Weeds (1987 film)

Weeds is a 1987 American drama film directed by John D. Hancock, and starring Nick Nolte, Ernie Hudson, and Rita Taggart. The screenplay concerns a prison inmate who writes a play that catches the attention of a visiting reporter.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn D. Hancock
Produced byBill Badalato
Written byJohn D. Hancock
Dorothy Tristan
StarringNick Nolte
Music byAngelo Badalamenti
CinematographyJan Weincke
Edited byDavid Handman
Jon Poll
Chris Lebenzon
Distributed byDe Laurentiis Entertainment Group
Release date
October 16, 1987 (1987-10-16)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12 million[1]
Box office$2,325,444


Lee Umstetter (Nick Nolte) is incarcerated in San Quentin for armed robbery, serving "life without possibility" (with no chance of parole). After two suicide attempts, Lee begins to read books from the prison library. He attends a performance of Waiting for Godot given for the prisoners and is deeply moved. He begins to write plays about imprisonment and then stages them, too.

One is a social-protest musical extravaganza about life in the penitentiary. It attracts visitors and earns Lee the regard of a San Francisco theatre reviewer (Rita Taggart) who persuades the governor to release him.

Lee organises an acting troupe made up of former convicts: a shoplifter (William Forsythe), a murderer (Ernie Hudson), an embezzler (Lane Smith), a pimp (John Toles-Bey), a flasher (Mark Rolston), and others.

Lee's work doesn't make the same impact outside the prison as it did inside. Touring in a camper, with no money, the men are torn by impulses to revert to their former criminal behaviour.


The film received mixed reviews.[2][3]

Film critic Pauline Kael of The New Yorker observed, "The film is about their efforts to become professional men of the theatre. It's about the ways in which working together changes them and the ways in which it doesn't."[4]

The film had a strong opening weekend, but failed to recoup its costs.[5] The film did well on VHS.[6]


  1. De Laurentiis PRODUCER'S PICTURE DARKENS: KNOEDELSEDER, WILLIAM K, Jr. Los Angeles Times 30 Aug 1987: 1.
  2. Thomas, Kevin (16 October 1987). "MOVIE REVIEWS : 'Weeds' Makes Full Use of Nick Nolte's Versatile Presence". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  3. Maslin, Janet (16 October 1987). "Film: Nolte in 'Weeds'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  4. Pauline Kael. Hooked, Dutton, 1989.
  5. "Weekend Box Office". Los Angeles Times. 20 October 1987. Retrieved 2012-07-14.
  6. "VIDEO CHARTS : Babies Booming, 'East L.A.' Rising". Los Angeles Times. 26 May 1988. Retrieved 2012-07-04.
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