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Reversal of Fortune
Directed by Barbet Schroeder
Produced by Edward R. Pressman
Oliver Stone
Written by Alan M. Dershowitz (book)
Nicholas Kazan
Starring Glenn Close
Jeremy Irons
Ron Silver
Music by Mark Isham
Josh Clayton-Felt
Joseph Hooven
Michael Ward
Jerry Winn
Cinematography Luciano Tovoli
Editing by Lee Percy
Distributed by Warner Bros. (USA)
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (UK, France)[1]
Rank Film Distribution (UK)
Release date(s) September 12, 1990
Running time 111 minutes
Country United States
United Kingdom
Language English

Reversal of Fortune is a 1990 film adapted from the 1985 book Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case, written by law professor Alan Dershowitz. It recounts the true story of the unexplained coma of socialite Sunny von Bülow, the subsequent attempted murder trial, and the eventual acquittal of her husband, Claus von Bülow, who had Dershowitz acting as his defense.


Cast and crew

The film features Glenn Close as Sunny, Jeremy Irons as Claus, Ron Silver as Dershowitz, Annabella Sciorra, Uta Hagen, Fisher Stevens, Jack Gilpin, Felicity Huffman and Christine Baranski. Nicholas Kazan wrote the screenplay, Barbet Schroeder directed, and Dershowitz briefly appears as a judge.


Irons was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor, Schroeder was nominated for Best Director, and Kazan was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay award.


The film was positively reviewed, because of its detailed story, pacing, and use of flashback and insight, and Jeremy Irons' portrayal of the protagonist.

Comas in movies

Research by Dr. Eelco Wijdicks on the depiction of comas in movies was published in Neurology in May 2006. Dr. Wijdicks studied 30 films (made between 1970 and 2004) that portrayed actors in prolonged comas, and he concluded that only two films accurately depicted the state of a coma victim and the agony of waiting for a patient to awaken: Reversal of Fortune (1990) and The Dreamlife of Angels (1998). The remaining 28 were criticised for portraying miraculous awakenings with no lasting side effects; unrealistic depictions of treatments and equipment required; and comatose patients remaining tanned, muscular, and suspiciously well turned out.


  1. ^ These rights are now owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Reversal of Fortune is a 1990 film about the defense by Alan Dershowitz and his team of Harvard Law students of wealthy socialite Claus von Bülow for the murder of his wife, Sunny.

Directed by Barbet Schroeder and written by Nicholas Kazan, based on the book by Alan Dershowitz.


Sunny von Bülow

  • [narrating] I never woke from this coma, and I never will. I am what doctors call "persistent vegetative" -- a vegetable. According to medical experts, I could stay like this for a very long time -- brain dead, body better than ever.
  • [narrating] Claus von Bülow was given a second trial, and acquitted on both counts. This is all you can know, all you can be told. When you get where I am, you will know the rest.

Alan Dershowitz

  • If the rules don't work, you change them.
  • One thing, Claus. Legally, this was an important victory. Morally -- you're on your own.
  • Claus, let me explain something to you: the less you tell me, the more options I have.


  • A frame-up doesn't mean he's innocent. The kids could have framed a guilty man.


Alan Dershowitz: I'm not a hired gun. I've got to feel there's some moral or constitutional issue at stake.
Claus von Bülow: But I'm absolutely innocent, and my civil liberties have been egregiously violated!
Alan Dershowitz: I've got two black kids facing the electric chair for a crime they did not commit. THEY are innocent.
Claus von Bülow: Well, before you assume I'm guilty, won't you hear my story?
Alan Dershowitz: No. Never let defendants explain; puts most of them in an awkward position.
Claus von Bülow: How do you mean?
Alan Dershowitz: Lying.

Alan Dershowitz: You do have one thing in your favor: everybody hates you.
Claus von Bülow: Well, that's a start.

Alan Dershowitz: Reminds me of my Hitler dream. You know, Hitler calls up, he's alive... needs a lawyer. I say, "Sure, come on over." Then I have to decide: do I take the case, or do I kill him?
Elon Dershowitz: You? No question.
Alan Dershowitz: I would take the case.
Elon Dershowitz: THEN kill him.

Minnie: Yeah, okay, so, someone's got to defend Claus. But why you, why us?
Alan Dershowitz: Look, you're my student, you, you have a choice. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do; that is your choice. The reason I take cases -- and here I'm unlike most other lawyers, who are not professors and therefore have to make a living -- I take cases because I get pissed off. And I am pissed off here. The family hired a private prosecutor: unacceptable! They conducted a private search! Now if we let them get away with that, rich people won't go to the cops any more. You know what they're going to do? They're going to get their own lawyers to collect evidence -- and then they are going to choose which evidence they feel like passing on to the DA. And the next victim isn't going to be rich, like von Bülow -- but it's going to be some poor schnook in Detroit who can't afford, or who can't find, a decent lawyer.

Raj: I agree von Bülow is guilty, but then, that's the fun -- that's the challenge.
Alan Dershowitz: Now THERE is a lawyer.

Claus von Bülow: Well, so much for the first coma. The second, of course, was much more theatrical.
Alan Dershowitz: Theatrical? What is this, a fucking game? This is life and death; your wife is lying in a coma. You, you don't even make a pretense of caring, do you?
Claus von Bülow: 'Course I care, Alan. It's just, I don't wear my heart on my sleeve.

Alan Dershowitz: This is the most dangerous case I have ever worked on.
Claus von Bülow: You find that exhilarating?
Alan Dershowitz: No, I do not. I am breaking every rule. 'Cause the best way to win is to proclaim your innocence, and I have never done that for anybody. And the problem I got is, I see who you are. You'd do anything to win.
Claus von Bülow: So would you.
Alan Dershowitz: Yeah, but you don't trust the legal system.
Claus von Bülow: You're saying I'd manufacture... witnesses? Affidavits?
Alan Dershowitz: No. But you would sacrifice me.
Claus von Bülow: Oh, please.
Alan Dershowitz: See, the more I believe that you are innocent, the more nervous I am. I go out on a limb for you, you're proven guilty, I look like an asshole. My reputation, my credibility, my career, destroyed.
Claus von Bülow: That's the risk you're taking, isn't it?
Alan Dershowitz: Well, fuck you, fuck you, man... I'm glad we understand one another.

Alan Dershowitz: Why -- why do you think this case fascinates people? 'Cause, one time or other, every man is driven crazy by his wife, and in his secret heart, he wants to do exactly what Claus is accused of: kill her in some sly, silent way that can't be detected. Claus is a scapegoat: someone has to suffer for the sin that we all want to commit.
Team member: Alan... that's ridiculous.
Alan Dershowitz: It's ridiculous, you're right.

Alan Dershowitz: All right, my friend...
Claus von Bülow: "Friend"? I like that.
Alan Dershowitz: Nothing personal.

Alan Dershowitz: Our new evidence will clearly indicate...
Judge: Professor, you know there isn't a single case which allows you to introduce new evidence on appeal.
Alan Dershowitz: Well, there is one, your honor, and you wrote it. Derrick. In Derrick, in Derrick, you yourself said that a case based on circumstantial theory rather than fact only stands up if no other theory makes sense. The only way to show a better theory is to present it!

Alan Dershowitz: A priest? Well, a priest is the ideal witness: it's like getting the word of God
Claus von Bülow: I checked. God is unavailable.

Minnie: He says he doesn't have anything that'd help us.
Alan Dershowitz: You with me?
Sarah: Paydirt.
Raj: What's paydirt?
Alan Dershowitz: He's a lawyer. If he really didn't have anything, he'd give it to us. But there's something there, and he's going to fight like hell to hold onto it.

Claus von Bülow: I'm not afraid, Alan. Let the chips fall where they may.
Alan Dershowitz: That's what an innocent man would say.
Claus von Bülow: I know.

Claus von Bülow: [To the law team] What do you give a wife that has everything?
Claus von Bülow: A shot of insulin.

Claus von Bülow: What do you call a fear of insulin?
Claus von Bülow: Claus-traphobia.

Alan Dershowitz: You are a very strange man.
Claus von Bülow: You have no idea.


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