Heaven's Gate


Heaven's Gate

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Movie Info

A notorious artistic and financial failure, Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate was blamed for critically wounding the movie Western and definitively ushering out the 1970s Hollywood New Wave of young, brash, independent filmmakers. Taking a revisionist, post-Vietnam view of American imperialism, Cimino used the historical Johnson County War incident in Wyoming to create an impressionistic tapestry of Western conflict between poor immigrant settlers and rich cattle barons led by Canton (Sam Waterston) and his hired gun Nate Champion (Christopher Walken). Attempting to mediate is idealistic Harvard graduate and county marshal Averill (Kris Kristofferson), who is both Nate's friend and his romantic rival for the affections of Ella Watson (Isabelle Huppert). However, war erupts, at great cost to all involved. Flush from his success with the Oscar-winning The Deer Hunter (1978), Cimino demanded creative control, and his insistence on shooting on location and building historically accurate sets and props multiplied the film's original budget to a then-astronomical $36 million. When United Artists premiered the original 219-minute version (sight unseen), they discovered that Cimino had produced an elliptical epic, compounding the box-office difficulties of making a Western without any major stars. Critics howled about Cimino's incomprehensible self-indulgence, and United Artists pulled the film after several days. Re-released five months later, 70 minutes shorter, Heaven's Gate bombed again, and MGM bought out the financially crippled United Artists. The ailing Western genre virtually vanished during the 1980s, Cimino's career never recovered, and Hollywood studios had had enough of bankrolling financially risky ventures by "auteur" directors. Heaven's Gate's reputation recovered somewhat after its video release, as it garnered praise from some viewers for such visually remarkable sequences as the Harvard dance and the final battle, as well as for David Mansfield's haunting score. Steven Bach's book Final Cut provides a full production history. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

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Kris Kristofferson
as James Averill
Christopher Walken
as Nathan D. Champion
John Hurt
as Billy Irvine
Sam Waterston
as Frank Canton
Isabelle Huppert
as Ella Watson
Jeff Bridges
as John H. Bridges
Joseph Cotten
as `The Reverend Doctor'
Roseanne Vela
as Beautiful Girl
Paul Koslo
as Mayor Lezak
Stefan Scherby
as Large Man
Waldemar Kalinowski
as Photographer
Terry O'Quinn
as Capt. Minardi
John Conley
as Morrison
Margaret Benczak
as Mrs. Eggleston
James Knobeloch
as Kopestonsky
Erika Petersen
as Mrs. Kopestonsky
Robin Bartlett
as Mrs. Lezak
Marat Yusim
as Russian Merchant
Aivars Smits
as Mr. Kovach
Gordana Rashovich
as Mrs. Kovach
Jarlath Conroy
as Mercenary in New Suit
Anna Levine
as Little Dot
Pat Hodges
as Jessie
Mickey Rourke
as Nick Ray
Kai Wulff
as German Merchant
Steve Majstorovic
as Czech Merchant
Gabriel Walsh
as Zindel's Clerk
T-Bone Burnett
as Member of the Heaven's Gate Band
Jack Blessing
as Emigrant Boy
Stephen Bruton
as Member of the Heaven's Gate Band
Jerry Sullivan
as Governor of Wyoming
David Cass Sr.
as Moustached Mercenary
Paul D'Amato
as Bearded Mercenary
Anatoly Davydov
as Fighting Bulgarian Emigrant
Nina Gaidarova
as Bulgarian Emigrant's Wife
Wally McCleskey
as Chicken Fighter
Gary 'Buzz' Vezane
as Canton's Bodyguard
H.P. Evetts
as Wolcott's Bodyguard
Bruce Morgan
as Miner Mercenary
Bobby Faber
as Harvard Class Marshal
Judy Trot
as Irvine's Girlfriend
Brad Dourif
as Mr. Eggleston
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Critic Reviews for Heaven's Gate

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (12)

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