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Stranger than Fiction

Theatrical film poster
Directed by Marc Forster
Produced by Lindsay Doran
Written by Zach Helm
Starring Will Ferrell
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Dustin Hoffman
Emma Thompson
Queen Latifah
Tony Hale
Music by Britt Daniel
Brian Reitzell
Cinematography Roberto Schaefer
Editing by Matt Chesse
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) November 10, 2006
Running time 113 min.
Language English
Budget $30 million
Gross revenue $40,660,952

Stranger than Fiction is a 2006 American comedy drama film. The film is directed by Marc Forster, written by Zach Helm, and stars Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, and Emma Thompson. Columbia Pictures distributed the film.[1]



Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) is an auditor for the Internal Revenue Service, living his entire life based on the timing of his wristwatch. He is given the job to audit an intentionally tax-delinquent baker, Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) to whom he is awkwardly attracted. On the same day, he begins hearing the voice of a woman that is omnisciently narrating the events in his life, but he is unable to communicate with the voice. On his way home, Harold's watch stops working and he resets it using the time given by a bystander; the voice narrates "little did he know that this simple, seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death". Worried over this prediction, Harold turns to a psychiatrist who attributes the voice to schizophrenia. Harold listens to her conclusion without giving importance to it. When he asks what she would advise if it were not schizophrenia, the psychiatrist suggests Harold turn to a literary expert. Harold visits Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), a university professor, and relates his story. Jules first comes to the same conclusion as the psychiatrist, as Harold's dull life is not something commonly seen in novels. However, Jules then recognizes aspects of a literary work in Harold's story ("little did he know"), and encourages him to help identify the author, first by determining if the work is a comedy or a tragedy.

As Harold proceeds to audit Ana, the two begin to fall for each other, but when Harold refuses to accept cookies that Ana made for him on the grounds that they could be viewed as a bribe, Ana angrily tells him to leave, making Harold believe the story is a tragedy. Harold spends the next day at home to try to control his own destiny, but his apartment is partially demolished by a wrecking crew mistaking the building for an abandoned one. Harold reveals these facts to Jules, who believes that Harold cannot control the plot that has been set for him and should accept that he will die, telling Harold to enjoy whatever time he has left to the fullest. Harold takes this to heart; he takes an extended vacation from work, develops his friendship with his co-worker Dave (Tony Hale), fulfills his life dream of learning to play the guitar, and starts to see Ana on a regular basis, helping her to avoid tax issues by claiming charitable offerings. Harold believes he may have mistaken his story and now reassesses it as a comedy. When he returns to Jules with this revelation, Harold inadvertently identifies the voice in his head from a television interview as noted author Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson). Jules, a long-time fan of Karen's works, reveals that in every book she has written the main character has died.

Harold is able to find Karen through tax records, and learns that she is presently struggling from writer's block in how to kill off the character of Harold Crick in her latest book, Death and Taxes, envisioning numerous ways involving a child on a bicycle and a city bus, while her publisher has sent an assistant, Penny (Queen Latifah), to make sure the book gets completed. When Karen learns that Harold is a real person and has experienced everything she's written, she becomes horrified to consider all of her previous books may have also resulted in the deaths of real people. She tells Harold she has finally written a draft of the ending and his death, but hasn't typed it up yet. Penny suggests Harold read the book and the drafted ending to get his opinion. Harold is unable to bring himself to read it and gives the manuscript to Jules to review. Jules reads it and tells Harold that the manuscript is a masterpiece, his written death integral to its genius. Though Harold is deeply distressed over his fate, Jules comforts him by stating the inevitability of death - this death at least, will hold a deeper meaning by completing the book. Harold reads the manuscript himself, and comes to the same conclusion and returns the manuscript to Karen, accepting his death. He spends one last night with Ana.

The next day, Harold prepares to return to work after his vacation despite Karen's voice narrating the fateful day as she types up her planned ending. Due to getting the time from the stranger earlier, Harold's watch is three minutes ahead, and he arrives at the bus stop early enough to save a child on a bicycle from being run over by a bus, though he himself is hit by the bus. Karen attempts to write Harold's death, but is unable to do so, and instead claims the watch was the character that died, and that fragments of the watch helped to block an artery in Harold's body after the collision, preventing him from bleeding to death. Harold wakes up to find himself in a hospital, alive though in traction and with several broken bones, with Ana by his side to help him recover. When Jules reads Karen's final manuscript, he notes that the story is weaker without Harold's death. Karen admits the flaw, although she points out that the story was meant to be about a man that unknowingly dies, and this was not the case. Therefore, she states that she would rather have the story end with Harold alive, after expecting death and accepting it for a greater good.

Main cast

  • Will Ferrell as Harold Crick - an IRS auditor who has led the exact same dull routine every week for twelve years, based on the timing of his wristwatch. After hearing his life narrated by an unseen woman, he becomes distressed but ultimately realizes he cannot control his fate, sparking a dramatic change in lifestyle. He later accepts his fate entirely and is willing to meet it for the sake of the novel's ending.
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal as Ana Pascal - a baker that Crick meets when he is sent to audit her. She attended Harvard Law School but dropped out in favor of baking to "make the world a better place". Exceedingly antagonistic to Harold, she nonetheless falls for him during the audit. She is also highly averse to paying her taxes for things she doesn't want them to pay for, and humorously claims she is an anarchist.
  • Dustin Hoffman as Professor Jules Hilbert - a literature professor who attempts to help Harold with his narration problem by offering advice and helping Harold define the story's genre. He later consoles Harold as his inevitable fate becomes more obvious with a detached view on Harold's looming demise.
  • Emma Thompson as Karen Eiffel - a cynical and reclusive writer, as well as Crick's narrator, who is known for killing off her protagonists in her novels. She spends the much of the film partaking in morbid tasks, including visits to a hospital and imagining car wrecks during a rainstorm, for inspiration on how to kill Harold. After learning Harold is real, she begins to question her choice of literary styling.
  • Queen Latifah as Penny Escher - an assistant to Karen whom her publisher has hired to make sure that she completes her new novel. She offers Karen advice and literary aids to cure her writer's block, all of which are rejected.
  • Tony Hale as Dave - Harold's only true friend at work, with whom he stays after his apartment is partially demolished. His childhood dream was to go to space camp, and he inspires Harold to pursue his own dreams.


The film was shot in Chicago, Illinois. Dave's apartment, in which Harold takes residence after his own building is partially demolished, is part of the Marina City Condominiums, designed by Bertrand Goldberg. Hilbert's office was in a lecture hall at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The bakery that Ana Pascal runs is actually located in the South Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago and is presently called the Cathedral Cafe[2]. Many downtown Chicago locations were used for scenes involving Karen Eiffel, Penny Escher, and Harold Crick.[3]


The music for this film includes original scores arranged by the collaborative effort of Brian Reitzell (Redd Kross, soundtracks for Marie Antoinette, Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides, and Thumbsucker) and Britt Daniel (singer/ songwriter of Spoon), as well as an eclectic mix of indie rock songs from various artists including Spoon.

The soundtrack includes the original recording of the song that Harold plays for Ana, "(I'd Go The) Whole Wide World" by Wreckless Eric.


Will Ferrell

Zach Helm

Emma Thompson

Maggie Gyllenhaal


Geometrical and mathematical motifs occur frequently throughout the film. According to bonus features on the DVD release of the film, these represent Harold's "GUI": his thoughts as he takes in the world made visible, and were designed to reflect Harold's OCPD-like counting and measuring behaviors. The fact that he sees number lines and other mid-air visualizations hints that he may have a mild form of synesthesia, a mental condition where senses melt together.


The film received positive reviews. Roger Ebert gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars, stating that the film was thought-provoking and moral, and that "Such an uncommonly intelligent film does not often get made...which requires us to enter the lives of these specific quiet, sweet, worthy people".[4] Rolling Stone rated the film 3 out of 4 stars, stating that though the premise of Ferrell's life being narrated is a set-up for farce, the film is "less self-reflexively clever and more intimate".[5] The film has a rating of 73% at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.8,[6] and a rating of 7.9 at the Internet Movie Database.[7]


External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Stranger Than Fiction is a 2006 film about an IRS agent whose tidy but empty life is abruptly changed when a mysterious voice begins to narrate his existence.

Directed by Marc Forster. Written by Zach Helm.
Harold Crick isn't ready to go. Period. taglines


Harold Crick

  • The cookies were good. Thank you for forcing me to eat them.
  • I am relieved to know I am not a golem.
  • This may sound like gibberish, but I think I'm in a tragedy.
  • SHUT UP! ( narrator continues) No I'm not. I'm cursing you stupid voice; so shut up and leave me alone!
  • I left my thimble and Socialist reading material at home.
  • I brought you flours.

Karen Eiffel

  • This is a story about a man named Harold Crick. And his wristwatch.
  • Harold Crick was a man of infinite numbers, endless calculations and incredibly few words.
  • And although this was an extraordinary day—a day to be remembered for the rest of Harold's life—Harold just thought it was a Wednesday.
  • As much as I would like to, I simply cannot throw Harold Crick off a building.
  • Little did he know that this simple seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death.
  • Everyone thinks about leaping off a building.
  • We're imagining car wrecks!
  • Pneumonia. That's an interesting way to die.
  • Is this a joke?
  • I don't need a nicotine patch, Penny; I smoke cigarettes.

Jules Hilbert

  • You have to die. It's a masterpiece.
  • [to Harold] No one wants to die Harold, unfortunately we do. Harold, Harold listen to me. Harold, you will die, some day, some time; heart failure at the bank, choke on a mint. Some long drawn-out disease you've contracted on vacation, you will die. You will absolutely die. Even if you avoid this death, another will find you. And I guarantee, that it won't be nearly as poetic or as meaningful as what she's written. I'm sorry but it''s the nature of all tragedies Harold. The hero dies, and the story goes on forever.
  • [to Harold] Aren't you relieved to know you're not a Golem?
  • It's been a very revealing 10 seconds.
  • Little did he know, That means there's something he doesn't know, which means there's something you don't know, did you know that?
  • Running into your insurance agent the day your policy expires is coincidence. Getting a letter from the Emperor saying he's visiting is plot. Having your house eaten by a wrecking ball ... is something else entirely

Ana Pascal

  • Get bent, taxman!
  • Apology accepted. But only because you stammered.


Harold: 'Harold thought it was Wednesday.' Did you hear it?
Lady at bus stop: Who's Harold?
Harold: I am.
Lady at bus stop: Don't vorry Harold, it's Wednesday.

Harold: What would you do if you knew you were going to die? Possibly soon...
Dave: Am I the richest man alive?
Harold: No, you're you.
Dave: Do I have superpowers?
Harold: What? No, you're you.
Dave: Well you said it was hypothetical.
Harold: All right, you're really good at math.
Dave: That's a skill, not a superpower.
Harold: Fine, you're really good at math and you're invisible. What would you do?
Dave: Easy. I'd go to space camp.
Harold: You're invisible and you'd go to space camp?
Dave: You picked invisible!

Penny Escher: I will gladly and quietly help you kill Harold Crick.
Karen Eiffel: And this coming from someone who's never thought about leaping off a building.

Penny Escher: Are you Ms. Eiffel?
Karen Eiffel: Yes.
Penny Escher: Excellent. May I ask what you're doing?
Karen Eiffel: Research.
Penny Escher: Oh. Am I interrupting?
Karen Eiffel: Yes!

Penny Escher: Sitting in the rain isn't going to write a book.
Karen Eiffel: That illustrates exactly how much you know about writing books.

Penny Escher: And I suppose you smoked all these cigarettes?
Karen Eiffel: No, they came pre-smoked.

Karen Eiffel: What's this?
Penny Escher: It's literature on the nicotine patch.
Karen Eiffel: I don't need a nicotine patch, Penny. I smoke cigarettes.

Ana Pascal: You were staring at my tits.
Harold Crick: No, I'm sure I wasn't. And if I was, it was as a representative of the United States Government.

  • Harold gives Ana bags of flour and confesses his love for her.
Harold Crick: Miss Pascal, I've been odd and I... I know that I've been odd. And... I want you.
Ana Pascal: What?
Harold Crick: There are so many reasons, so many influences in my life that are telling me, at times quite litterally, that I should have come here and bring you these. But... but I'm doing this because I want you.
Ana Pascal: You want me?
Harold Crick: In no uncertain terms.
Ana Pascal: Isn't there some very... clearer and established... rule about... fraternization?
Harold Crick: Auditor/ auditee protocol?
Ana Pascal: Yeah!
Harold Crick: Yeah, but I don't care.
Ana Pascal: Why?
Harold Crick: Because I want you.

Jules Hilbert: Married?
Harold Crick: No.
Jules Hilbert: Ever?
Harold Crick: Engaged to an auditor. She left me for an actuary.

Jules Hilbert: You were right. This narrator might very well kill you. So I humbly suggest that you just forget all this and go live your life.
Harold Crick: Go live my life? I am living my life. I'd like to continue to live my life.
Jules Hilbert: I know. Of course. I mean all of it. However long you have left. You know, I mean, Howard,you could use it to have an adventure. You know, invent something, or just finish reading Crime and Punishment. Hell, Harold, you could just eat nothing but pancakes if you wanted.
Harold Crick: What's wrong with you? Hey. I don't wanna eat nothing but pancakes. I wanna live. Who in their right mind in a choice between pancakes and living chooses pancakes?
Jules Hilbert: Harold, if you'd pause to think. I believe you'd realize that that answer's inextricably contingent upon the type of life being led and, of course,the quality of the pancakes.
Harold Crick: You don't understand. What I'm saying.
Jules Hilbert: Yes, I do.
Harold Crick: But you have to understand that this isn't a philosophy or a literary theory or a story to me. It's my life.
Jules Hilbert:Absolutely. So just go make it the one you've always wanted.


  • Harold Crick isn't ready to go. Period.
  • Harold Crick thought his life had no point. That's about to change.
  • Harold Crick isn't ready to go. Full Stop.
  • Harold Crick always wondered what life was all about. Then it hit him.
  • The story of his life!
  • Truth is stranger than fiction.
  • Harold Crick's not crazy, he's just written that way.
  • Harold Crick verdient ein Happy End. Punkt.


External links



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