Legal Eagles

Legal Eagles is a 1986 American trial comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman, written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr. from a story by Reitman and the screenwriters, and starring Robert Redford, Debra Winger, and Daryl Hannah.

Legal Eagles
Theatrical release poster
Directed byIvan Reitman
Produced byIvan Reitman
Sheldon Kahn
Screenplay byJim Cash
Jack Epps, Jr.
Story byIvan Reitman
Jim Cash
Jack Epps, Jr.
Music byElmer Bernstein
CinematographyLaszlo Kovacs
Edited byWilliam Gordean
Pem Herring
Sheldon Kahn
Northern Lights Entertainment
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • June 18, 1986 (1986-06-18)
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million
Box office$93,151,591


Tom Logan (Robert Redford) is an Assistant District Attorney in the New York City District Attorney's Office. He is slated as the next District Attorney. Laura Kelly (Debra Winger), an attorney representing performance artist, Chelsea Deardon (Daryl Hannah), seeks out Logan to discuss her client's case. Chelsea is accused of attempting to steal a painting from millionaire Robert Forrester (John McMartin). Chelsea claims the painting was a gift from her artist father, Sebastian Deardon, eighteen years earlier for her 8th birthday. That same day her father and most of his paintings were lost in a mysterious fire.

At a formal dinner to publicly launch Logan's candidacy as the next District Attorney, Kelly unexpectedly arrives with Chelsea and holds an impromptu press conference as a means to coerce Logan's cooperation. Soon after, Forrester drops all charges against Chelsea after swapping the Deardon painting for a Picasso with art gallery curator Victor Taft (Terence Stamp). Both Taft and Forrester were Sebastian Deardon's associates and do not want Chelsea prosecuted. Taft later shows Logan and Kelly the swapped Deardon painting, which does not have an inscription to Chealsea written on the back as she claims. Shortly after, police detective Cavanaugh (Brian Dennehy), who investigated the Deardon fire, provides Kelly with proof that the supposedly lost paintings still exist and says that Chelsea's father was murdered.

Late one night, Chelsea arrives at Logan's apartment claiming a man has been following her. She insists that the painting Taft showed Logan and Kelly was not the one that belongs to her. Logan escorts Chelsea home. As he leaves her building, someone shoots at him then runs off. Logan and Kelly later follow Taft to his warehouse and sneak in. They find evidence of an insurance fraud scheme between partners Taft, Forrester, and a third man, Joseph Brock. Taft locks them inside the warehouse, then makes a quick getaway. The two barely escape unharmed as the building explodes, apparently triggered by Taft to destroy evidence.

A distraught Chelsea arrives at Logan's apartment, revealing she went to Taft's residence and threatened him at gunpoint for information. She claims Taft took the gun away and hit her. Chelsea spends the night with Logan. The next morning, police burst into the bedroom and arrest Chelsea for Taft's murder. The resulting scandal ends Logan's D.A. career, and he reluctantly teams up with Kelly.

During her murder trial, Chelsea experiences a flashback memory and openly accuses Forrester of being involved in her father's death. When an assassin attempts to run down Logan and Kelly, the man is fatally hit by a taxi. Logan retrieves the assassin's wallet and finds Forrester's business card. Logan and Kelly discover Forrester's dead body and find Chelsea hiding at the scene, though she proclaims her innocence. Logan goes to the police department to find Cavanaugh while Kelly and Chelsea head to Taft's gallery where his memorial service is in progress.

Detective Cavanaugh is actually Joe Brock, Taft and Forrester's former business partner they framed for the fraud scheme, resulting in Brock being sentenced to prison. At the Taft Gallery, Brock forces Kelly and Chelsea to break open a large hollow sculpture where Sebastian Deardon's missing canvases, now estimated to be worth $20 million, are hidden. Brock takes the canvases, then sets the gallery on fire to escape during the evacuation. Logan arrives and struggles with Brock, who falls to his death. Logan finds Kelly and Chelsea, grabs the paintings, and the three exit the burning gallery. Outside, Chelsea tearfully reveals the "To Chelsea" inscription on the back of her father's painting. After all charges against Chelsea are dropped, Logan's former boss, exploiting Logan's publicity, offers him his old job. Logan chooses to continue working with Kelly, with whom he is now romantically involved.



The script was written by Jim Cash and Jack Epps who were represented by Creative Artists Agency (CAA). The film was originally meant to be a vehicle for Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray, the latter a CAA client, and was written as a buddy movie. Murray pulled out and then Robert Redford, another CAA client, expressed interest in doing a romantic comedy, so it was rewritten to be a Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn-type movie. It was set up at Universal, run by CAA client Frank Price and directed by Ivan Reitman, another CAA client. Tom Mankiewicz was called in to rewrite the script.[1][2]


The film's score was composed and conducted by Elmer Bernstein, his final collaboration with Ivan Reitman. The soundtrack album was released by MCA Records, featuring selections from the score re-recorded in England under the composer's baton, and the songs "Good Lovin'" by The Rascals, "Magic Carpet Ride" by Steppenwolf, and Daryl Hannah's "Put Out The Fire" (which she performs onscreen). Rod Stewart's "Love Touch" was featured in the movie, but being a Warner Bros. Records exclusive it does not appear on the album.


The film received mixed reviews and holds a 47% on Rotten Tomatoes based on reviews from 15 critics.[3]

With production costs of $40 million, the film was one of the most expensive ever released up to that point. It grossed a total of $49,851,591 in North America and $43,300,000 internationally, totaling $93,151,591 worldwide.[4]


  1. Tom Mankiewicz, My Life as a Mankiewicz: An Insider's Journey Through Hollywood (with Robert Crane) University Press of Kentucky 2012 p 278-279
  2. Evans, Bradford (17 February 2011). "The Lost Roles of Bill Murray". Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  3. Legal Eagles at Rotten Tomatoes
  4. Legal Eagles at Box Office Mojo
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