Dorian Gray (2009 film)

Dorian Gray is a 2009 British fantasy-horror drama film based on Oscar Wilde's 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. The adaptation is directed by Oliver Parker, written by Toby Finlay (his first screenplay), and stars Ben Barnes as Dorian Gray and Colin Firth as Lord Henry Wotton. It tells the story of the title character, an attractive Englishman whose image is captured in an enchanted painting that keeps him from aging. His portrait becomes tainted with every sin he commits, while he remains young and handsome.

Dorian Gray
British promotional poster
Directed byOliver Parker
Produced byBarnaby Thompson
Screenplay byToby Finlay
Based onThe Picture of Dorian Gray
by Oscar Wilde
StarringBen Barnes
Colin Firth
Rebecca Hall
Ben Chaplin
Emilia Fox
Rachel Hurd-Wood
Music byCharlie Mole
CinematographyRoger Pratt
Edited byGuy Bensley
Distributed byMomentum Pictures
Release date
  • 9 September 2009 (2009-09-09)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$22.4 million[1]

The film, which was released in the United Kingdom on 9 September 2009,[2] competed in the Official Fantàstic Competition at the 2009 Sitges Film Festival.[3][4]


When a naive young Dorian Gray arrives in late Victorian London, by train, to inherit an estate left to him by his abusive grandfather, he is swept into a social whirlwind by the charismatic Lord Henry "Harry" Wotton, who introduces Gray to the hedonistic pleasures of the city. Lord Henry's friend, society artist Basil Hallward, paints a portrait of Gray to capture the full power of his youthful beauty. When the portrait is unveiled, Gray makes a flippant pledge: he would give anything to stay as he is in the picture—even his soul.

Gray meets and falls in love with budding young actress, Sibyl Vane. After a few weeks, he proposes marriage to her. Lord Henry tells Gray that having children is "the beginning of the end", and after the two men visit a brothel, Gray leaves Sibyl. Heartbroken, the young woman commits suicide by drowning. Gray learns of her death the following day from her brother, James ("Jim"), who also reveals that Sybil was pregnant with Gray's child. Enraged, Jim tries to kill Gray before being restrained and carried off by the authorities. Gray's initial grief soon disappears as Lord Henry persuades him that all events are mere experiences and without consequence. His hedonistic lifestyle worsens, distancing him from a concerned Hallward.

Gray returns home one evening to find that Hallward's portrait of him has become warped and twisted, and he soon realises that his off-hand pledge has come true; while the portrait ages, its owner's sins manifest as physical defects on the canvas. Before long, the curse imbued within Gray's portrait begins in earnest, resulting in Hallward's brutal murder after the artist reveals his secret. Gray dismembers and dumps Hallward's body in the River Thames, but the remains are soon recovered and eventually buried.

Gray decides to leave London to travel the world and he invites Lord Henry to join him as his companion, but he declines, citing his wife's pregnancy. After a 25-year absence, Gray stuns everyone at the welcoming party with his unchanged youthful appearance. He also meets and soon becomes close to Lord Henry's daughter, Emily, a member of the UK suffragette movement, much to her father's disapproval.

Although Gray appears genuinely interested in changing his ways as he spends time with Emily, matters are complicated when he is confronted by Jim, who continues to seek vengeance for his sister's death. Despite Gray's attempts to mislead Jim by pointing out his apparent age, Jim nevertheless deduces his true identity, but is killed by an oncoming train while pursuing Gray in the London Underground. Meanwhile, as Gray makes arrangements to leave London with Emily, Lord Henry's suspicions are confirmed when a study of old photographs triggers a memory where he jokingly suggested that Gray exchange his soul in return for eternal youth and beauty.

Breaking into Gray's home, Lord Henry discovers the concealed portrait, but is intercepted by Gray before he can uncover it. As Gray attempts to convince him of the authenticity of his feelings for Emily, Lord Henry suddenly discovers the blood-stained scarf of Basil in a box. This prompts Gray to declare that he is the personification of the life Lord Henry fantasised but dared not pursue. Full of anger and grief, Gray attempts to strangle him but is distracted by Emily's call long enough for Lord Henry to knock him aside and expose the portrait.

Disgusted and horrified at the twisted sight on the canvas, Lord Henry throws a lit lamp at the portrait, causing it to catch fire, and then locks the gate of the attic to ensure that Gray and the painting are destroyed. Emily pleads with Gray for the key, but Gray instead confesses his love for her and turns his back as Lord Henry drags his daughter out of the burning mansion. Resolving to end his suffering, Gray impales the painting with a poker, causing his body to age rapidly, before the attic is consumed by an explosion.

A few months later, following a futile attempt to reconcile with Emily, Lord Henry heads to his attic where he keeps the portrait of Gray as it was when Hallward painted it, grimly noting that nobody will look at it now. As Lord Henry leaves, the portrait's eyes glow, implying that Gray's soul is still alive even after his death.


Supporting parts are played by Pip Torrens as Victor, Gray's valet; Jo Woodcock as Lord and Lady Radley's daughter Celia; Max Irons as Lucius, a young man whom Gray assaults at a party for touching the key to the attic door; David Sterne as the theatre manager who first introduces Gray to Sibyl; and Douglas Henshall as Alan Campbell, an acquaintance of Gray's who is present when Jim Vane tries to strangle Gray.


The film began shooting in summer 2008 at Ealing Studios and locations across London[5] and finished in October. The film received £500,000 of National Lottery funding via the UK Film Council's Premiere Fund.[5]


The film received mixed reviews. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film 45% based on 38 critics' opinions; the site's critical consensus states: "Despite a lavish and polished production, Dorian Gray is tame and uninspired with a lifeless performance by Ben Barnes in the title role."[6] Most of the negative reviews are based on the acting and of the story not following the original plot of the book.


  1. "Box Office Mojo - Dorian Gray".
  2. Archie Thomas (7 August 2008). "Rebecca Hall joins Dorian Gray". Variety. Retrieved 12 September 2008.
  3. "Line Up :: Official Fantàstic In Competition Selection". Sitges Film Festival. 9 May 2009.
  4. Dorian Gray on IMDb
  5. "Remake of Oscar Wilde Classic". 9 September 2008. Archived from the original on 24 September 2008. Retrieved 14 September 2008.
  6. Dorian Gray at Rotten Tomatoes
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