ⓘ The Professor and the Madman, film. The Professor and the Madman is a 2019 biographical drama film, directed by Farhad Safinia, from a screenplay by Safinia, an ..


ⓘ The Professor and the Madman (film)

The Professor and the Madman is a 2019 biographical drama film, directed by Farhad Safinia, from a screenplay by Safinia, and Todd Komarnicki, based on the 1998 book The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester. It stars Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, Natalie Dormer, Eddie Marsan, Jennifer Ehle, Jeremy Irvine, David OHara, Ioan Gruffudd, Stephen Dillane, and Steve Coogan.


1. Plot

The film is about the professor, James Murray, who in 1879 began compiling the Oxford English Dictionary and led the overseeing committee, and W. C. Minor, a doctor who submitted over 10.000 entries while he was undergoing treatment at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum.


2. Cast

  • Laurence Fox as Philip Lyttelton Gell
  • Sean Penn as William Chester Minor
  • Brendan Patricks as Winston Churchill
  • Mel Gibson as James Murray
  • Lars Brygmann as Max Muller
  • Adam Fergus as Alfred Minor
  • Anthony Andrews as Benjamin Jowett
  • Jennifer Ehle as Ada Murray
  • Natalie Dormer as Eliza Merrett
  • Jeremy Irvine as Charles Hall
  • Stephen Dillane as Richard Brayne
  • Aidan McArdle as Defense Attorney Clarke
  • Steve Coogan as Frederick James Furnivall
  • David OHara as Church
  • Eddie Marsan as Muncie
  • Ioan Gruffudd as Henry Bradley

3. Production

Mel Gibson, who originally intended to direct, hired his Apocalypto co-screenwriter Farhad Safinia to replace him, while he remained in the role of James Murray. Sean Penn entered early talks to join the film as William Chester Minor in August 2016. In August, Natalie Dormer signed on for a role. In September, Ioan Gruffudd joined the cast.

Filming commenced in Dublin in September 2016.


4. Legal issues

In July 2017, Gibson and his production company Icon Productions sued the production company Voltage Pictures over their desire to control certain aspects of the production. Among other things, it was alleged that Voltage Pictures refused to schedule a "critical” five days of filming in Oxford and that the director was denied final cut privileges.

On June 19, 2018, Judge Ruth Kwan of the Los Angeles County Superior Court denied Gibsons motion for summary adjudication. The multiple lawsuits were the subject of a confidential settlement in April 2019. Gibson and Safinia issued statements distancing themselves from the project and calling the version released by Voltage "a bitter disappointment". They did not participate in the promotion of the film. Safinia was not recognized for directing or co-writing the film, being credited instead under a pseudonym, "P. B. Shemran".


5. Release

Theatrical release in markets outside the U.S. began in March and April 2019. In January 2019, Vertical Entertainment acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film. The U.S. release date was May 10, 2019, with simultaneous limited theatrical release and video on demand. Vertical Entertainment did not report number of screens or the domestic gross.

Home media

The film was released in the United States through Vertical Entertainment on digital download on May 10, 2019 and DVD on August 13, 2019 by Lionsgate Films. It was released through the movie rental company Redbox on Blu-ray Disc. It was widely released on DVD in the United States on the same date.


6. Critical reception

On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie received mixed reviews and gained an approval rating of only 41%, based on 17 reviews, but there is no consensus between the rather harsh reviews of the professional movie critics and the relatively more favourable viewer scores. Robert W. Butler, writing for the Butlers Cinema Scene, notes that "Penn is extraordinary in his depiction of insanity interrupted by spells of rational thought that lead only to crushing guilt. The films underlying theme is the search for redemption, and Penn fearlessly plumbs those depths.". Tara McNamara, writing for Common Sense Media, mentioned that "Despite the fact that both the star/producer and the director have disavowed it, this isnt a bad film; its beautifully shot and sensationally acted, and it tells a fascinating real-life story.". By contrast, Nick Allen of RogerEbert.com gave the film only 1½ stars, calling it "the latest fiasco in bad movie history. the presence of Gibson and his co-star Sean Penn give the project a stuffy sanctimoniousness." Likewise, Jay Weissberg, reviewing for Variety, was more critical and stated: "For those that have been anticipating this curious, much-delayed oddity, the good news is that Gibson is fine; its everything else that doesnt work."