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Finding Forrester

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Title: Finding Forrester  
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Subject: The Bronx, Sean Connery, Badlands (film), Busta Rhymes, Ornette Coleman, 2000 in film, F. Murray Abraham, Phillips Academy, Gus Van Sant, Anna Paquin
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Finding Forrester

Finding Forrester
File:Finding forrester.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Produced by Sean Connery
Laurence Mark
Written by Mike Rich
Starring Sean Connery
Rob Brown
F. Murray Abraham
Anna Paquin
Cinematography Harris Savides
Editing by Valdís Óskarsdóttir
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s)Template:Plainlist
Running time 136 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget Unknown
Box office $80,701,064[1]

Finding Forrester is a 2000 American drama film written by Mike Rich and directed by Gus Van Sant. A black American teenager, Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown), is invited to attend a prestigious private high school. By chance, Jamal befriends a reclusive writer, William Forrester (Sean Connery), through whom he refines his natural talent for writing and comes to terms with his identity.

Anna Paquin, F. Murray Abraham, Michael Pitt, April Grace, Naturi Naughton and Busta Rhymes star in supporting roles. Connery also served as one of the film's producers. The premise of Forrester being an author who gains world fame from a hugely popular book but then stops publishing to retreat into a reclusive life has strong similarities to J. D. Salinger's career.


Sixteen-year-old Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown) sleeps in his bedroom in New York City, surrounded by stacks of books, and then jumps up to go meet his friends on the basketball court. A recluse birdwatcher (Sean Connery) lives on the top floor of the building across from the basketball courts where Jamal and his friends play. They regularly notice him watching them from his window, although they never see his face, referring to him simply as "The Window". One day after school, one of the boys dares Jamal to sneak into the apartment and retrieve an item. Jamal accepts the challenge and sneaks in through the window. He steals a knife-like letter opener only to be surprised by the recluse and flees, inadvertently leaving his backpack behind. Later, Jamal confronts a man outside the apartment delivering supplies and displays his gifted intellect discussing the history of the BMW Corporation, in reference to the man's car. After the man leaves, Jamal's backpack is dropped to the street in a ghostly manner. Jamal returns home to find that the recluse has read his journals and made editorial notes in them, crossing out line after line and making other marks in red ink. Jamal returns to the apartment and requests that the man read more of his writing, only to be told to begin with 5,000 words on why he should "stay the fuck out of my home", which Jamal completes and leaves on the doorstep the following day.

Jamal returns the next day, and is invited inside. While initially taunting Jamal with veiled racial threats, the man displays an intimate knowledge of Jamal gained from peering out the window, knowing (after questioning Jamal) that Jamal had been visited by someone, who turned out to be a representative from Mailor-Callow, a prestigious private school that offered Jamal a full academic scholarship. The man knows the school wants Jamal, first and foremost, for his skill on the basketball court. Jamal learns that the recluse is in fact William Forrester, the author of a famous book, Avalon Landing. Forrester agrees to help Jamal with his writing as long as Jamal does not ask prying questions about his personal life. Jamal agrees and grows closer to Forrester causing his in-class writing work to become far better than what his literary professor, Robert Crawford (F. Murray Abraham), feels a 16-year-old black basketball-player from the Bronx could possibly accomplish. Calling his work "too good", Crawford suspects that Jamal is plagiarizing his work.

Eventually, Jamal convinces Forrester (who never leaves his apartment) to attend a game at Madison Square Garden, but Forrester cannot handle the crowds and has a severe anxiety attack. Jamal takes him instead to see Yankee Stadium late at night after everyone has gone. He and Forrester go out on the field to the pitcher's mound, where he tells Jamal intimate details about his family, which explains the basis of his book, specifically his brother's post-war trauma, alcoholism and Forrester's indirect role (in refusing to drive home one night) that led to his death. He also explains how the subsequent deaths of his parents soon after affected him and led to his becoming a recluse.

As part of Jamal's tutelage, to aid him in "finding his own words", Forrester gives him some of his own private essays to rewrite, with the condition that Jamal is not to take anything they write out of the apartment. When a prestigious writing contest requires some of Jamal's best work, still suspected of plagiarism, he is forced to begin the piece in Crawford's office, and later falls back on a particular piece of Forrester's that he re-wrote and submits as his own, not realizing it was one of Forrester's few published works. Crawford finds the parallels with Forrester's piece published in 1960 and brings Jamal up on plagiarism charges.

Because the title and first paragraph are identical, Jamal must either cite Forrester's work or prove he had Forrester's permission to use his material. He refuses to do either to keep his promise to Forrester, thus eliminating his entry from the competition and endangering his standing at the school. Crawford demands, as restitution, that Jamal write an apology letter to his classmates, and read it in front of the class. Jamal tells Forrester what he has done and asks him to defend him, but Forrester is angry at Jamal for breaking his promise and refuses. Jamal then accuses Forrester of being scared and selfish for not helping him.

Jamal is then offered a bribe. He is told by the school that they value his contributions in basketball, and agree to drop the plagiarism charges if he wins them the state championship. Jamal comes to realize that his intellectual gifts have less to do with remaining at the school than his ability on the basketball court and deliberately misses two free throw shots at the end of the game, costing the team the championship. Immediately following the game, Jamal proceeds to the library and writes an essay to Forrester which discusses how the gift of friendship obliges one who has no blood family, to find his/her family. Later that night, Jamal's essay is found by his brother Terrell (Busta Rhymes), who personally delivers it to Forrester and laments that Jamal's bright future is about to be taken away.

Despite discouragement, Jamal attends the literary contest, signaling his intent to continue at the school. During the readings, Forrester appears, announces himself and receives permission to read an essay that draws overwhelming applause from the students. As Crawford is praising the work, Forrester acknowledges his friendship with Jamal and reveals that the essay he had just read was written by Jamal. He goes on to explain that Jamal had written the contest essay using the published title and first paragraph with permission and that Jamal's silence was due to honoring the promise he had made to him. Crawford adamantly states that this will not change any of the board's decisions. The board overrules him and drops the plagiarism charges, readmitting Jamal's entry to the competition. After the competition, Forrester thanks Jamal for his friendship and tells him of his desire to visit his homeland of Scotland. Before departing, Forrester asks Jamal if he missed the two free throws at the end of the game on purpose, to which Jamal responds, "that's not exactly a 'soup' question is it?", repeating to Forrester the response that Jamal received to personal questions he had asked of him.

One year later, Jamal is in his senior year and is a successful student with many enrollment offers from many prestigious universities. Forrester's attorney (Matt Damon in a cameo role) schedules a meeting with Jamal, and reveals that Forrester has died of cancer. Jamal learns that Forrester was terminally ill while they knew each other. In accordance with Forrester's will, Jamal is given a package, the keys to Forrester's apartment, and a letter in which Forrester thanks Jamal for helping him rekindle his desire to live. The package contains the manuscript for Forrester's second and final novel, called Sunset, for which Jamal is expected to write the foreword.


New York poet Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle provided several notebooks' worth of intense handwriting to portray Forrester's work in the film. Principal photography was shot entirely in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn (many Mailor Academy scenes were filmed at Regis High School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan), with some scenery and pick-up shots made in suburban Toronto, Ontario during post-production. Parts of the film were also shot in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.[2]


Box office

The film received limited release on December 22, 2000 in 200 theaters, grossing USD $701,207 in the opening weekend. It later received commercial release where it opened at #1 in 2001 theaters, grossing $11,112,139 in the opening weekend.[3] It went on to gross $51,804,714 in the United States and Canada and $28,245,050 elsewhere for a worldwide total of $80,049,764.[1]

Critical response

Upon its initial release, Finding Forrester received mostly positive reviews. It garnered two thumbs up from Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper, with Roeper considering it one of the 10 best films of the year. In late 2009, Roeper included the film at number 64 on his list of the 100 best movies of the decade.[4]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes give the film a score of 73% based on review from 124 critics, with an average score of 6.5/10.[5] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 62 based on 27 reviews.[6]


One of the tracks that appears in the film and is not on the soundtrack is the one played during Forrester's bike ride. The song is the "Gassenhauer" track from Schulwerk by Carl Orff. It was arranged and produced by Bill Brown.[7]

Track listing[8]
  1. "Recollections" (Billy Cobham, Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, John McLaughlin, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul)
  2. "Little Church" (Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Jack DeJohnette, Steve Grossman, Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland, Keith Jarrett, John McLaughlin)
  3. "Black Satin" (David Creamer, Miles Davis, Jack DeJohnette, Herbie Hancock, James Mtume, Badal Roy, Collin Walcott)
  4. "Under a Golden Sky" (Bill Frisell)
  5. "Happy House" (Ed Blackwell, Bobby Bradford, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Charlie Haden, Billy Higgins, Dewey Redman)
  6. "Over the Rainbow (Photo Book)" (Bill Frisell)
  7. "Lonely Fire" [Excerpt] (Chick Corea, Miles Davis, Dave Holland, Bennie Maupin, John McLaughlin, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul)
  8. "Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" (Israel Kamakawiwo'ole)
  9. "Vonetta" (Ron Carter, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams)
  10. "Coffaro's Theme" (Curtis Fowlkes, Bill Frisell, Eyvind Kang, Ron Miles)
  11. "Foreigner in a Free Land" (Ornette Coleman, The London Symphony Orchestra, David Measham)
  12. "Beautiful E." (Joey Baron, Kermit Driscoll, Bill Frisell, Hank Roberts)
  13. "In a Silent Way [DJ Cam Remix]" (Miles Davis)


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Template:Allmovie title
  • Box Office Mojo
  • Rotten Tomatoes
  • Metacritic
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