AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Misery
Director: Rob Reiner (Dir)
Release Date:   30 Nov 1990
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles opening: 30 Nov 1990; New York opening: week of 30 Nov 1990
Production Date:   began 20 Feb 1990 in Genoa, NV, and Los Angeles, CA
Duration (in mins):   104
Print this page
Display Movie Summary


Cast:   James Caan (Paul Sheldon)  
    Kathy Bates (Annie Wilkes)  
    Frances Sternhagen (Virginia)  
  and Richard Farnsworth (Buster) as
  Special appearance by Lauren Bacall (Marcia Sindell)  
    Graham Jarvis (Libby)  
    Jerry Potter (Pete)  
    Tom Brunelle (Anchorman)  
    June Christopher (Anchorwoman)  
    Julie Payne (Reporter #1 )  
    Archie Hahn, III (Reporter #2)  
    Gregory Snegoff (Reporter #3)  
    Wendy Bowers (Waitress)  
    Misery the Pig (Herself)  
    J. T. Walsh (Sherman Douglas, Colorado police chief)  

Summary: At the Silver Creek Lodge in Colorado, novelist Paul Sheldon celebrates the completion of his latest book with a glass of Dom Perignon champagne and a cigarette. Afterward, he packs up the manuscript and checks out of his cabin. As he drives away, a snowstorm hits, and Paul loses control of his car on a windy, mountain road. The car crashes, landing upside down on the snow-covered hillside. Months earlier, in New York City, Paul complains to his agent, Marcia Sindell, that he has become a romance novelist and wants to get back to serious writing. Marcia reminds him that his romance novels, featuring the character “Misery,” have made him rich and laments that he has killed her off in the latest installment, Misery’s Child. However, Paul is finally working on a novel that will make him proud and intends to finish it in Silver Creek. Back in the present, Paul is discovered by a local named Annie Wilkes, who pries him out of his wrecked car, takes him home, and makes him her patient, administering an intravenous drip feed and pain pills. When he first awakens, Annie introduces herself as Paul’s “number one fan” and assures him that she is a nurse. Later, when Paul asks why he is not in a hospital, she says the roads are closed and phone lines are down due to the blizzard. In another moment of wakefulness, Paul asks Annie if he will be able to walk again, and she pulls the sheets back to reveal his swollen, heavily bruised legs in makeshift splints. She confirms that he has many broken bones but will be able to walk once he receives an operation. She also reports that she re-located his dislocated shoulder. Marcia Sindell begins to worry about Paul, who has not been seen or heard from in days. She contacts Buster, the Silver Creek police chief, who agrees to investigate. Meanwhile, Annie continues to take care of Paul, who says it is a miracle she found him. She corrects his assumption, admitting that she used to sit outside his cabin and daydream about what he was writing, and when he left on the day of the blizzard, she was right behind him. Annie asks to read the manuscript she salvaged from Paul’s car, and he permits her in a show of gratitude. That night, Annie reveals that she read the first forty pages and detests it. Losing her temper, she yells at Paul for using bad language, and Paul becomes frightened. Later, when Misery’s Child is released, Annie excitedly retrieves her copy from the general store and reads it quickly, reporting on her progress and comparing the book’s brilliance to the Sistine Chapel. She introduces Paul to her sow named “Misery,” and later confesses that his books helped her through the heartbreak of her husband leaving. In the middle of the night, Annie rouses Paul and berates him for killing off the character Misery in Misery’s Child. She threatens him with a stool, then smashes it into the wall, warning that no one will ever come for him. Later, Paul drags himself out of bed but discovers that the door to his room is locked. After finding him on the floor the next morning, Annie rolls a charcoal grill into his room and forces Paul to light his manuscript on fire, aware that he only keeps one copy of his works in progress. Just then, Buster flies overhead in a helicopter, casually pointing out the Wilkes farm and instructing the pilot to turn around. Later, Annie presents Paul with a wheelchair and sets up a writing table by his window. She announces that he is going to resurrect her beloved Misery in a new novel, titled Misery’s Return. Paul pretends to be pleased but asks for a different kind of paper for the typewriter. Annie goes into town, and Paul uses a bobby pin she dropped on the floor to unlock the door to his room. Finding the front door locked and the phone disconnected, he wheels himself through the living room, noticing his signed portrait alongside Annie’s collection of Misery books. In the kitchen, he spots a knife block on the counter but hears Annie’s car approaching and hurries back to his room. Later, Buster discovers Paul’s car, and Sherman Douglas, the Colorado police chief, tells reporters that Paul is presumed dead. However, Buster notices pry marks on the driver’s side door and determines that Paul was rescued. Annie criticizes Paul’s early attempts at the new Misery book, but when he writes something that pleases her, he suggests they celebrate with a candlelit dinner. Having stashed numerous pain pills, he uses them to drug Annie’s wine, but she knocks over the glass before taking a sip. As time goes on, Paul continues to write, his legs heal, and he regains strength by lifting the typewriter in secret. On a rainy night, Annie delivers Paul’s pills in a stupor and says she has fallen in love with him but knows it is unrequited. She produces a shotgun from her robe and says she needs to load it. When she drives into town, Paul sneaks out of his room and steals a knife from the kitchen. On his way back, he finds Annie’s scrapbook with newspaper clippings about various mysterious deaths, including her husband’s, and Annie’s incarceration for a number of infant deaths at a hospital where she worked as a nurse. Back in his room, he practices pulling the knife from his sling, then hides it under the mattress. Hours later, Paul awakens to find Annie injecting him, and he loses consciousness. Waking up again, he finds himself strapped to the bed. Annie wields the knife and says she knows he saw her scrapbook. To discourage him from leaving his room again, she places a block between his legs and uses a hammer to break his ankles. Sometime later, Buster becomes suspicious of Annie when he sees her losing her temper in town, and reads about her conviction at the library. He goes to her farm, where Annie hides Paul in the basement just in time to greet Buster at the door. As the police chief searches the house, Annie explains that she is Paul’s biggest fan and has been writing another Misery novel to keep his legacy alive. Buster starts to leave, but hears Paul cry out from the basement. Just as he opens the basement door and recognizes Paul at the bottom of the stairs, Annie shoots the police chief from behind. She tells Paul it is now time for both of them to die, but Paul convinces her that he needs to finish the last Misery book. Promising to complete it before dawn, he sneaks a container of lighter fluid in his pants and returns to his room. Hours later, he begins typing the final page and Annie anticipates the three things he always uses to celebrate the end of a book: a cigarette, a match, and a bottle of Dom Perignon. She delivers the items, and Paul instructs her to get a glass for herself. He then throws the manuscript onto the floor and douses it with lighter fluid, using the match to ignite the book as Annie returns. Devastated, she throws herself onto the ground, and Paul bashes her over the head with the typewriter. In the ensuing struggle, Annie shoots him in the shoulder and he trips her, causing her head to hit the typewriter. Believing she is dead, Paul crawls out of the room but Annie attacks once more, and he uses a doorstop to deliver the fatal blow to her skull. Eighteen months later, Paul celebrates the critical success of his latest book, The Higher Education of J. Philip Stone, with Marcia at a restaurant. He claims his experience with Annie helped him as a writer, but when Marcia suggests he write a non-fiction account of his abduction, Paul balks at the idea. Explaining he has not yet recovered, he hallucinates Annie as their waitress, while the actual waitress introduces herself as Paul’s “number one fan.” 

Production Company: Castle Rock Entertainment  
  Nelson Entertainment  
Production Text: A Rob Reiner Film
Distribution Company: Columbia Pictures (A Sony Pictures Entertainment Company)
Director: Rob Reiner (Dir)
  Barry Sonnenfeld (2d unit dir)
  Steve Nicolaides (Prod mgr)
  Dennis Maguire (1st asst dir)
  Drew Rosenberg (2d asst dir)
  Artist Robinson (2d 2d asst dir)
Producer: Andrew Scheinman (Prod)
  Rob Reiner (Prod)
  Jeffrey Stott (Co-prod)
  Steve Nicolaides (Co-prod)
Writer: William Goldman (Scr)
Photography: Barry Sonnenfeld (Dir of photog)
  Gary Kibbe (2d unit photog)
  Michele Singer (Spec photog)
  M. Todd Henry (Cam op)
  Chris Squires (Addl cam op)
  Brian Armstrong (Asst cam)
  Thomas Miligan (Asst cam)
  Howard Rose (Addl asst cam)
  Mark R. Streapy (Addl asst cam)
  Kevin Kelley (Chief lighting tech)
  Walter Nichols (Asst chief lighting tech)
  Dennis Gamiello (Key grip)
  Merrick Morton (Still photog)
  Dwayne Redlin (Best boy grip)
  John Lowry (Grip)
  Steele Hunter (Grip)
  Daryl Smith (Lamp op)
  Mike Van Woert (Lamp op)
  Don Yamasaki (Lamp op)
  Chapman (Cranes and dollies by)
  Panavision® (Photog equip by)
Art Direction: Norman Garwood (Prod des)
  Mark Mansbridge (Art dir)
  Andrew Precht (Asst art dir)
  Jody Levine (Art dept coord)
  Rob Rupple (Book cover illustrator)
Film Editor: Robert Leighton (Film ed)
  Steve Nevius (Assoc film ed)
  Alan Edward Bell (1st asst ed)
  Mary Morrisey (Asst ed)
  Lois Trent-Bring (Negative cutter)
Set Decoration: Garrett Lewis (Set dec)
  Gerald Moss (Prop master)
  Ken Peterson (Asst prop master)
  Marvin Salsberg (Const coord)
  John Hoskins (Const foreman)
  C. Jonas Kirk (Const foreman)
  Stan Tropp (Set des)
  Mark Woods (Leadman)
  Carl Cassara (Swing gang)
  Gary Isbell (Swing gang)
  Ruth Pulido (Standby painter)
  Curt Powley (Standby painter)
Costumes: Gloria Gresham (Cost des)
  G. Tony Scarano (Cost)
  Oda Groeschel (Cost)
Music: Marc Shaiman (Mus)
  Scott Stambler (Mus ed)
  Mo Morrisey (Asst mus ed)
  Armin Steiner (Mus scoring mixer)
  Terry Brown (Scoring crew)
  Chuck Garsha (Scoring crew)
  John Bruno (Scoring crew)
  Sandy DeCrescent (Mus contractor)
  Joann Kane Music Service (Mus preparation)
  Dennis Dreith (Cond & orch by)
  Hummie Mann (Addl orch by)
  Bruce Fowler (Addl orch by)
  20th Century Fox Film Studios (Mus rec at)
Sound: Robert Eber (Sd mixer)
  George Baetz (Boom op)
  Roger Stevenson (Cable man)
  Kevin O'Connell (Re-rec mixer)
  Gregg W. Landaker (Re-rec mixer)
  Rick Kline (Re-rec mixer)
  Mark "Frito" Long (Rec)
  James Quinn (Machine op)
  Chris Minkler (Machine op)
  Charles L. Campbell (Supv sd ed)
  Donald J. Malouf (Supv sd ed)
  Larry Singer (ADR supv)
  Rod Rogers (ADR asst)
  Leigh French (ADR group coord)
  Louis L. Edemann (Sd ed)
  Richard C. Franklin (Sd ed)
  Nils C. Jensen (Sd ed)
  Chuck Neely (Sd ed)
  Gary Mundheim (Sd ed)
  Peter C. Barbour (Asst sd ed)
  Ellen Decker Franklin (Apprentice sd ed)
  Robin Harlan (Foley artist)
  Kevin Bartnof (Foley artist)
  James Ashwill (Foley mixer)
  Mary Jo Lang (Foley rec)
  Skywalker Sound South (Re-rec facilities)
  Taj Soundworks (Foley by)
  THX Sound System Theatre (Rec in a )
Special Effects: K.N.B. EFX Group (Spec makeup eff by)
  Robert Kurtzman (Spec makeup eff by)
  Greg Nicotero (Spec makeup eff by)
  Howard Berger (Spec makeup eff by)
  Rick LaLonde (Spec makeup eff by)
  Bruce S. Fuller (Spec makeup eff by)
  Phil Cory (Spec eff supv)
  Hans Metz (Spec eff)
  Ray Svedin (Spec eff)
  Pacific Title (Titles & opticals)
Make Up: John Elliott (Makeup artist)
  Margaret Elliott (Makeup artist)
  Judith Cory (Hairstylist)
Production Misc: Jane Jenkins (Casting)
  Janet Hirshenson (Casting)
  Michael Hirshenson (Casting assoc)
  Jacqueline King (Casting asst)
  Sally Lear Casting (Extras casting)
  Sally Perle Casting (Extras casting, L.A.)
  Kerry Lyn McKissick (Scr supv)
  Iddo Lampton Enochs, Jr. (Loc mgr)
  Tim Roslan (Transportation coord)
  Linda Allan-Folsom (Prod coord)
  K. Lenna Kunkel (Prod accountant)
  Alison Harstedt (Asst accountant)
  Leslie Cornyn (Post prod accountant)
  Barbara Turman (Payroll clerk)
  Christy Dimmig (Post prod coord)
  Nancy Seltzer & Associates (Pub)
  Madeline Kline (Animal trainer)
  Jim Deeth (Helicopter pilot)
  Kirk Holland (Transportation capt)
  Katherine T. Wilson (Prod secy)
  Suzanne Lutz (Prod secy)
  Wolfgang Bodison (Asst to Rob Reiner)
  Pam Jones (Asst to Rob Reiner)
  David Keane (Asst to James Caan)
  Joseph G. Popelka (Prod asst)
  Jim Maguire (Prod asst)
  Michelle Selleck (Prod asst)
  Karen Murphy (Prod asst)
  Lou Anne Harrison (Prod asst)
  Norris Coit (Prod asst)
  John Christensen (Prod asst)
  Robin Warren (Prod asst)
  Gwen Clancy (Prod asst)
  Rich Scarpone (Craft service)
  Pam Cruise (First aid)
  James Brown (Prod driver)
  Russ Buckens (Prod driver)
  Gary Cruise (Prod driver)
  Brick Graham (Prod driver)
  Bob Hunter (Prod driver)
  Ken Lubin (Prod driver)
  Dennis McLaughlin (Prod driver)
  Ed Powell (Prod driver)
  Tom Roberts (Prod driver)
  Tim Sheehan (Prod driver)
  Wally Walters (Caterer)
  Variety Cinema Catering (Caterer)
  Cynthia's Distinctive Catering (Caterer)
  Credit Lyonnais Bank, Nederland N.V. (Banking services provided by)
Stand In: David Ellis (Stunt coord)
  R.A. Rondell (Stunts)
  Sammy Thurman (Stunts)
  Sandy Berumen (Stunts)
  Steve Hart (Stunts)
  James Dean (Stand-in)
  Alystar McKenneh (Stand-in)
Color Personnel: Art Tostado (Col timer)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: "Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1," performed by Liberace, courtesy of CBS Records, Music Licensing Deptartment, arranged by Liberace, published by AVI Music Publishing Group; "Moonlight Sonata," performed by Liberace, courtesy of CBS Records, Music Licensing Department, arranged by Liberace, published by AVI Music Publishing Group.
Songs: "Shotgun," performed by Junior Walker & The Allstars, courtesy of Motown Record Company, L.P., written by Autry DeWalt, published by Stone Agate Music (a division of Jobete Music Co., Inc.); "I'll Be Seeing You," performed by Liberace, courtesy of CBS Records, Music Licensing Department, written by Irving Kahal and Sammy Fain, published by Williamson Music Company and Bienstock Publishing Company on behalf of Redwood Music Limited; "Love Connection," written by Larry Grossman, published by Fiddleback Music Co., Inc., New Start Music and Eric Lieber Music, Inc.; additional Liberace dialogue courtesy of AVI Record Productions, Inc.
Composer: Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky
  Ludwig von Beethoven
  Autry DeWalt
  Sammy Fain
  Larry Grossman
  Irving Kahal
Source Text: Based on the novel Misery by Stephen King (New York, 1987).
Authors: Stephen King

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Castle Rock Entertainment 14/12/1990 dd/mm/yyyy PA504753

PCA NO: 30773
Physical Properties: Sd: Dolby Stereo® in selected theatres
  col: Color by CFI, Hollywood, California
  Lenses/Prints: Prints by CFI, Hollywood, California

 
Genre: Horror
Sub-Genre: Suspense
 
Subjects (Major): Abduction
  Convalescence
  Multiple murderers
  Novelists
  Nurses
  Specific type of fans
  Torture
 
Subjects (Minor): Automobile accidents
  Blizzards
  Escapes
  Farms
  Firearms
  Literary agents
  Malpractice (Medical)
  Murder
  Pigs
  Police chiefs
  Search and rescue operations
  Waitresses
  Winter
  Wounds and injuries

Note: End credits include the following statements: “Clip from ‘Love Connection’ provided by Eric Lieber Productions, Inc.”; “Clip from ‘Family Feud’ provided by Mark Goodson Productions”; “Filmed at Hollywood Center Studios, Hollywood, California, and on locations in Northern California and Nevada”; “Producers wish to thank: The Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, The City of Genoa, Nevada, James Calder and David Morgan”; and, “Read the Signet Paperback.”
       According to a 1-8 May 1991 Time Out article, Stephen King based the novel Misery partly on an encounter with Mark David Chapman, who, sometime before murdering John Lennon of The Beatles, introduced himself to King as his “number one fan” and asked him to sign an autograph with a special pen. A 29 Apr 1990 LAT article stated that King initially refused to sell the rights to Misery, a highly personal novel, after previous film adaptations of his work had proven disappointing. The author changed his mind, however, when Rob Reiner expressed interest, as Reiner had directed Stand by Me (1986, see entry), King’s favorite adaptation of his own work to that time.
       Misery was announced as a Castle Rock Entertainment production in a 29 Mar 1989 Var article, which noted that the sixteen-month-old company was forty-percent owned by Columbia Pictures. Reiner, a partner in Castle Rock, was set to produce and direct Misery with a budget of $14 million. The 29 Apr 1990 LAT later cited production costs as $18-20 million.
       Several actors were considered for the role of “Paul Sheldon,” which was initially offered to Michael Douglas, according to a 27 Oct 1989 LAHExam news item. Douglas turned down the role, as did Robert Redford. In a 2 Aug 1989 DV item, Harrison Ford was mentioned as a contender, before Warren Beatty entered “serious conversations” to play the lead, as announced in the 30 Nov 1989 DV. Beatty contributed ideas for the character during rewrites, according to the 29 Apr 1990 LAT, but did not commit to the project. On 22 Dec 1989, DV announced James Caan’s casting.
       Although the 2 Aug 1989 DV noted that Bette Midler was considered to play “Annie Wilkes,” the 1-8 May 1991 Time Out stated that screenwriter William Goldman wrote the part with stage actress Kathy Bates in mind. Goldman credited Castle Rock’s autonomy as the reason Bates was eventually cast, because the company operated independently from Columbia and did not have to satisfy the studio’s desire for bankable stars.
       A start date of 5 Feb 1990 was announced in a 24 Dec 1989 LAT brief. However, filming did not begin until 20 Feb 1990, according to 27 Mar 1990 HR production charts. The town of Genoa, NV, stood in for Silver Creek, CO, as stated in a 9 Mar 1990 HR brief, which described Genoa as “Nevada’s oldest town” with a population of around 400. The crew erected four fully functioning buildings on Genoa’s main boulevard, including a café, radiator shop, sheriff’s station, and general store. Temporary additions to the town included a gas station façade and pay telephone outside an existing sporting goods store. Exteriors of Annie Wilkes’s farm were built in NV, and the house was reconstructed in Los Angeles, CA, where interiors were shot at Hollywood Center Studios. A 17 Jun 1990 NYT article reported that filmmakers were midway through the seventy-five-day shooting schedule, with a Dec 1990 release planned.
       The film grossed $10.1 million on 1,244 screens in its opening weekend, as stated in a 5 Dec 1990 HR “Hollywood Report” column, earning an impressive $8,100 per screen. The release was quickly expanded, with Columbia adding several hundred play-dates.
       Kathy Bates won the Academy Award for Actress in a Leading Role and the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. Her character, “Annie Wilkes,” was ranked seventeenth villain on AFI’s 2003 list 100 Years…100 Villains.
 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   2 Aug 1989.   
Daily Variety   30 Nov 1989.   
Daily Variety   22 Dec 1989.   
Daily Variety   26 Nov 1990   p. 2, 15.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Mar 1990.   
Hollywood Reporter   27 Mar 1990.   
Hollywood Reporter   26 Nov 1990   p. 5, 14.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Dec 1990.   
LAHExam   27 Oct 1989.   
Los Angeles Times   24 Dec 1989.   
Los Angeles Times   29 Apr 1990   Calendar, p. 8, 25-26.
Los Angeles Times   30 Nov 1990   p. 1.
New York Times   17 Jun 1990.   
New York Times   30 Nov 1990   p. 1.
Time Out (London)   1-8 May 1991   pp. 18-19.
Variety   29 Mar 1989.   
Variety   26 Nov 1990   p. 10, 14.

Display Movie Summary
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.