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Ulee's Gold

Promotional poster for Ulee's Gold
Directed by Victor Nuñez
Produced by Jonathan Demme (presenter), Stewart Lippe (line producer), Sam Gowan and Peter Saraf (co-producers)
Written by Victor Nuñez
Starring Peter Fonda
Patricia Richardson
Tom Wood
Christine Dunford
Jessica Biel
Music by Charles Engstrom
Cinematography Virgil Mirano
Editing by Victor Nuñez
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release date(s) June 13, 1997
Running time 113 min.
Language English
Budget $2.7 million (IMDb estimate)

Ulee's Gold is a 1997 film written and directed by Victor Nuñez, and starring Peter Fonda in the title role. Co-stars include Patricia Richardson, Christine Dunford, Tom Wood, Jessica Biel, J. Kenneth Campbell, Steven Flynn, Dewey Weber, and Vanessa Zima. It is "not quite an independent film" released by Orion Pictures, with Jonathan Demme receiving presenter credits for his role in the film's financing."[1].

The film was the "Centerpiece Premier" at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival[2]. Fonda's performance was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor and a Screen Actors Guild Award. During a 1997 interview held in Melbourne[3], Fonda commented on the character he portrayed:

Ulee is the best character I've ever read. It's the kind of role you pay money to do — a complex character full of possibilities and the script was full of moments that were very deep, very pure and very simple. I also found a lot of Ulee in my father. He kept a couple of hives and I can see him hop-footing it across the lawn, thinking he had a bee up his pant leg. As I began to develop Ulee, I used a lot of the way my father was to us as kids, the way he was to us as a family and the way he was to himself.

The film's title refers most concretely to the honey Ulee produces as a beekeeper, particularly that made from the nectar of the tupelo tree. Nuñez used the Lanier family, a third-generation beekeeping family in Wewahitchka, Florida[4] as "bee consultants" for the film; the Lanier family swamp lands and bee yards served as filming locations, with some members of the family even appearing as extras in the film[2].

Van Morrison sings "Tupelo Honey" (the title song of a 1971 album) over the end credits.



Fonda plays Ulee (short for Ulysses) Jackson, a Vietnam Vet, widower and grandfather. He is a beekeeper by profession, who raises two granddaughters (played by Biel and Zima) because his son (played by Wood) is in prison and his daughter-in-law Helen (played by Dunford) has run away to a drug user's existence. The son implores him to look for his wife and bring her home. Upon returning home with Helen, Ulee's granddaughters see their mother going through a severe detox, and plead with their neighbor Connie (played by Richardson) to help her. Connie is a twice-divorced nurse who assists Ulee in detoxifying his daughter-in-law. The film shows Ulee holding the family together and attempting to protect them from two young criminals, associates of his son, who come looking for a hidden stash of cash.


Ulee's Gold was well received by critics. It currently holds a rating of 77 on Metacritic.


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