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The Insider
Director, producer and co-writer: Michael Mann.
Jeffrey Wigand: Russell Crowe
Lowell Bergman: Al Pacino
Mike Wallace: Christopher Plummer
Liane Wigand: Diane Venora
Helen Caparelli: Gina Gershon
Get it on DVD from Amazon.com,
Amazon.de, Amazon.co.uk

Article added in October 2000
The Insider
by Michael Mann is based on a true story, but events have been fictionalized for dramatic effect. The film is about the former tobacco industry executive Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) who, pushed by the 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) decides, to stand up against the multinational tobacco corporations and tell the truth about the addiction nicotine creates.
 
Al Pacino has twice won a Tony, once a Golden Globe and also an Oscar. In The Insider,  he is again up to his job. But the star is Russell Crowe. He plays a manager with scientific insight who is in a lot of regards an "average" man, corpulent and much older than real life Russell Crowe. The actor surprises by the way he moves, by his gestures and by his looks. In this film, he is light years away of his gladiator image. As in L.A. Confidential and in Romper Stomper, his performance is stunning. He knows how to give credibility to totally different characters.
 
Al Pacino says about the real life Wigand that he was seeking some sort of justice. He is no hero, but an educated and focused man. As his former superiors in the tobacco industry try to stop him, they just do the wrong thing. He is not a man who likes to be pushed around. Michael Mann says about Wigand that you do not intimidate him, that is just the wrong thing to do.


Lowell Bergman is, although with a completely different background, a similar character in the sense that the clash with his superiors at CBS, who do not want to air his revealing interview with Wigand, does not stop him either. On the contrary. Al Pacino says about real life Bergman that the incidents with his superiors made him reflect on his life, question himself and his career. He is no hero either, but a stubborn man like Wigand who wants some sort of justice to be done.
 
The Insider is no buddy movie, Wigand and Bergman are too different. If they had met in other circumstances, they may well not have liked each other. It is the common goal, to reveal the tobacco scandal, that creates a "spiritual" bond between them. Wigand becomes the key whistle blower, the first man of a Fortune 500 Company to stand up in the biggest health issue of American history. It needed a man with his inside knowledge to stand up and, as the real life Mississippi general attorney said about the case, it needed government to take up the case in order the get a result. An individual alone, even of the caliber of Wigand, would not have gone far.
 
In the film, Russell Crowe is a caring husband and father, who helps his daughter who suffers from asthma attacks. He boss, Thomas Sandefur, had just fired him. His wife is, like Jeffrey Wigand, worried about the medical insurance, the mortgage, the future of the family in general.

At the same time, Lowell Bergman, just back from an interview with a Hezbollah leader, is investigating in another tobacco case and just wants Wigand's advice. He immediately realizes that Wigand has some deep knowledge about another, more important scandal, but is bound back by a confidentiality agreement he had signed with with his former company. The former head of research and development for Brown & Williamson was a corporate vice president when he was fired.
 
Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer), Bergman's superior, says that the company cannot hide behind a confidentiality agreement because "it's like airplane passenger safety". The matter is one of public interest and health. Others at 60 Minutes object that the tobacco industry has not lost a single lawsuit until that day although more than 100,000 people die every year from using their products. But they decide to go after the story.
 
Meanwhile, Wigand has to find a new job as a Japanese and chemistry high school teacher. Now, he only makes $30,000 a year. He has to sell his house. He starts getting harassed by his former company who wants the confidentiality agreement to be strengthened. But Wigand does not like to be pushed around. At the same time, he wants to protect his family. Bergman calls the Mississippi general attorney in order to arrange a deal. If Wigand can testify before court, it would become part of the public record, give him legal protection and free him from the confidentiality agreement.
 
Wigand finds a bullet in his letterbox. People seem to sneak around the house. His wife cracks under the pressure and although Bergman organizes three men for the family's protection, she moves out with the children and gets a divorce. But Wigand stands firm and stays by his initial statement that his boss, Landefur, and with him many others in similar positions, perjured themselves, when they testified in court that nicotine is not addictive. Tobacco is a delivery device for nicotine. "You light it up and get your fix." Wigand also tells why he was forced to leave his company. They used coumarin in cigarettes. As Wigand told them the substance causes cancer, they ignored his advice because without coumarin, they said, sales would drop and therefore they deliberately ignored health issues.
 
In the end, CBS was not ready to air the interview with Wigand because Brown and Williamson threatened them with a lawsuit that could jeopardize the sale of CBS to Westinghouse. A legal adviser of CBS, played by Gina Gershon went as far as to say that, at the end of the day, CBS could belong the the tobacco company if the interview was aired. The rhetorical question Bergman asked his superior: Are you a businessman or a newsman?
 
The tobacco industry filed a 500 page dossier against Wigand, distorting and blowing things up. Bergman: They want to destroy your credibility. The 60 Minutes man gets the New York Times to print an editorial about CBS not airing the interview. As the Wall Street Journal is about to publish an article based on the infamous dossier, he makes them check the facts and they discover that it is a smear campaign.
 
As a result of Wigand's testimony, the tobacco industry settled the lawsuit filed by the Mississippi and 49 other States for $246 billion. Lowell Bergman is today a correspondent for the PBS Frontline series and teaches journalism at Berkeley. Wigand was named teacher of the year in Kentucky in 1996.

Get The Insider on DVD from
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