Huey Long. The film co-stars Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo and Patricia Clarkson.

All the King's Men had previously been adapted by Robert Rossen in 1949. Although it does not follow the 1949 film's narrative and is more faithful to the novel than the earlier movie, the 2006 film is often considered a remake of the 1949 version. According to IMDb, Zaillian never saw the original film, and adapted the screenplay solely from Warren's novel.

Filming took place in New Orleans, Morgan City, Donaldsonville, at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge and many other places in Louisiana.

The world premiere was held at the Toronto Film Festival[1] on September 11, 2006. There the film was first screened to the press. A special screening was held at the Tulane University in New Orleans on September 16, 2006.



Louisiana newspaper reporter Jack Burden takes a personal interest in Willie Stark, a small-town lawyer and idealist. Circumstances develop that result in Stark's being urged to run for governor by a local political leader, Tiny Duffy. Jack has been raised around politics. He is the former lover of Anne Stanton, whose father was once governor. Jack was raised by Judge Irwin, his stepfather, an honorable man.

In time, Jack and political strategist Sadie Burke reveal to Stark that he is actually a dupe in the governor's race, expected to split the vote, spout the party line and lose. This opens his eyes to the realities of politics and Willie vows not to be fooled again. He defies Duffy publicly and begins to give speeches with straightforward talk that the public appreciates. He becomes governor in the next election, using any means necessary. Duffy now works for him as lieutenant governor. He also has a silent, menacing driver and bodyguard called Sugar Boy. And he successfully encourages Jack to come work for him as an adviser.

Judge Irwin disapproves, seeing Stark as an evil opportunist. Anne Stanton seems to agree and so does her brother, Dr. Adam Stanton. Willie Stark is a persuasive man, though, and knows how to get his way. He has a pet project, building a new hospital, and convinces Dr. Stanton to run it for him. And he also begins an affair with Anne Stanton, to the jealousy of Sadie Burke and the disappointment of Jack.

Criticized publicly by Judge Irwin and embroiled in increasing political controversy, Stark demands that Jack dig up dirt on the Judge to be used against him. Jack insists that no such dirt exists, but he does manage to uncover the fact that many years ago, Judge Irwin accepted a bribe. To his horror, the Judge commits suicide. Stark is a ruthless tyrant, popular with the voters but a charlatan to those who really know him. Dr. Stanton discovers that even the hospital is a front for the governor's own personal and political gain. He lies in wait at the steps of the state capitol, pulls a gun and assassinates Willie Stark.


Actor Role
Sean Penn Willie Stark
Jude Law Jack Burden
Kate Winslet Anne Stanton
Anthony Hopkins Judge Irwin
James Gandolfini Tiny Duffy
Patricia Clarkson Sadie Burke
Mark Ruffalo Adam Stanton
Kathy Baker Mrs. Burden
Travis Champagne Tom Stark
Jackie Earle Haley Roderick "Sugar Boy" Ellis
Connor Fux Tennis Boy
Montgomery John Adam Stanton, Age 11


The film was a commercial failure, despite its strong cast, direction, and production team. Few critics endorsed it, despite garnering strong Oscar buzz before its initial opening.[2]

Entertainment Weekly in its August 18, 2006 issue included All the King's Men in its Oscar Preview and said the film was most likely to win an Oscar. The article concluded the only reason for the film not to win an Oscar was its delayed opening (the film was originally to be opened in 2005).

Richard Schickel (Time Magazine) liked the movie, arguing that "it's much more faithful to the tone of the novel" than the original.[3]

Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) praised the film's "undeniable moral seriousness" and the actors' "exceptional ensemble work." He argued that Zaillian's script and direction "expertly extracted the core of this greatest of American political novels, a work that is both of its time and outside it."[4]

A.O. Scott (NY Times) expresses disappointment with the film: "Nothing in the picture works. It is both overwrought and tedious, its complicated narrative bogging down in lyrical voiceover, long flashbacks and endless expository conversations between people speaking radically incompatible accents."[5]

Michael Medved gave All the King's Men two stars (out of four) calling it "depressing and disappointing", a "stodgy melodrama" and a "pointless, pretentious, plodding period-piece".[6]

Recently, the film was featured in Nathan Rabin's ongoing blog feature for The Onion's A.V. Club, "My Year of Flops". Of three categories (failure, fiasco, or secret success), he labeled All the King's Men as a failure and said of the film: "Zaillian’s dud manages the formidable feat of being at once histrionic and agonizingly dull, hysterically over-the-top yet strangely lifeless."[7]

Zaillian was clearly stunned by the poor critical and box-office results of this film, which opened with only $3.8 million and barely made $7.2 million at the end of its run in US theaters. The weekend's other new wide release, Jackass Number Two, made $28.1 million.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Zaillian said that the film's poor performance was "like getting hit by a truck. ... I don't know what to make of it."[8]

Differences between the book and the screenplay

Jude Law (left) and Sean Penn star in Columbia Pictures’ drama All the King’s Men.
  • The film (with the exception of flashbacks) is set during the early 1950s. The book is set during the Great Depression.
  • In the movie, Stark wins the first gubernatorial election he enters. In the book, Stark pulls out of the original election after learning why he had been asked to run. He instead supports MacMurfee. However, in the next election, Stark defeats MacMurfee to become governor.
  • In the book, Sugar Boy is portrayed as a stuttering imbecile who worships Willie's every move. In the film, he rarely talks, and is portrayed as a strong and silent bodyguard. His adoration for the Boss is not emphasized.
  • Jack’s character is far more complex in the book. He is a pessimist, seems to be apathetic towards life, and is obsessed with Anne Stanton. The film only partially captures Jack’s feelings. Notably, his philosophical discussion in the novel about what he calls "The Great Twitch" is absent in the film. In keeping with the era of the 1930s, he is also somewhat racist by standards of a later era, an aspect that is not portrayed in the film.
  • Jack’s doctoral research storyline is not in the film. His research was about Cass Mastern, an ancestor who lived in the Antebellum South and fought in the American Civil War. The book devotes an extensive passage to the story of Mastern and the way in which he unwittingly and drastically influences the lives of others, which many critics have argued serves as the novel's moral center. Jack walks away from his study of Mastern because he is unwilling to accept the way in which people's actions influence the fates of others.
  • Jack is far more enraged in the book when he learns that Willie has taken Anne as a mistress.
  • The whole storyline in the book involving Tom Stark is removed. He is only seen a few times in the film. In the book Tom impregnates a girl, which threatens his father with a huge scandal (A scene to this effect is included on the DVD). His father whitewashes the situation by bribing the girl’s family, while his wife agrees to raise the child. Shortly afterwards, Tom is seriously injured during a college football game. After an unsuccessful surgery performed by Adam Stanton and a revered spinal doctor, Tom becomes a vegetable, eventually dying shortly after his father’s assassination.
  • The film ends a few minutes after Willie Stark’s assassination, explaining little (through newspaper headlines) about what takes place after the event. In the book, Jack Burden explains many things that take place after the assassination, which includes Tom’s death. By chance Jack encounters Sugar Boy at a library and barely resists the temptation to coax him into assassinating Tiny Duffy to avenge Willie's death (A scene to this effect is included on the DVD). Jack also reveals that he and Anne got married. In addition, Jack returns to his study of Cass Mastern, now prepared to cope with "the awful responsibility of time."


All the King's Men
Soundtrack by James Horner
Released September 27, 2007
Genre Film soundtrack
Length 56:42
Label Varese Sarabande
Producer Simon Rhodes and James Horner

Track listing

  • Main Title - 4:30
  • Time Brings All Things to Light - 1:45
  • Give Me the Hammer and I'll NAIL 'EM UP! - 5:59
  • Bring Down the Lion and the Rest of the Jungle Will Quake in Fear - 3:34
  • Conjuring the 'Hick' Vote - 3:14
  • Anne's Memories - 2:47
  • Adam's World - 3:43
  • Jack's Childhood - 2:22
  • The Rise to Power - 3:17
  • Love's Betrayal - 2:54
  • Only Faded Pictures - 2:49
  • As We Were Children Once - 2:49
  • Verdict and Punishment - 6:00
  • All Our Lives Collilde - 3:23
  • Time Brings All Things to Light... I Trust It So - 7:36

See also


External links



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