The Emperor's Club

November 22nd, 2002


The Emperor's Club

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Mr. Hundert (KEVIN KLINE) inadvertently finds himself dodging the headmaster along with his students. Headmaster Woodbridge (EDWARD HERRMANN) and Mr. Hundert (KEVIN KLINE) disagree on how to handle a troubling situation. Kevin Kline and Rob Morrow at event of The Emperor's ClubSedgewick Bell (EMILE HIRSCH), the son of a powerful senator, ignores the traditions at St. Benedict's School. EMBETH DAVIDTZ, director MICHAEL HOFFMAN and KEVIN KLINE. Still of Kevin Kline and Emile Hirsch in The Emperor's Club

An idealistic prep school teacher attempts to redeem an incorrigable student.

Release Year: 2002

Rating: 6.8/10 (9,531 voted)

Critic's Score: 49/100

Director: Michael Hoffman

Stars: Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsch, Joel Gretsch

William Hundert is a passionate and principled Classics professor who finds his tightly-controlled world shaken and inexorably altered when a new student, Sedgewick Bell, walks into his classroom. What begins as a fierce battle of wills gives way to a close student-teacher relationship, but results in a life lesson for Hundert that will still haunt him a quarter of a century later.

Writers: Ethan Canin, Neil Tolkin

Kevin Kline - William Hundert
Emile Hirsch - Sedgewick Bell
Embeth Davidtz - Elizabeth
Rob Morrow - James Ellerby
Edward Herrmann - Headmaster Woodbridge
Harris Yulin - Senator Bell
Paul Dano - Martin Blythe
Rishi Mehta - Deepak Mehta
Jesse Eisenberg - Louis Masoudi
Gabriel Millman - Robert Brewster (as Gabe Millman)
Chris Morales - Eugene Field
Luca Bigini - Copeland Gray
Michael Coppola - Russell Hall
Sean Fredricks - Mr. Harris
Katherine O'Sullivan - The Nun

Taglines: In everyone's life there's that one person who makes all the difference.


Official Website: Official site - synopsis and picture gallery | Official site [France] |

Release Date: 22 November 2002

Filming Locations: Budd Lake, Mt. Olive, New Jersey, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $12,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $3,846,780 (USA) (24 November 2002) (809 Screens)

Gross: $14,060,950 (USA) (26 January 2003)

Technical Specs

Runtime: Argentina:  | Canada: (Toronto International Film Festival)  | USA:

Did You Know?

While on location at the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York, 'Kevin Kline (I)' stood in as an English teacher for several classes who were studying Shakespeare at the time. Students gave him rave reviews as an instructor.

Continuity: After Mr. Hundert is startled by the slamming of books in his classroom, some of the chalk marks on the board change several times between shots.

[first lines]
William Hundert: As I've gotten older, I realize I'm certain of only two things. Days that begin with rowing on a lake are better than days that do not. Second, a man's character is his fate.

User Review

A truly great idea in mediocre clothing

Rating: 8/10

I can see exactly why comparisons to Dead Poets' Society abound. Having attended boarding school and developed an irrational attachment to that film at the time, I have since discarded it like an overworn leisure suit, and tried to move on to more interesting fare. But honestly, this film made me think -- in all the ways that school should have, and the DPSociety didn't even try to.

Robin Williams has never starred in a thinking man's film, which is why, in the end, the comparison between the two movies doesn't hold up. To get The Emperor's Club, you have to actually grasp why someone might be inspired by history -- by a time when men could truly fail, or conquer, or establish a foothold in eternity. The fact that we know Socrates existed is astounding. It is luck. If James Carville goes down in history it will be an accident, if a likely one. The point of this film is that difference -- the difference between men whose character demands to be remembered, and men whose character demands to be forgotten. It is also the story of two systems of reward and recognition -- one that produced Plato and one that produced Jerry Springer. That is why we study history, as the movie says. To learn from and be inspired by the great leaders who came before us, and to overcome the moral mediocrity of the modern world.

But, as the film concludes, great men are no longer chosen to lead. The Emperor's Club, while cloaked in the guise of a charming elitist flick, is actually a tale of profound disappointment and disillusionment regarding human society. The few great men who are left exist in the shadows, while the ignorant grandstanders wield political power. We elect them; we are in their hands. And it is all because of a lack of awareness, a lack of knowledge, and a lack of history. People don't vote for principle -- they vote for rhetoric. And it shows.

I was not expecting too much from this movie, other than the always pleasurable experience of watching Kevin Kline. But, wrapped up in the sentimental moralizing, there was the story of a great man doing the only great thing left: trying to bring others out the darkness. His success or failure is as immaterial as the execution of Socrates -- it really is the thought that counts.


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