Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey

Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey
Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Apted
Produced by Rick Baker (associate producer)
Terence A. Clegg (producer)
Arne Glimcher (producer)
Peter Guber (executive producer)
Judy Kessler (co-producer)
Robert Nixon (co-producer)
Jon Peters (executive producer)
Written by Harold T.P. Hayes (article)
Dian Fossey (work)
Anna Hamilton Phelan (story) and
Tab Murphy (story)
Anna Hamilton Phelan (screenplay)
Starring Sigourney Weaver
Bryan Brown
Julie Harris
John Omirah Miluwi
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography John Seale
Editing by Stuart Baird
Distributed by Universal Studios (USA/Canada)
Warner Bros. (International)
Release date(s) September 23, 1988 (1988-09-23)
Running time 129 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million
Box office $61,149,479

Gorillas in the Mist is a 1988 American drama film directed by Michael Apted and starring Sigourney Weaver as naturalist Dian Fossey. It tells the true-life story of her work in Rwanda with Mountain Gorillas and was nominated for five Academy Awards.



A Kentucky woman, Dian Fossey, is inspired by an anthropologist Louis Leakey to devote her life to the study of primates. Travelling into deepest Africa, Fossey becomes fascinated with the lives and habits of the rare mountain gorillas of the Rwandan jungle. She becomes so preoccupied with her vocation that she loses the opportunity of a romance with National Geographic photographer Bob Campbell.

Appalled by the poaching of the gorillas for their skins, hands and heads, Fossey complains to the Rwandan government, which dismisses her, claiming that poaching is the only means by which some of the Rwandan natives can themselves survive. She rejects this and dedicates herself to saving the African Mountain gorilla from illegal poaching and likely extinction. To this end, she forms and leads numerous anti-poaching patrols, burning down the poachers' villages and even staging a mock execution of one of the offenders. Fossey is mysteriously murdered on December 26, 1985, in the bedroom of her cabin, but her actions to help save the gorillas pay off greatly and the species is saved from extinction.




The screenplay was adapted by Anna Hamilton Phelan from articles by Alex Shoumatoff and Harold T. P. Hayes and a story by Phelan and Tab Murphy. The original music score was composed by Maurice Jarre. The movie was directed by Michael Apted and the cinematography was by John Seale.


Critical Reception

The film received mixed reviews from critics, with many praising both Weaver's performance and the technical accomplishments of the movie but frustrated by the lack of depth in Fossey's on-screen characterisation.
"At last, [Weaver] may have found a part cut to her scale."[1] quipped Hal Hanson of The Washington Post. "It's a great role for her to pour herself into, and she doesn't skimp."
However he had his misgivings about the restrictions placed on Fossey's character:

"The chief problem with "Gorillas in the Mist" is that it banalizes its heroine; it turns her into one of us. And by all accounts Fossey was anything but ordinary." He also accused the filmmakers of toning down Fossey's unstable mental state: "Fossey was more than merely eccentric...The movie hints at these aspects of her character but tries to soften them;...the filmmakers have done more than sanitize Fossey's life, they've deprived it of any meaning."

He conceded "'Gorillas in the Mist' isn't a terrible film, but it is a frustrating one".
While Roger Ebert was also happy with the casting of Weaver as Fossey ("[She]makes her [Fossey] passionate and private and has an exquisite tenderness and tact in her delicate scenes with wild animals. It is impossible to imagine a more appropriate choice for the role."[2] ), he felt the character was too distanced from the audience and that her development and motives were unclear. "`Gorillas in the Mist" tells us what Dian Fossey accomplished and what happened to her, but it doesn't tell us who she was, and at the end that's what we want to know."
However, he was impressed by the scenes with the gorillas and the way live footage of gorillas was seamlessly blended with gorilla costumes: "Everything looked equally real to me, and the delicacy with which director Michael Apted developed the relationships between woman and beast was deeply absorbing. There were moments when I felt a touch of awe. Those moments, which are genuine, make the movie worth seeing." Hanson also agreed that "whenever the cameras turn on the gorillas -- who are the film's true stars -- you feel you're witnessing something truly great."

The film holds an 82% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes as of 13 June 2011, based on 17 reviews, with an average review of 6.8/10.[3]

Box office

  • US Gross Domestic Takings: US$24,720,479
  • Other International Takings: $36,429,000
  • Gross Worldwide Takings: $61,149,479


Gorillas In The Mist was nominated for 5 Oscars at the 61st Academy Awards in 1988:[4]

The film won two awards at the 46th Golden Globe Awards in 1989: Maurice Jarre for Best Original Score and Sigourney Weaver for Best Actress. The film was nominated for Best Film.


External links

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