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The Singing Detective (2003)

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From his hospital bed, a writer suffering from a skin disease hallucinates musical numbers and paranoid plots.

Director:

Keith Gordon

Writers:

Dennis Potter (screenplay), Dennis Potter (television series)
1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Downey Jr. ... Dan Dark
Robin Wright ... Nicola / Nina / Blonde (as Robin Wright Penn)
Mel Gibson ... Dr. Gibbon
Jeremy Northam ... Mark Binney
Katie Holmes ... Nurse Mills
Adrien Brody ... First Hood
Jon Polito ... Second Hood
Carla Gugino ... Betty Dark / Hooker
Saul Rubinek ... Skin Specialist
Alfre Woodard ... Chief of Staff
Amy Aquino ... Nurse Nozhki
David Dorfman ... Young Dan Dark
Eddie Jones ... Moonglow Bartender
Lily Knight ... Woman Physiotherapist
Clyde Kusatsu ... Visiting Japanese Doctor
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Storyline

"While hospitalized with an extreme case of psoriasis, novelist Dan Dark reworks his first book in his head. Feverish, paranoid and prone to musical outbreaks, he confuses himself with his protagonist, a detective investigating the murder of a prostitute in 1950s Los Angeles." Written by Mag-Helder Thélot

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

When it comes to murder, seduction and betrayal he wrote the book. Now he's living it!


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexual content, language and some violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

14 November 2003 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

El detective cantante See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA

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Box Office

Budget:

$8,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$28,324, 26 October 2003, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$336,456, 1 February 2004
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The opening song was chosen by director Keith Gordon because he liked it so much in Christine (1983), in which he starred. See more »

Goofs

When the First Hood and Second Hood are driving away in their vintage car in the 1940s, you can clearly see the reflection of a lit, modern, Los Angeles skyscraper in the window of the backseat. See more »

Quotes

Dan Dark: So, what's the story? Who's the dame?
Mark Binney: How'd you know there's a dame?
Dan Dark: There's always a dame.
See more »

Crazy Credits

During the end credits we see Robert Downey Jr. perform the song "In My Dreams" See more »

Connections

References The Maltese Falcon (1941) See more »

Soundtracks

Poison Ivy
Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Published by Jerry Leiber Music (ASCAP); Mike Stoller Music (ASCAP)
Performed by The Coasters
Courtesy of Elektra Entertainment Group
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Comparisons with earlier version unfair
2 January 2006 | by gapple-3See all my reviews

I saw this film as part of a process of educating myself about the career of Robert Downey Jr after seeing his remarkable performance in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and realising to my shame that I could recall seeing him in Chaplin but not much else. I have been working my way through his films and I am staggered at the range and depth of his talent, even in mediocre films (and he has made a few). But one can only agree with New Yorker critic Anthony Lane who wrote recently 'I'll watch him in anything'.

I disagree vehemently with those who've compared this Singing Detective unfavourably with the earlier version. I saw the original on television here in Australia when it was first screened, and it was indeed a great piece of television (though I preferred Pennies from Heaven which launched the international career of Bob Hoskins and was given a bad Hollywood remake). It's important to remember that Dennis Potter himself wrote this script, specifically for a shorter film version, and was keen to see it made. The dissenters should rent the DVD and listen to director Keith Gordon's commentary if they are in any doubt that it is faithful to the spirit of Potter's intentions and his written word.

The casting of Downey is a stroke of genius. Because he is a younger and very attractive man, the gross disfigurement of his character with psoriasis is infinitely more poignant than when the part was played by Michael Gambon - even when the Dan Dark character is behaving like a total bastard. His performance is extraordinary: the sublety of his mood changes and facial reactions, and the pathos he draws out of this trapped character (without a hint of schmaltz) just leap off the screen (even more remarkable given that for some of the time he was wearing makeup that took hours to apply and initially caused a bad skin reaction;and that he was under threat of returning to jail on drugs charges, which is why the film had to be shot in LA rather than Chicago - he was not allowed to leave LA).

I guess Downey's messy private life is one of the reasons he's such an interesting and complex actor. One can only hope that other brave producers will take a punt give him the big meaty parts that his talent deserves.

Don't let the nay sayers dissuade you from seeing this film; it's great. Mel Gibson is (thankfully, for me) unrecognisable and the scenes between him and Downey are terrific. The supporting cast is uniformly excellent.


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