Based on real life events, Assassination is set in 1974 and centers on a businessman who decides to take extreme measures to achieve his American dream.


Niels Mueller
2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Sean Penn ... Samuel J. Bicke
Naomi Watts ... Marie Andersen Bicke
Don Cheadle ... Bonny Simmons
Jack Thompson ... Jack Jones
Brad William Henke ... Martin Jones (as Brad Henke)
Nick Searcy ... Tom Ford
Michael Wincott ... Julius Bicke
Mykelti Williamson ... Harold Mann
April Grace ... Mae Simmons
Lily Knight Lily Knight ... Receptionist
Jared Dorrance ... Sammy Jr.
Jenna Milton ... Ellen
Mariah Massa ... Julie
Eileen Ryan ... Marie's Mother
Derek Greene Derek Greene ... Joey Simmons


Fact-based story about a disturbed office furniture salesman who in 1972 concocted a plot to kill then-President Nixon by hi-jacking a plane to fly over the White House to drop a gas bomb. At the start of the movie, the man is separated from his wife and stressed in his job where he is made the butt of jokes and is an under-performer. Attempts to get his brother's old tire business resurrected with a black partner is rejected by the banks. When he is officially served with divorce papers, everything comes apart and Richard Nixon's broken promises comes to represent all the evils that have come down on him. A news story about a pilot that landed a helicopter on the White House lawn gives him the idea for his attack. Bolting onto a Baltimore plane, he attempts the hi-jacking. Written by John Sacksteder <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The mad story of a true man. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and a scene of graphic violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Sean Penn was attached to this project for six years before the financing for the picture was secured. See more »


From the PA announcement we learn that Bicke will be boarding a TWA flight. In one shot of the aircraft a red pointed cheatline (stripe painted near the windows) is seen which would have been part of TWA's 1972 livery. However, when we see the exterior of the boarding door from the jetway, the Delta Air Lines "widget" (a red triangle and a blue triangle) can be seen. See more »


[first lines]
Samuel Bicke: Testing. Testing. Testing. One, two, three. Mr. Maestro, Leonard Bernstein, tape number one.
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Girl I Love You
Written by Ron Holden
Performed by Ron Holden
Under License from Rampart Records
By Arrangement with Pacific Electric Music Group
Published by Padua Music Co.
Administered by Electric Pacific Songs (BMI)
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User Reviews

A depressingly relevant study of the American dream
19 April 2005 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Refusing to lie to his customers was the thing that saw Samuel Bickle leave his job with his brother's tyre sales business and looks like it will be again in his new job as an office furniture salesman. Failing in his career, Sam has also failed in marriage, with an estranged wife who is seeing another man and children who barely notice whether he is around or not. Trying to do the honest thing and put in the hard work needed to make a success of himself is not easy as he still requires loans to do that. As he slowly crumbles under the pressure of seeing the life he believed he should have eluding him, he watches Nixon survive and sell himself to the nation for a second term. Bit by bit his anger finds a focus and his path is clear.

Although I know nothing of the "true story" back in the seventies, I am in no doubt that this film is very relevant today. Ignore the fact that Nixon was an unpopular President that took America into a war that few wanted (hmmm), this is relevant because many "little" people feel like Sam to some degree; even those not in his shoes will be able to feel for him and recognise why he feels the way he does. The narrative is interesting but the really this is a character study of Sam – although I don't know if it is the real man of the true story but the character study is of a man sold down the river by the dreams he has been promised and the lifestyle he has been sold. In this way the film succeeds because the writing is great; this is a man who is in a lot of pain but not totally pathetic or needy – just a man who wants the simple promise of a family, a job and a slice of the good life. It is telling that he has the standard three children and dog, but his white picket fence around his old home is faded and peeling. If it sounds a simple story then that's because it is, but it is compelling, depressing, recognisable and very relevant to a world where large numbers of people feel cut off from the ruling classes and entirely left out of the dream that we are told to aim for by adverts, the media and our upbringing.

The writing is great but the acting still needs to be good to make it work; luckily it is impressive in almost all areas. Yet again Penn gives a great performance but, unlike Mystic River, it is a performance of restraint and quiet moments that gripped me by how well observed it was. Watts is only in a small role comparatively but she works well as the contrast of Sam – she has been failed as well but she accepts it and just does it in the way most of us do. Cheadle is good as always and Thompson is perfectly cast as the slick embodiment of what it takes to get on – lies and spin! With this heavy support cast, it speaks volumes that Penn still dominates the film and his performance is worthy of awards when the season comes but I suspect that the subject matter and the timing of the film will not make that too easy.

Overall this is a strong film with a good narrative but it works best as a character study. Sam is disenfranchised, feeling betrayed and just trying to make good with the qualities that he has been taught will be enough to bring him a slice of the dream. It is compelling, relevant and sadly, depressingly convincing as a life that many of us will at least be able to recognise if not totally empathise with.

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USA | Mexico



Release Date:

22 October 2004 (Greece) See more »

Also Known As:

The Assassination of L.B.J. See more »

Filming Locations:

Alameda, California, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$37,547, 2 January 2005

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital


Color | Black and White (archive footage)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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