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Ironweed Details


Based on the William Kennedy novel of the same name Ironweed is set in the waning years of the Depression. Jack Nicholson plays Francis Phelan, a washed-up ballplayer (a onetime infielder for the Washington Senators) who deserted his family back in the 1910s when he accidentally killed his infant son by dropping him. Since that time, Phelan has been a shabby barfly, living from drink to drink; he spends his days palling around with Rudy (Tom Waits), with whom he works a motley series of jobs in exchange for a place to lay his head and an occasional jug of wine. Wandering into his hometown of Albany, New York, Phelan blearily seeks out his girlfriend and erstwhile drinking companion of nine years, Helen Archer (Meryl Streep), who has begun prostituting herself for drink and lodging. The two derelicts touch base in a mission managed by minister James Gammon, and later in Fred Gwynne's squalid gin mill. Over the next few days, Phelan takes a few minor jobs to support his habit, while his mind wavers between past and present. Eventually, a chance for a reconciliation with his wife (Carroll Baker) emerges. Directed by Hector Babenco following his enormous success with Hector Babenco , Ironweed netted Oscar nominations for Nicholson and Streep. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

  • Release date:December 18, 1987


Awarded by
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Jack Nicholson Best Actor 1986 Winner
New York Film Critics Circle Jack Nicholson Best Actor 1987 Winner
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Jack Nicholson Best Actor 1987 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Meryl Streep Best Actress 1987 Nominee


Jack Nicholson
as Francis Phelan
Meryl Streep
as Helen Archer
Carroll Baker
as Annie Phelan
Michael O'Keefe
as Billy Phelan
Diane Venora
as Peg Phelan
Fred Gwynne
as Oscar Reo, Singing Bartender
Margaret Whitton
as Katrina
Tom Waits
as Rudy
Jake Dengel
as Pee Wee
Nathan Lane
as Harold Allen
James Gammon
as Rev. Chester
Nebraska Brace
as Andy
Jeff Morris
as Michigan Mac
Matt McGrath
as Goblin
George Rafferty
as Raider
Richard Hamilton
as Donovan
Bethel Leslie
as Librarian
James Dukas
as Finny
James Yoham
as Bald Man
Paul A. DiCocco, Jr.
as Bus Driver
Hy Anzell
as Rosskam, Junk Dealer
Jared Swartout
as Guard Captain
Terry O'Reilly
as Aldo Campione
Michael O'Gorman
as Strike Leader
Laura Esterman
as Nora
Louis St. Louis
as Piano Man
Frank Whaley
as Young Francis
Lena Spencer
as Slatternly Woman
Louise Phillips
as Flower Girl
Jordan Valdina
as Youth at Strike
Pat Devane
as Nurse
Pamela Payton-Wright
as Mother
Boris McGiver
as Clerk
Joe Grifasi
as Jack
Will Zahrn
as Rowdy Dick
William Duell
as Moose
Marjorie Slocum
as Elderly Woman
Robert Manion
as Raider
Black-Eyed Susan
as Clara
Ted Levine
as Pocono Pete
Martin Patterson
as Foxy Phil Tooker
Lola Pashalinski
as Fat Woman with Turkey
Cori Irwin
as Young Girl


Hector Babenco
Joseph H. Kanter
Rob Cohen
Marcia Nasatir
Keith Barish
Tom Benedek
Lauro Escorel
Benny Davis
Hoagy Carmichael
Featured Music
James Thornton
Tom Waits
Gus Edwards
Featured Music
Anne Goursaud
Jeannine Oppewall
Production Designer
Robert Guerra
Production Designer
Robert Guerra
Art Director
Gene Kirkwood
C.O. Erickson
Joseph H. Kanter
Executive Producer
Denis Blouin
Executive Producer
Rob Cohen
Executive Producer
Elaine O'Donnell
Set Designer
Leslie Pope
Set Designer
Joseph G. Aulisi
Costume Designer
Elliot Tyson
Sound/Sound Designer
Steve Kirshoff
Special Effects
Bonnie Timmermann