"You're the future of the Democratic party. And you always will be."
- President Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges), telling Jack Hathaway (William Petersen) he won't be chosen as the new vice president
"I just can't respond to the accusations because it's not okay for them to be made."
- Laine Hanson (Joan Allen)
"What I say the American people will believe, and you know why' Because I'll have a very big microphone in front of me."
- Shelly Runyon (Gary Oldman) to Laine Hanson
New York Times - 10/13/2000
"....[Ms. Allen's performance] is an exquisitely subtle study of a strong, high-principled woman pushed to the breaking point....Mr. Oldman cloaks [his] character in an aura of deep sadness..."
USA Today - 10/13/2000
"...Compelling and provocative..."
Entertainment Weekly - 10/27/2000
"...Allen brings sexual juice to the role..."
Rolling Stone - 11/09/2000
"...[Lurie] pumps honest energy into it....Played with fiery verve by Joan Allen..."
Total Film - 05/01/2001
"...Lurie keeps the proceedings brisk and accessible....Allen is nothing less than persuasive...The supporting players are just as impressive..."
Los Angeles Times - 10/13/2000
"...Oldman does a remarkable job with the role....Allen, without doubt as fine an actress as is working today, makes the difficult role of a woman who cannot reveal her increasingly intense feeling in public look natural, seamless and completely convincing..."
Chicago Sun-Times - 10/13/2000
"...Joan Allen is at the center of THE CONTENDER in one of the strongest performances of the year....This is one of those rare movies where you leave the theater having been surprised and entertained..."
In THE CONTENDER, the sudden death of the vice president of the United States forces U.S. president Jackson Evans (Jeff Bridges) to pick a replacement. He decides against picking the popular governor of Virginia, Jack Hathaway (William Petersen), and instead makes the radical choice of Senator Laine Hanson (Joan Allen) to become the nation's first female veep. Governor Hathaway's political friends include Shelly Runyon (Gary Oldman), a powerful congressman who will oversee Hanson's confirmation. Runyon digs into Hanson's personal life and finds evidence that in college, Hanson participated in an alcohol-fueled orgy as part of a sorority initiation. When faced with this scandal, Hanson refuses to respond to the attacks, causing a political crisis leading to further shocking revelations.
Former film critic Rod Lurie's second film (after the thriller DETERRENCE) is a tense potboiler with issues ripped from modern headlines, including the nature of political ideals and the national curiosity with leaders' sex lives. Joan Allen gives another in a long line of stunning performances as the tough, idealistic Laine Hanson, who stands up for what she believes in no matter what the cost. THE CONTENDER also features strong supporting performances from Bridges and Oldman, as well as a realistic look at the high-pressure game of insider politics.
Theatrical release: October 13, 2000.
Filmed on location in Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Virginia; and Petersburg, Virginia.
Writer-director Rod Lurie wrote THE CONTENDER with Joan Allen specifically in mind for the character of Laine Hanson.
Gary Oldman, who stars as Shelly Runyon and also served as executive producer, is politically conservative; at the film's release he complained to the press that DreamWorks studio executives had forced the film to be reedited in order to more clearly paint Republicans as the bad guys. Director Rod Lurie denied that any such changes were made.
Jeff Bridges and Joan Allen previously worked together as a married couple with Christian Slater as their son in TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM.
For the scenes set in the House of Representatives, the filmmakers used the House of Delegates in Richmond, Virginia.
Two of the couches seen in the Oval Office sets were owned by President James Madison and currently belong to the governor of Virginia.
THE CONTENDER received the Alan J. Pakula Award from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, an award that goes to a film with sociopolitical merit.
Richard Roeper (EBERT & ROEPER AND THE MOVIES) named THE CONTENDER one of the 10 best films of 2000.
THE CONTENDER was nominated for the followong Golden Globe awards: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture--Drama (Joan Allen) and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supprting Role in a Motion Picture (Jeff Bridges).