About Schmidt

About Schmidt is a 2002 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Alexander Payne, produced by Michael Besman, Harry Gittes and Rachael Horovitz, co-written by Jim Taylor with music by Rolfe Kent and starring Jack Nicholson in the title role. The film also stars Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney and Kathy Bates. It is very loosely based on the 1996 novel of the same title by Louis Begley. About Schmidt was theatrically released on December 13, 2002 by New Line Cinema. The film was both a commercial and a critical success and it earned $105,834,556 on a $30 million budget. About Schmidt was released on DVD and VHS formats. It was released on Blu-ray for the first time on February 3, 2015.

About Schmidt
About Schmidt poster
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlexander Payne
Produced byMichael Besman
Harry Gittes
Screenplay by
Based onAbout Schmidt
by Louis Begley
Music byRolfe Kent
CinematographyJames Glennon
Edited byKevin Tent
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
Running time
124 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million
Box office$105.8 million


Warren Schmidt is retiring from his position as an actuary with Woodmen of the World, a life insurance company in Omaha, Nebraska. After a retirement dinner, Schmidt finds it hard to adjust to his new life, feeling useless. He sees a television advertisement about a foster program for African children, Plan USA, and decides to sponsor a child. He soon receives an information package with a photo of his foster child, a small Tanzanian boy named Ndugu Umbo, to whom he relates his life in a series of candid, rambling letters.

Schmidt visits his young successor to offer his help, but the offer is politely declined. As he leaves the building, Schmidt sees the contents and files of his office, the sum of his entire career, set out for garbage collectors.

He describes to Ndugu his longtime alienation from Helen, his wife, who suddenly dies from a blood clot in her brain just after their purchase of a Winnebago Adventurer motor home. Jeannie, his only daughter, and her fiancé Randall Hertzel arrive from Denver. They console him at the funeral, but Jeannie later berates him for taking his wife for granted, such as by refusing to fully pay for the Winnebago (he wanted the cheaper Minnie Winnie) and burying her in a cheap casket. He asks her to move back to take care of him, but she refuses. Meanwhile, Randall tries to entice him into a pyramid scheme.

Schmidt feels his daughter could do better than Randall, a waterbed salesman. After the couple leaves, Schmidt is overcome by loneliness. He stops showering, sleeps in front of the television, and goes shopping with a coat over pajamas to load up on frozen foods. In his wife's closet he discovers some hidden love letters disclosing her long-ago affair with Ray, a mutual friend, whom Schmidt angrily confronts.

He decides to take a journey alone in his new Winnebago to visit his daughter and convince her not to marry Randall. He tells Jeannie he is leaving early for the wedding, but she makes it clear she does not want him there until right before the ceremony. Schmidt decides to visit places from his past, including his college campus and fraternity at University of Kansas and his hometown in Nebraska. His childhood home has been replaced by a tire shop. While at a trailer campground, he is invited to dinner by a friendly and sympathetic couple. When the man leaves to buy some beer, Schmidt makes a pass at the wife, and flees in terror when she adamantly rejects his advance.

Sitting on the roof of his RV on a starry night, Schmidt forgives his departed wife for her affair and apologizes to her for his own failings as a husband. At that moment, he is amazed to see a bright meteor streak across the sky as a possible sign from Helen that she forgives him.

Feeling full of purpose and energetic renewal, Schmidt arrives in Denver, where he stays at the home of Roberta, Randall's mother. He is appalled by Randall's eccentric, socially odd family and tries unsuccessfully to dissuade Jeannie from the marriage. Schmidt throws out his back after sleeping on Randall's waterbed, infuriating Jeannie. Roberta assures Schmidt that a soak in her hot tub will help his back, but he flees after a nude Roberta makes a pass at him in the tub. The next day, Schmidt, under the influence of Percodan to soothe his back pain, attends the wedding and delivers a kind speech at the reception, hiding his disapproval.

On his way home from Denver, Schmidt composes a letter to Ndugu. Schmidt questions what he has accomplished in life, lamenting that he will soon be dead, that his life has made no difference to anyone, and that eventually it will be as if he has never existed at all.

A pile of mail is waiting for him at home. Schmidt opens a letter from Tanzania. It is from a nun, who writes that Ndugu is six years old and unable to read and reply to Schmidt's letters on his own, but appreciates them and Schmidt's financial support very much. A crayon drawing by Ndugu is enclosed, showing two smiling stick figures, one large and one small, holding hands on a sunny day. Schmidt is moved to tears as the film ends.



Filming took place for two months in several Nebraska cities, including Omaha, Nebraska City, Minden, Kearney, and Lincoln. Omaha was chosen, because it was where Alexander Payne grew up. Filming concluded in May 2001.[1]


Box office

In the United States, the film grossed $8,533,162 on its opening weekend. Its total U.S. box office gross stands at $65,010,106, while total worldwide gross totals $105,834,556.[2]

Critical response

About Schmidt drew praise from a number of critics, who singled out the performances of Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates. Film website Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 85% based on 201 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "In this funny, touching character study, Nicholson gives one of the best performances of his career."[3] On Metacritic, which assigns a rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 85 out of 100, based on 40 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[4] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[5]

Roger Ebert wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times that About Schmidt "is essentially a portrait of a man without qualities, baffled by the emotions and needs of others. That Jack Nicholson makes this man so watchable is a tribute not only to his craft, but to his legend: Jack is so unlike Schmidt that his performance generates a certain awe. Another actor might have made the character too tragic or passive or empty, but Nicholson somehow finds within Schmidt a slowly developing hunger, a desire to start living now that the time is almost gone."[6] Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "It's a commanding Jack Nicholson lead performance that puts it into a sublime league of its own." Paul Clinton of CNN.com wrote: "About Schmidt is undoubtedly one of the finest films of the year. If you're not deeply touched by this movie, check your pulse."[7]


At the 75th Academy Awards, both Nicholson and Bates were nominated for their performances as Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role. The film found more success at the 60th Golden Globe Awards, winning the awards for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama. Upon accepting his award, Nicholson stated, "I'm a little surprised. I thought we made a comedy."

It was also part of the Official Competition Selection at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.[8]

Home media

About Schmidt was released on DVD and VHS formats. It was released on Blu-ray for the first time on February 3, 2015.

See also


  1. ^ "About Schmidt - Omaha Movie". NET Nebraska. May 25, 2001. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  2. ^ "About Schmidt (2002) – Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
  3. ^ "About Schmidt (2002)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
  4. ^ "About Schmidt Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
  5. ^ "About Schmidt – CinemaScore". CinemaScore. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (20 December 2002). "About Schmidt". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 4 November 2011.
  7. ^ "Review: 'About Schmidt' a triumph" Archived February 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, By Paul Clinton CNN, Friday, December 13, 2002. Retrieved Nov 12, 2012.
  8. ^ "Festival de Cannes: About Schmidt". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-10-24.

External links

2002 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

The 28th Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, given by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) on 15 December 2002, honored the best in film for 2002.

2002 New York Film Critics Circle Awards

The 68th New York Film Critics Circle Awards, honoring the best in film for 2002, were announced on 16 December 2002 and presented on 12 January 2003 by the New York Film Critics Circle.

60th Golden Globe Awards

The 60th Golden Globe Awards, honoring the best in film and television for 2002, were held on January 19, 2003 in the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, California. The nominations were announced on December 19, 2002.

8th Critics' Choice Awards

The 8th Critics' Choice Awards were presented on January 17, 2003, honoring the finest achievements of 2002 filmmaking.

Alexander Payne

Constantine Alexander Payne (; born February 10, 1961) is an American film director, screenwriter, and producer, known for the films Election (1999), About Schmidt (2002), Sideways (2004), The Descendants (2011), Nebraska (2013), and Downsizing (2017). His films are noted for their dark humor and satirical depictions of contemporary American society. Payne is a two-time winner of the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and a three-time nominee of the Academy Award for Best Director.

Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards 2002

The 8th Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards, honoring the best in film for 2002, were given on January 6, 2003. The organization, founded in 1990, includes 59 film critics for print, radio, television, and internet publications based in north Texas.

Dermot Mulroney

Dermot Mulroney (born October 31, 1963) is an American actor, musician, and voice actor. He is best known for his roles in romantic comedy, western, and drama films. Appearing on screen since the mid 1980s, he is known for his work in films such as Young Guns (1988), Staying Together (1989), Where the Day Takes You (1992), Point of No Return (1993), Angels in the Outfield (1994), My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), About Schmidt (2002), The Wedding Date (2005), August: Osage County (2013), Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), and the HBO films The Last Outlaw (1993) and Long Gone (1987). Mulroney played the main antagonist Francis Gibson in NBC's Crisis, Dr. Walter Wallace in Pure Genius, and Sean Pierce in Showtime's Shameless.

Hope Davis

Hope Davis (born March 23, 1964) is an American actress. She has starred in films such as About Schmidt (2002) and American Splendor (2003). For her role in the original Broadway production of God of Carnage in 2009, she received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Play. She has also received two Emmy Award nominations, for her 2009 television roles in the series In Treatment and in the film The Special Relationship. In 2016, she appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Captain America: Civil War as Tony Stark's mother Maria Stark.

Jack Nicholson

John Joseph Nicholson (born April 22, 1937) is an American actor and filmmaker who has performed for over sixty years. He is known for playing a wide range of starring or supporting roles, including satirical comedy, romance, and dark portrayals of anti-heroes and villainous characters. In many of his films, he has played the "eternal outsider, the sardonic drifter", someone who rebels against the social structure.His most known and celebrated films include the road drama Easy Rider (1969); the dramas Five Easy Pieces (1970) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975); the comedy-dramas The Last Detail (1973), Terms of Endearment (1983), As Good as It Gets (1997), About Schmidt (2002), and The Bucket List (2007); the neo-noir mystery Chinatown (1974); the horror film The Shining (1980); the biopic Reds (1981); the fantasy comedy The Witches of Eastwick (1987); the superhero film Batman (1989) as the Joker; the legal drama A Few Good Men (1992); the romantic horror film Wolf (1994); the science fiction comedy Mars Attacks! (1996); the comedy Anger Management (2003); the romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give (2003); and the crime drama The Departed (2006). Nicholson has not acted in a film since How Do You Know in 2010, but does not consider himself to be retired. He has also directed three films, including The Two Jakes (1990), the sequel to Chinatown.

Nicholson's 12 Academy Award nominations make him the most nominated male actor in the Academy's history. Nicholson has won the Academy Award for Best Actor twice – one for the drama One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), and the other for the romantic comedy As Good as It Gets (1997). He also won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the comedy-drama Terms of Endearment (1983). Nicholson is one of three male actors to win three Academy Awards. Nicholson is one of only two actors to be nominated for an Academy Award for acting in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s; the other is Michael Caine. He has won six Golden Globe Awards, and received the Kennedy Center Honor in 2001. In 1994, at 57, he became one of the youngest actors to be awarded the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award.

He has had a number of high-profile relationships, most notably with Anjelica Huston and Rebecca Broussard, and was married to Sandra Knight from 1962 until their divorce in 1968. Nicholson has five children – one with Knight, two with Broussard (including Lorraine Nicholson), and one each with Susan Anspach and Winnie Hollman.

Jim Taylor (writer)

Jim Taylor (born 1963) is an American producer and screenwriter who has often collaborated on projects with Alexander Payne. The two are business partners in the Santa Monica based Ad Hominem Enterprises, and are credited as co-writers of six films released between 1996 and 2007: Citizen Ruth (1996),

Election (1999),

Jurassic Park III (2001, with Peter Buchman),

About Schmidt (2002),

Sideways (2004), and

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007, with Barry Fanaro and Lew Gallo). His credits as a producer include films such as Cedar Rapids and The Descendants.

Kathy Bates

Kathleen Doyle Bates (born June 28, 1948) is an American actress and director. Bates began her career on the stage, and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Play in 1983 for her performance in 'night, Mother. For her portrayal of Annie Wilkes in the 1990 film Misery, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. She followed this with roles in Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Dolores Claiborne (1995), and Titanic (1997). She received her second and third Academy Award nominations for Primary Colors (1998) and About Schmidt (2002), in the category of Best Supporting Actress. She is also the recipient of two Golden Globes, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, three American Comedy Awards, and two BAFTA nominations.

Bates' television work has resulted in 14 Emmy Award nominations, including two for her role as Harriet "Harry" Korn on the NBC series Harry's Law (2011–12), and a win for her portrayal of Delphine LaLaurie on the third season of American Horror Story (2013–14). In 2012, she received the Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her appearance on the ninth season of Two and a Half Men. She also received Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for her portrayal of Miss Hannigan in the 1999 television adaptation of Annie. Her directing credits include several episodes of the HBO series Six Feet Under (2001–03).

Kevin Tent

Kevin Tent is an American film editor and director. Tent has been elected to membership in the American Cinema Editors (ACE) and serves as a member of the board. Kevin Tent is best known for being Alexander Payne's go-to film editor on films such as Nebraska, The Descendants, Sideways, and Election. Tent has been nominated for an Academy Award for best editing for The Descendants and won an ACE Eddie award for the same film and received three other ACE Eddie Award nominations for Election, Sideways and About Schmidt. In addition to his career in editing, Tent also co-directed two films, Ultra Warrior (1990) and Blackbelt II (1993), and directed the 2017 film Crash Pad.

List of 2003 box office number-one films in Australia

This is a list of films which placed number-one at the box office in Australia during 2003. Amounts are in Australian dollars. This article transitions from weekend end date to week end date, thus accounting for the additional week (a total of 53). Also included are the positions at the box office other films opened at. Quite a number of these are films from the previous year due to normal Australian film distribution delays.

List of awards and nominations received by Jack Nicholson

The following is a list of awards and nominations received by American actor Jack Nicholson. Nicholson is one of only six performers to have won three Academy Awards in the acting categories, and is the most nominated male performer in the acting categories, with a total of 12 nominations. His other major competitive awards include a Grammy Award, three BAFTA Awards, and six Golden Globes. He was also the recipient of the Cecil B DeMile Award at the 1999 Golden Globe ceremony.

London Film Critics Circle Awards 2002

The 23rd London Film Critics Circle Awards, honouring the best in film for 2002, were announced by the London Film Critics Circle on 12 February 2003.

Louis Begley

Louis Begley (born October 6, 1933) is a Polish-born Jewish American novelist. He is best known for writing the semi-autobiographical Holocaust novel Wartime Lies (1991) and the Schmidt trilogy: About Schmidt (1996), Schmidt Delivered (2000) and Schmidt Steps Back (2012).

Online Film Critics Society Awards 2002

The 6th Online Film Critics Society Awards, honoring the best in filmmaking in 2002, were given on 6 January 2003.

Phil Reeves

Philip Reeves is an American film and television actor and screenwriter. He is known for the roles of Charles Swedelson on the sitcom Girlfriends, new Vice President Andrew Doyle in HBO's Veep, as Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Krieger in Commander in Chief, and as Dr. Krieger in the Wayons' My Wife and Kids.

He has written scripts for several movies, including Happy, Texas (1999). A second film, The Other Side, is under production.

Among his television appearances are episodes of LA Law, Nowhere Man, 3rd Rock from the Sun, JAG, NYPD Blue, Desperate Housewives, Medium, The Office, Girlfriends, Brockmire, and HBO's VEEP.

Reeves has been seen in the works of Alexander Payne, and has also appeared in roles in several feature films, including Central Intelligence, About Schmidt, Election, 13 Going on 30, Sideways, and Fun with Dick and Jane. Reeves played a regular guest role in the NBC comedy television series Parks and Recreation as Paul Iaresco, the city manager of the fictional Indiana town of Pawnee.

Reeves plays "Coach T" in a series of Toyota commercials that have aired 2012–15.

His play From The Journal Of Hazard McCauley was published by Broadway Play Publishing Inc. He spent years on stage in regional theater both in Los Angeles (at the Mark Taper Forum) and elsewhere. His Broadway Tour credit includes "Children of Lesser God". He is a Master's graduate of the Dallas Theater Center, and was mentored by playwright Mark Medoff. He received a double major BA from Earlham College in Philosophy and English.

Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards 2002

The 1st Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards, honoring the best in filmmaking in 2002, were given on December 30, 2002.

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