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Heaven's Gate Details

FULL SYNOPSIS

A notorious artistic and financial failure, Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate was blamed for critically wounding the movie Western and definitively ushering out the 1970s Hollywood New Wave of young, brash, independent filmmakers. Taking a revisionist, post-Vietnam view of American imperialism, Cimino used the historical Johnson County War incident in Wyoming to create an impressionistic tapestry of Western conflict between poor immigrant settlers and rich cattle barons led by Canton (Sam Waterston) and his hired gun Nate Champion (Christopher Walken). Attempting to mediate is idealistic Harvard graduate and county marshal Averill (Kris Kristofferson), who is both Nate's friend and his romantic rival for the affections of Ella Watson (Isabelle Huppert). However, war erupts, at great cost to all involved. Flush from his success with the Oscar-winning Isabelle Huppert (1978), Cimino demanded creative control, and his insistence on shooting on location and building historically accurate sets and props multiplied the film's original budget to a then-astronomical $36 million. When United Artists premiered the original 219-minute version (sight unseen), they discovered that Cimino had produced an elliptical epic, compounding the box-office difficulties of making a Western without any major stars. Critics howled about Cimino's incomprehensible self-indulgence, and United Artists pulled the film after several days. Re-released five months later, 70 minutes shorter, Heaven's Gate bombed again, and MGM bought out the financially crippled United Artists. The ailing Western genre virtually vanished during the 1980s, Cimino's career never recovered, and Hollywood studios had had enough of bankrolling financially risky ventures by "auteur" directors. Heaven's Gate's reputation recovered somewhat after its video release, as it garnered praise from some viewers for such visually remarkable sequences as the Harvard dance and the final battle, as well as for David Mansfield's haunting score. Steven Bach's book Final Cut provides a full production history. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

  • Release date:April 23, 1981

Awards

Awarded by
Nominee
Category
Year
Status
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Tambi Larsen Best Art Direction 1981 Nominee

Cast

Kris Kristofferson
as Marshal James Averill
Christopher Walken
as Nathan D. Champion
Isabelle Huppert
as Ella Watson
Sam Waterston
as Frank Canton
Brad Dourif
as Mr. Eggleston
John Hurt
as Billy Irvine
Jeff Bridges
as John H. Bridges
Joseph Cotten
as The Reverend Doctor
Rosie Vela
as Beautiful Girl
Geoffrey Lewis
as Trapper
Jack Blessing
Norton Buffalo
Willem Dafoe
Waldemar Kalinowski
as Photographer
Mady Kaplan
Caroline Kava
Allen Keller
Anna Levine
Kevin McClarnon
Elizabeth McGovern
Gordana Rashovich
Mickey Rourke
Jerry Sullivan
Gabriel Walsh
Nicholas Woodeson
as Small Man
Mary Catherine Wright
as Nell
Kai Wulff
Marat Yusim
Jarleth Conroy
Robin Bartlett
as Mrs. Lezak
Paul Koslo
as Mayor
Richard Masur
as Cully
Tom Noonan
as Jake
Terry O'Quinn
as Capt. Minardi
Judi Trott
T-Bone Burnett
as Member of the Heaven's Gate Band
Stephen Bruton
as Member of the Heaven's Gate Band
T-Bone Burnett
as Member of the Heaven's Gate Band
Waldemar Kalinowski
as Photographer
Terry O'Quinn
as Capt. Minardi
Tom Noonan
as Jake
Nicholas Woodeson
as Small Man
Richard Masur
as Cully
Mary Catherine Wright
as Nell
Paul Koslo
as Mayor
Robin Bartlett
as Mrs. Lezak

Crew

Michael Cimino
Director
Charles Okun
Producer
Joann Carelli
Producer
Michael Cimino
Screenwriter
Vilmos Zsigmond
Cinematographer
David Mansfield
Composer (Music Score)
Jerry Greenberg
Editor
Tom Rolf
Editor
Lisa Fruchtman
Editor
Maurice Fowler
Art Director
Tambi Larsen
Art Director
Michael Grillo
First Assistant Director
Eleanor Fazan
Choreography
Winston Ryder
Sound Editor
Peter Handford
Sound Recordist
June Samson
Script Supervisor
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