Primal Fear

April 3rd, 1996


Primal Fear

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Drew Barrymore at event of Primal FearDrew Barrymore at event of Primal FearKyle MacLachlan at event of Primal FearRichard Gere and Carey Lowell at event of Primal FearCourtney Love at event of Primal FearRichard Gere and Carey Lowell at event of Primal Fear

An altar boy is accused of murdering a priest, and the truth is buried several layers deep.

Release Year: 1996

Rating: 7.6/10 (57,751 voted)

Critic's Score: 47/100

Director: Gregory Hoblit

Stars: Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Edward Norton

Courtroom thriller about a slick, hotshot lawyer who takes the seemingly unwinnable case of a young altar boy accused of murdering an eminent catholic priest.

Writers: William Diehl, Steve Shagan

Richard Gere - Martin Vail
Laura Linney - Janet Venable
John Mahoney - Shaughnessy
Alfre Woodard - Shoat
Frances McDormand - Molly
Edward Norton - Aaron
Terry O'Quinn - Bud Yancy
Andre Braugher - Tommy Goodman
Steven Bauer - Joey Pinero
Joe Spano - Abel Stenner
Tony Plana - Martinez
Stanley Anderson - Archbishop Rushman
Maura Tierney - Naomi Chance
Jon Seda - Alex
Reg Rogers - Jack Connerman

Taglines: Sooner or later a man who wears two faces forgets which one is real.

Release Date: 3 April 1996

Filming Locations: Ballroom, Park Plaza Hotel - 607 S. Park View Street, Los Angeles, California, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $9,900,000 (USA)

Gross: $56,059,267 (USA) (18 August 1996)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Both Wil Wheaton and Leonardo DiCaprio turned down the part of Aaron Stempler. Wheaton turned down the role because he didn't want to put off his acting school and when his manager urged him to take the role anyway he told him "It is like Luke Skywalker when Yoda told him not to go and save his friends but to stay on Dagobah and learn to be a Jedi instead. Luke didn't listen to him and that's why he never became true Jedi master." Later Wil Wheaton regretted turning this role down, saying that this was a crucial factor why his career never got to be a successful one.

Continuity: While Vail, Tommy, and Naomi are discussing the porno tape, the blue screen of a computer monitor is reflected in Tommy's glasses. But in the reverse shot (showing Vail) the monitor is off.

[first lines]
Marty: On my first day of law school, my professor says two things. First was; "From this day forward, when your mother tells you she loves you - get a second opinion."
Jack Connerman: [chuckles] And?
Marty: "If you want justice, go to a whorehouse. If you wanna get fucked, go to court."

User Review

Meet Edward Norton


Outstanding thriller on par with "The Usual Suspects", "Primal Fear" is an impressive film about one lawyer's (Richard Gere) yearning for the spotlight. He gets his wish after an archbishop is brutally murdered in Chicago. It appears that choir boy Edward Norton (in his first film, Oscar-nominated) is the killer, but there is more to this case than meets the eye. In the end, Gere is going to learn that what he thinks he wants (fame and fortune) is not all that great because of what he has had to go through to get there. "Primal Fear" was one of the more interesting films of 1996, but was ignored by almost everyone. Richard Gere does some of his best work ever. Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Alfre Woodard, and Frances McDormand are all good in supporting roles. However, it is Edward Norton who proved to be the discovery of the 1990s. He keeps the audience on their toes and he adds depth and emotion to a film that would have looked much different if he had not been in it. 4.5 out of 5 stars.


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