ⓘ The Thomas Crown Affair (1999 film)
The Thomas Crown Affair is a 1999 American heist film directed by John McTiernan and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was written by Leslie Dixon and Kurt Wimmer and is a remake of the 1968 film of the same name. Its story follows Thomas Crown, a multi-millionaire who steals a painting from an art gallery. This causes an attractive insurance investigator to pursue him for the crime and before long the two fall in love. It stars Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo and Denis Leary.
The film was produced by United Artists and Irish DreamTime and was released on August 6, 1999. It grossed $14.6 million during its opening weekend and $124.3 million worldwide, against a budget of $48 million. It received positive reviews and has a 78% approval rating based on 32 votes on Rotten Tomatoes.
Thieves infiltrate the Metropolitan Museum of Art inside an actual Trojan horse, preparing to steal an entire gallery of paintings, but are apprehended. In the confusion, billionaire Thomas Crown – the crimes secret mastermind – steals Monets painting of San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk. NYPD Detective Michael McCann heads the investigation into the theft of the $100 million artwork, with the unwelcome assistance of insurance investigator Catherine Banning.
Crown donates a Pissarro to fill the Monets space in the museum and falls under Bannings suspicion. She convinces McCann to begin surveillance of Crown, deducing that the wealthy playboy is motivated not by money but the sheer thrill of the crime. Banning accepts Crowns invitation to dinner. Before the date, Crowns therapist correctly guesses that he has found "a worthy adversary" in Banning.
At dinner, Banning has a copy of Crowns keys made; she and her team search his home and discover the Monet, which is revealed to be a taunting imitation, painted over a copy of Poker Sympathy from the Dogs Playing Poker series. Banning confronts Crown, and the two give in to their mutual attraction, spending a passionate night together.
Banning and Crown continue their cat-and-mouse game and their trysts, despite McCanns surveillance. Accompanying Crown on a trip to Martinique, Banning realizes he is preparing to run, and rejects his offer to join him when the time comes. McCann presents Banning with photographs of Crown with another woman, Anna, complicating her feelings toward the case and her prime suspect. Banning and McCann discover that the fake Monet is in fact an expert forgery that could only have been painted by someone with access to the original; they visit the likeliest forger in prison, to no avail, although his attitude suggests to them that he recognises the work.
Later, Banning finds Crown packing his belongings with Anna. He promises Banning his interest lies with her alone, stating that Anna works for him but he would be compromising her to define the nature of their association, and offers to return the Monet, giving her a time and place to meet him when hes finished. Tearfully, Banning leaves and informs McCann.
The following day, the police stake out the museum, waiting to arrest Crown. Banning learns that the fake Monet was painted by Anna; the imprisoned forger is her father, a partner of Crown, who became her guardian. Crown arrives but quickly blends into the crowd, aided by lookalikes in bowler hats la Magrittes The Son of Man. Evading police, Crown sets off the museums fire sprinklers. His donated Pissarro, hanging in the Monets place, is washed clean by the sprinklers to reveal the real Monet.
Crowns plan is made clear: upon stealing the Monet, Crown had Anna forge the Pissarro over it, and "returned" it to the museum. However, Crown has now vanished with another painting, but Bannings employer and McCann consider their case closed as this painting is not covered by Bannings employer. Banning races to meet Crown, but finds only the missing painting. Devastated, she sends the painting to McCann, and boards a plane back to London. Taking her seat, she finds Crown sitting behind her, and the two are passionately reunited.
- Frankie Faison as Detective Paretti, a police detective.
- Simon Jones as Accountant on phone uncredited
- Denis Leary as Detective Michael McCann, a police detective.
- Mark Margolis as Heinrich Knutzhorn
- Pierce Brosnan as Thomas Crown, a billionaire and Catherines lover.
- Rene Russo as Catherine Banning, an insurance investigator and Thomas lover.
- Faye Dunaway as Psychiatrist
- Fritz Weaver as John Reynolds
- Cynthia Darlow as Daria
- Michael Lombard as Bobby McKinley
- Esther Cañadas as Anna Tyrol Knutzhorn
- Ben Gazzara as Andrew Wallace
Dunaway played the Catherine Banning role in the 1968 original. However, the characters name was Vicki Anderson.
3. Differences from the 1968 film
The film makes several major changes from the original, most notably the amount of nudity and intimacy displayed during the romance between the two main characters. The original was rated PG; the remake, rated R.
The original story is about a millionaire masterminding a bank heist in Boston; the remake portrays a billionaire art thief in New York City. There was no painting stolen in the first film, with Crown and his men instead stealing $2.6 million in cash from a bank. The change in the remake was based on the idea that the more tumultuous society of the time would be less inclined to sympathize with a man who committed armed robbery out of boredom.
Steve McQueens version of Thomas Crown has no physical involvement in the actual robbery; he is a behind-the-scenes mastermind. Pierce Brosnans version steals the painting himself.
In the original, Crown pilots the glider himself, alone; in the remake he takes Banning for a ride.
The two movies end differently. In the original, the insurance investigator betrays Crown but he escapes, saddened that she did not join him. In the remake, after the betrayal and the realization that her jealousy of Anna Knutzhorn was unfounded, she unsuccessfully attempts to join him. Her sadness is short-lived as he surprises her by being on her plane headed to Europe.
At first, director John McTiernan was unavailable for the project. Pierce Brosnan and his fellow producers considered several directors before returning to their original choice. McTiernan then received the script and added his own ideas to the production.
4.1. Production Script amendments
After McTiernan signed on to the project, he changed the theme of the central heist and a number of key scenes. McTiernan felt that contemporary audiences would be less forgiving of Thomas Crown if he staged two armed bank robberies for fun like McQueen did in the original, rather than if he staged an unarmed art heist. He wrote the heist based on the Trojan horse theme and on a technical failure of thermal cameras. McTiernan also deemed a polo match that was used in the original and had been rewritten into the new script to be cliched, and he wanted a scene that conveyed more action and excitement, not just wealth. He substituted a catamaran race, in which Brosnan performed his own stunts.
4.2. Production References to 1968 film
There are a number of echo references to the original 1968 version of the film. The most obvious is the casting of Faye Dunaway as Crowns psychiatrist; Dunaway portrayed insurance investigator Vicki Anderson in the original. In the remake, "The Windmills of Your Mind" plays during the ballroom scene, as background music in a couple of other scenes, and during the credits at the end; the song earned an Oscar for the original film. Both films share a nearly identical scene with Crown playing high-stakes golf, and in both films Crown pilots a glider for recreation.
4.3. Production Filming
Filming took place in several parts of New York City, including Central Park. The corporate headquarters of Lucent Technologies stood in for Crowns suite of offices. Due to the impossibility of filming scenes in the Metropolitan Museum of Art the producers request was "respectfully declined", the production crew made their own museum on a soundstage. Artisans were hired to create a realistic look to the set. Another scene was filmed in a different city landmark: the main research library of the New York Public Library.
The glider scenes were shot at Ridge Soaring Gliderport and Eagle Field in Pennsylvania and at Corning-Painted Post Airport in New York. The two glider aero-tow shots were taken from film shot at different airports with different tow planes. The initial takeoff was photographed at the Harris Hill Soaring Center located at the National Soaring Museum in Elmira, NY. The glider pilot was Thomas L. Knauff, a world record holder, and a member of the US Soaring Hall of Fame. The glider used is a Schempp-Hirth Duo Discus, in which it is physically impossible to reach the front controls from the rear seat. Thus, the close-shot sections were shot in a modified cockpit under a blue screen in the studio.
A number of McTiernans vehicles then appear in the next sequence, as well as his farm. The tractor in the background after the glider lands belongs to McTiernan, while the dark green Shelby Mustang that Crown drives on Martinique was originally intended to be used for Arnold Schwarzeneggers character in 1993s Last Action Hero, and was retrieved from the directors garage for this film. The six-wheeled Jeep was built specifically for the film. The house used as Crowns Caribbean getaway is owned by one of the 30 original families who settled in Martinique in the 17th century. The scenes around it, like the beach, are a montage of various other parts of Martinique, including St Pierre and the Lamentin airport.
4.4. Production Paintings
The paintings, copies of which were supplied by "Troubetzkoy Paintings" in New York, appearing in the film are:
- San Giorgio Maggiore at Twilight by Claude Monet, owned by the National Museum and Art Gallery in Cardiff, Wales.
- Wheatstacks by Claude Monet, owned by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
- The Artists Garden at Eragny by Camille Pissarro.
- The Son of Man by Rene Magritte – The painting that is seen several times in the film depicting a man in a suit with a Bowler hat and an apple covering his face.
- Noon: Rest From Work After Millet by Vincent van Gogh – The painting Crown admires and calls "his haystacks," the original is owned by Musee dOrsay in Paris, France.
- A painting in the style of Cassius Coolidges series, Dogs Playing Poker is shown but it is not one of Coolidges works.
- Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil by Edouard Manet – The second painting to go missing, given to, and later returned by, Catherine. It is currently housed at the Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery in London.
The soundtrack was composed by Bill Conti and arranged by Jack Eskew. It features a variety of jazz arrangements which harken back to the original films version. In addition, the film ends with a reprise of the Academy Award-winning song "Windmills of Your Mind" sung by Sting. Throughout the film, segments are used of a song by Nina Simone called "Sinnerman" from the album Pastel Blues, 1965. Mostly the non-vocal parts are used hand-clapping and piano riffs, but in the final scenes, where Crown returns to the scene of the crime, Simone sings Oh sinnerman, where are you gonna run to?
5.1. Soundtrack Track listing
- "Sinnerman" – Nina Simone
- "Glider Pt. 2" – Bill Conti
- "Caban La Ka Kratchie" – Georges Fordant
- "Meet Ms. Banning" – Bill Conti
- "Never Change" – Bill Conti
- "Everything.Is Never Quite Enough" – Wasis Diop
- "Black & White X 5" – Bill Conti
- "Glider Pt. 1" – Bill Conti
- "Quick Exit" – Bill Conti
- "Windmills of Your Mind" – Sting
- "Goodnight/Breaking & Entering" – Bill Conti
- "Cocktails" – Bill Conti
Premiere and theatrical release
The Thomas Crown Affair premiered on 27 July 1999 and was theatrically released in the United States on 6 August 1999 by United Artists and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Home media release
The Thomas Crown Affair was released on DVD in the LaserDisc format on January 4, 2000 in the United States by MGM Home Entertainment. The DVD includes comments from director John McTiernan. When the film was broadcast on TBS, the Pepsi One logo on the can, from which Banning drinks, had to be deleted.
The Thomas Crown Affair grossed $69.305.181 at the United States box office and a further $55.000.000 in other territories, totaling $124.305.181 worldwide against a budget of $48 million.
The Thomas Crown Affair received generally positive reviews from critics. Based on 102 reviews collected by the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval rating from critics of 70% with an average score of 6.4/10. The sites consensus states: "Sleek, stylish, and painlessly diverting, The Thomas Crown Affair is a remake of uncommon charm."
Norman Jewison emphasized what? in the original thriller-like story. While in 1999, John McTiernan especially focused on the flashy editing, the pronounced romance and the pleasure in the many plot twists. In the film, the director makes amusing use of a few icons of Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte such as the man with the bowler hat with the face hidden behind a realistically painted apple. Perhaps meant as a metaphor "pour lhistoire bouleversante".
9. Possible sequel
A possible sequel has long been in development hell. In January 2007, it was reported that the sequel would be a loose remake of the 1964 film Topkapi. Pierce Brosnan said in January 2009 that Paul Verhoeven was attached to direct the film. In 2010, Verhoeven said that he had left the project due to script changes and a change in the regime. The initial script was written by John Rogers from a story by himself and Harley Peyton with additional material provided by Nick Meyer, Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek.
In the April 2014 edition of Empire, John McTiernan revealed that he had written a script for the sequel, while in prison, called Thomas Crown and the Missing Lioness.