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Film: The Insider

The Insider is a 1999 film from Touchstone Pictures starring Russell Crowe, Al Pacino and Christopher Plummer. It tells the true story of Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe), a senior researcher at Brown & Williamson tobacco company. After Wigand is fired from B&W he goes to 60 Minutes and producer Lowell Bergman (Pacino) to spill the secrets he knows about the tobacco industry. Wigand's and Bergman's attempts to reveal the truth about Big Tobacco lead to resistance from B&W—and, surprisingly, from their own network.

Nominated for seven Oscars but didn't win any.


This film contains examples of:

  • Based on a True Story: Broadly accurate. Some have suggested Wigand exaggerated his persecution at the hands of Brown & Williamson. The scene with a creepy guy stalking Wigand at a golf range is definitely fictional. Mike Wallace, as noted above, felt that the film lionized Bergman unfairly at his expense. Don Hewitt was also unhappy with his portrayal, but joked that if they'd had Paul Newman playing him, "I would've forgiven them anything." The real Bergman however claimed that the portrayal of Wallace was largely true to how he acted in real life.
  • But Now I Must Go: Bergman quits at the end, believing that what went wrong at CBS can't be fixed.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Brown & Williamson CEO Thomas Sandefur, played by Michael Gambon.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Bergman is this occasionally.
  • Driven to Suicide: It's not stated, but it's heavily implied that Wigand's thoughts are turning to this towards the end as his life crashes around him.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: Crowe gained weight and shaved his head for a wig.
  • Executive Meddling: In-universe. One of the main themes of the movie.
  • Fake American: Australian Russell Crowe, Canadian Christopher Plummer, and Brit Michael Gambon (as B&W boss Thomas Sandefur).
  • Heroic BSOD: Wigand has a pretty memorable one when the abridged 60 Minutes program airs.
    • Bergman has one of his own when he finds out Wallace is siding with the bosses about not airing the story.
  • Heel-Face Turn: When Wigand and Bergman are both getting Screwed by the Network, Mike Wallace is shown trying to take the high road and side with CBS. But then CBS starts manipulating Wallace's statements in ways he doesn't like...
  • Hollywood Nerd: Wigand.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Wigand.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Bergman.
  • Irony: A particularly cruel example; the hotel room Wigand is forced to live in as his life collapses all around him is located directly opposite the offices of the legal department of Brown and Williamson — the very people whose machinations forced him into that hotel room in the first place.
    Wigand: You manipulated me into where I am now, staring at the Brown and Williamson building! It's all dark except for the tenth floor. That's the legal department — that's where they fuck with my life!
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The CBS higher-ups, when confronted with the mere shadow of a possibility of a lawsuit from B&W, choose to kill the story, and only relent when it becomes impossible for B&W to bring a tort case against them.
  • Off the Record
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Gambon, playing Wigand's boss, struggles.
    • His accent only slipped during the delivery of one line: "It's spooky how he can concentrate!" He sounds English on "spooky" especially, but otherwise sounds like he's from Georgia, where his character is supposed to be from.
  • Playing Against Type: Russell Crowe, who is best known for playing heroic, violent badasses, as a timid and uncharismatic scientist.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Brown & Williamson's official excuse for firing Wigand.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Fuck it. Let's go to court."
    • Bergman uses one to get Wigand on the phone during Wigand's Heroic BSOD:
    Bergman: (to hotel manager) I want you to tell him, in this - in these words: "Get on the fucking phone!"
    Hotel manager: I can't say that.
    Bergman: No, you can. Tell him to get on the fucking phone!
    Hotel manager: He told me to tell you to "Get on the...fucking phone!"
    (Wigand grabs the phone)
  • 60 Minutes
  • The Stool Pigeon: Of the "Whistleblower Wilson" type.
    • Particularly notable, as this is one of the last sensationalist cases of a whistleblower before the Whistleblower Protection act in the US, which prevented retaliation from the company that's being called out. When Wiegand points out that B&W is fucking with his life, they are legally entitled to do sonote .
  • Strawman News Media: Type 1
  • With or Without You: "We're doing this with or without you, Lowell."


Idle HandsFilms of the 1990sInspector Gadget
The Green MileAcademy AwardThe Sixth Sense

alternative title(s): The Insider
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