Movie poster
Directed by Frank Oz
Produced by Brian Grazer
Written by Steve Martin
Starring Steve Martin
Eddie Murphy
Heather Graham
Christine Baranski
Terence Stamp
Adam Alexi-Malle
Music by David Newman
Editing by Richard Pearson
Studio Imagine Entertainment
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) August 13, 1999
Running time 97 min.
Language English
Budget $55,000,000 [1]
Box office $98,625,775 (worldwide)[1]

Bowfinger is a 1999 comedy cult film directed by Frank Oz. Bowfinger depicts a down-and-out filmmaker in Hollywood attempting to make a film on a small budget with a star who does not know that he is in the film. It was written by Steve Martin, and stars Martin along with Eddie Murphy, and Heather Graham.

Film critics have described Bowfinger as a parody of Hollywood, filmmaking, celebrity and according to many reviews, the group "MindHead" is a parody of the Church of Scientology. Martin has denied this.



Film producer Bobby Bowfinger (Steve Martin) is extremely eager to make a film, he has saved up for it his entire life—he now has $2,184 to pay for production costs. With a script ("Chubby Rain") penned by an accountant (Adam Alexi-Malle), a camera operator (Jamie Kennedy) with access to studio-owned equipment, and several actors who are hungry for work (Christine Baranski, Heather Graham, Kohl Sudduth) he needs access to a studio in order to distribute his masterwork.

He manages to extract a promise from a film studio executive (Robert Downey Jr.) that the executive will distribute the film if it includes currently-hot action star Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy). Ramsey—a rather pompous, neurotic and paranoid actor—refuses, so Bowfinger constructs a plan to covertly film (on an extremely low budget) all of Ramsey's scenes without his knowledge. The actors, told that Ramsey is method acting and will not be interacting with them outside of their scenes, walk up to Ramsey in public and recite their lines while hidden cameras catch Ramsey's confused reactions.

The plan goes well at first. Ramsey ends up starring (unknowingly) in the movie. However, Ramsey (who is a member of an organization called MindHead) misinterprets the movie's sci-fi dialogue and believes he is being stalked by aliens, damaging his already-precarious mental state. He finally goes into hiding in order to maintain his sanity. This puts a hold on the film production, and leaves Bowfinger wondering what to do next.

A desperate Bowfinger resorts to hiring a Ramsey lookalike (also played by Murphy) named Jiff. Jiff is kind, amiable and rather clueless. He even runs a gauntlet of "stunt drivers" racing along a major freeway when asked. Eventually, he becomes depressed about his lack of acting talent, but another cast member assures him that his real talent is being an exact double for Kit Ramsey. Jiff is not sure "how much of a talent that is...I mean, I am his brother." Using this new knowledge, Bowfinger has Jiff find out Kit Ramsey's movements and the final, pivotal conclusion to the movie is readied for filming.

All Bowfinger needs to shoot is the final scene at an observatory, with Ramsey shouting the final line "Gotcha suckers!" During the film scene, Ramsey becomes terrified and thinks that they are real aliens. At this point, Ramsay's mentor at MindHead (played by Terrence Stamp) has discovered evidence that Kit's 'aliens' may not be just in his head. MindHead officials track Bowfinger to the observatory, and shut down production. It seems Bowfinger will never get his movie. That is until his camera crew reveals that they were filming B-roll footage of Ramsey off-set, just in case they saw anything they could use.

What they got was footage of Ramsey donning a paper bag over his head and exposing himself to an amused Laker Girl Cheerleading Squad. Bowfinger shows the footage to MindHead, and blackmails them, threatening to take the footage public. Knowing that this material could ruin Ramsey's career (he is a major contributor to their operation), MindHead advises the star to finish the project. Bowfinger finally gets to sit at the premiere of a movie he himself directed, and is awed. Following the arguable success of the movie, Bowfinger receives a rare Fed-Ex envelope—an offer to film a martial arts movie called "Fake Purse Ninjas" starring Bowfinger and Jiff Ramsey.


The film was produced by Brian Grazer's company Imagine Entertainment, in conjunction with Universal Studios.[2] The working title for the film was Bowfinger's Big Thing.[3][4] The film was initially scheduled for a July 30, 1999 release, but in May 1999 Universal Studios pushed its release back to August 27, 1999.[5] Its final release date was August 13, 1999.[6][7] The film's costs amounted to USD$44 million.[8]

The executives at Universal wanted to cut the freeway scene because they felt it would be too expensive; Martin replied he would not cut the funniest scene in the film.[9]


Actress Heather Graham, who portrayed the character Daisy in the film, described her character in an interview with CNN's Entertainment News. "It's about these losers in Hollywood who want to make a movie, and I'm this naive, innocent girl who wants to be an actress. I'm willing to stop at nothing."[10] Graham stated that she has a "special attachment" to the roles she chooses, and explained "I think it's kind of like you fall in love with the person, like you fall in love with the script."[10]


The fictional organization "MindHead" has been compared by film critics to the Church of Scientology.[11][12][13] Paul Clinton wrote in CNN online: "'Bowfinger' could just be viewed as an out-there, over-the-top spoof about Hollywood, films, celebrities and even the Church of Scientology. But Martin has written a sweet story about a group of outsiders with impossible dreams."[12] Andrew O'Hehir wrote in Salon that "Too much of 'Bowfinger' involves the filmmakers' generically wacky pursuit of the increasingly paranoid Kit, who flees into the clutches of a pseudo-Scientology outfit called MindHead (their slogan: 'Truth Through Strength')."[13] The Denver Post, the Daily Record and the San Francisco Chronicle made similar comparisons,[14][15][16] and the Albuquerque Journal and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram called MindHead a "thinly veiled" parody of Scientology.[17][18] A review in The New York Times described actor Terence Stamp's role in the film as "a cult leader for a Scientology-like organization called Mind Head," and The Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle made similar statements about Stamp's character.[19][20][21] Writer Steve Martin told the New York Daily News "I view it as a pastiche of things I've seen come and go through the years," and stated "Scientology gets a lot of credit or blame right now, because they're the hottest one."[22] The Cincinnati Enquirer noted in its review "For the record, Mr. Martin denies MindHead is based on Scientology."[23]

The film spoofs the cult of celebrity and experiences film producers can undergo when attempting to get a movie made in Hollywood. Time Out Film Guide called the film a "satire on Hollywood's lunatic fringe."[24] The Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted that "it takes swipes at stupid action films" and "the ageism of the industry."[25] The Seattle Post-Intelligencer also noted Eddie Murphy's ability to spoof himself in the film, including "kidding his own legendary paranoia, evoking his real-life sex scandal and allowing himself to be the butt of Martin's extended gag."[25] Leonard Schwarz of Palo Alto Online described the film as "arch and knowing about the ways of Hollywood," including "producers who want to keep their cars more than their kids when they get divorced."[26] Russell Smith of The Austin Chronicle noted the film's satire of "L.A. movie culture, and brain-dead blockbuster films."[27] An article in the San Francisco Chronicle by Bob Graham wrote that "Martin the writer plants some wicked barbs in Hollywood's rear end about creative financing of movies and hoarding of profits, the art of the deal, hipper-than-thou attitudes and exploitation."[28] Laurie Scheer writes in Creative Careers in Hollywood "Steve Martin's performance as Bobby Bowfinger is one that is not to be missed, especially if you are choosing a career as a producer."[29]

Themes within the film have been compared to Mel Brooks' The Producers; a critique in the Denver Rocky Mountain News wrote that the film has "..the madcap velocity of Mel Brooks' The Producers."[30] Roger Ebert wrote that "Like Mel Brooks' "The Producers," it's about fringe players who strike out boldly for the big time."[31] The New York Times wrote that "The title character in the hilarious, good-hearted Bowfinger is a tireless schemer who, like Zero Mostel in The Producers, is part of a great show-biz tradition: being ruthless, delusional and hellbent on turning lemons into lemonade."[32] Jeff Millar of the Houston Chronicle compared Steve Martin's character in the film to Edward Wood, Jr., and Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times described Bowfinger International Pictures as "a company so threadbare even schlockmeister Ed Wood would've looked down on it."[33][34] Comparisons were also made to Tim Burton's eponymous film about the director, Ed Wood.[35]


Critical reception

"'Bowfinger' is one of those comedies where everything works.

Bowfinger received generally positive reception from film critics. The film received an 80% "fresh" rating at the website Rotten Tomatoes, based on over 100 aggregated reviews.[36] It garnered an assessment of "generally favorable reviews" at the site Metacritic.[37] Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half out of four stars, and wrote "'Bowfinger' is one of those comedies where everything works."[31] The film also received three out of four stars from the TLA Video & DVD Guide, where it was described as a "goodspirited, funny look at a hack Hollywood producer who will go to any lengths to get his film made."[38]

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer gave the film a rating of "A-" in its review, writing "This is one terrific comedy that doesn't let up for an instant."[25] The Rocky Mountain News highlighted the film as a "Critics' Choice", and wrote that "Steve Martin takes gentle but funny aim at Hollywood" in the film.[39] In The Washington Post, Jane Horwitz described the film as a "riotous farce".[40] The Kansas City Star called it a "frequently hilarious comedy".[41] The New York Times highly recommended the film, and reviewer Janet Maslin wrote "This hilarious, good-hearted spiritual descendant of The Producers is a comic coup for Mr. Martin."[42] The Daily Mail wrote "Martin's back to his zany best ... possibly his best ever."[43]

A review in the Deseret Morning News was critical, giving the film two and a half out of four stars, and called it a "funny but frantic and somewhat mean-spirited comedy."[44] A review in The Austin Chronicle was also critical, and film critic Russell Smith gave the film two and a half stars, and wrote "As a diehard Martin fan, I'm still hoping for a comeback, but it'll take better efforts than this to get me back in his cheering section."[27] Leonard Maltin also gave the film two and a half stars, and wrote in his Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide "Likeable costars carry this comedy a long way; there are some good laughs throughout, but it's never as satisfying as you'd like it to be."[45]

Box office results

The film debuted at the number two spot behind The Sixth Sense, with an initial box office weekend return of USD$18.2 million at 2,700 theaters in the United States.[6][46] It held onto the number two spot in its second week, earning an additional $10.7 million and grossing $35.7 million in its first ten days.[47][48][49] As of September 7, 1999, Bowfinger was at the fourth spot, with a weekend return of $7 million and a total gross of $55.5 million.[50] By September 13, 1999, the film had slipped to 5th place, with a weekend return of $3.7 million, for a total take of $60.5 million.[51] By October 11, 1999, the film had earned $65 million in the United States.[52] The film did not fare as well overseas as it did in the United States.[53] In 2005, a Malayalam movie Udayananu Tharam and a Bollywood movie Shortkut were made which have striking resemblances to this movie[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "Bowfinger (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-08-16. 
  2. ^ Staff (August 18, 1999). "Universal Names New Head of Production". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  3. ^ Staff (January 6, 1999). "Coming in 1999: The Wild Wild Phantom Menace". Associated Press. 
  4. ^ Staff (May 7, 1999). "What's on summer's movie screens". Deseret Morning News. 
  5. ^ Hindes, Andrew (May 26, 1999). "U's 'Bowfinger' pushed to August: Martin- Murphy starrer gets some breathing room". Variety (Reed Business Information). Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  6. ^ a b King, Susan (August 17, 1999). "Weekend Box Office; 'Sixth Sense' Pulls Big Dollars and Cents". Los Angeles Times: pp. Page 5. 
  7. ^ McNary, Dave (June 24, 1999). "Hollywood Sizzles: Box Office Heat Wave Breaking Summer Records". Los Angeles Daily News. 
  8. ^ McNary, Dave (May 11, 1999). "How Big A 'Menace'? 'Phantom' Not The Only Game In Town". Los Angeles Daily News. 
  9. ^ Semlyen, Nick (March 2009). "In conversation with Steve Martin". Empire: pp. 116. 
  10. ^ a b Vercammen, Paul (June 15, 1999). "Heather Graham earns adoration as Felicity Shagwell". CNN Entertainment News (CNN). 
  11. ^ Laforest, Kevin N.. "Review: Bowfinger". Montreal Film Journal (1998-2007 Montreal Film Journal). Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  12. ^ a b Clinton, Paul (August 12, 1999). "Review: 'Bowfinger' over-the-top farcical treat". CNN (Time Warner): pp. Section: Movies. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  13. ^ a b O'Hehir, Andrew (August 12, 1999). "Bowfinger: Martin and Murphy team up for a good-natured sendup of the mindless summer blockbuster -- and just barely avoid making one themselves.". Salon. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  14. ^ Booth, Michael (July 16, 2007). "Martin skewers Hollywood". The Denver Post. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  15. ^ Staff (October 22, 1999). "Martin makes Murphy make magic; BOWFINGER". Daily Record: pp. Section: Features. 
  16. ^ Morris, Wesley (August 13, 1999). ""Bowfinger' has the touchMartin, Murphy make mincemeat out of Hollywood as a down-and-out producer and his "star'". San Francisco Chronicle (Hearst Newspapers). Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  17. ^ Staff (January 1, 2007). "'Bowfinger' Lacks Chemistry Between Martin, Murphy.". Albuquerque Journal. 
  18. ^ Staff (January 21, 2000). "Hollywood looks in the mirror, and laughs". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 
  19. ^ Staff (October 23, 1999). "Actor Terence Stamp makes the most of his film roles". The Dallas Morning News. 
  20. ^ Holden, Stephen (September 3, 1999). "CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; Laughs, Schmaffs. Does It Have an Edge?". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). 
  21. ^ Millar, Jeff (October 15, 1999). "Good acting gives hard-to-follow `Limey' a boost". Houston Chronicle (Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspapers Partnership, LP): pp. Page 4. 
  22. ^ Staff (July 28, 1999). "Steve Martin on Scientology". New York Daily News. 
  23. ^ McGurk, Margaret A. (August 13, 1999). "Murphy and Martin: Commandants of comedy strut their absurdist stuff in ‘Bowfinger’". The Cincinnati Enquirer (Gannett Co. Inc.). Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  24. ^ Tch. "Bowfinger movie review". Time Out Film Guide (Time Out Group Ltd.). Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  25. ^ a b c Arnold, William (August 13, 1999). "'Bowfinger' hits the comedy jackpot". Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Hearst Corporation). Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  26. ^ Schwarz, Leonard (August 1999). "Movies - Review: Bowfinger". Palo Alto Online: pp. Section: Movie Screener. 
  27. ^ a b Smith, Russell (August 20, 1999). "Calendar: Film listings - Bowfinger". The Austin Chronicle (Austin Chronicle Corp.). Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  28. ^ Graham, Bob (August 13, 1999). "Bowfinger Pokes Hipsters In Hollywood". San Francisco Chronicle (Hearst Corporation). Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  29. ^ Scheer, Laurie (2002). Creative Careers in Hollywood. Allworth Communications, Inc.. p. 135. ISBN 1581152434. 
  30. ^ Denerstein, Robert (August 13, 1999). "Follywood Tinseltown Takes it on the Chin in 'Bowfinger'". Denver Rocky Mountain News. 
  31. ^ a b c Ebert, Roger (August 13, 1999). "Bowfinger". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  32. ^ Maslin, Janet (August 13, 1999). "FILM REVIEW; A Genuine Fake in a World of Make-Believe". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). 
  33. ^ Millar, Jeff (March 11, 2004). "Movie reviews: Bowfinger". Houston Chronicle (Hearst Corporation). Retrieved 2008-01-10. [dead link]
  34. ^ Turan, Kenneth (August 13, 1999). "Bowfinger: Murphy's Rich Man, Poor Man: On Target". Los Angeles Times.,0,6661502.story. Retrieved 2008-01-10. [dead link]
  35. ^ Grady, Pam. "Bowfinger (1999)". (Movie Gallery US, LLC and Hollywood Entertainment Corporation). Retrieved 2008-01-10. [dead link]
  36. ^ "Bowfinger - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  37. ^ Bowfinger at Metacritic
  38. ^ Bleiler, David; TLA Video (2004). TLA Video & DVD Guide 2005: The Discerning Film Lover's Guide. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 80. ISBN 0312316909. 
  39. ^ Voelz Chandler, Mary; Mike Pearson, Dusty Saunders, Robert Denerstein, Michael Mehle, Marc Shulgold, Patti Thorn (August 15, 1999). "Critics' Choice: The best of the arts this week, compiled by News entertainment writers and critics". Rocky Mountain News. 
  40. ^ Horwitz, Jane (August 20, 1999). "A Comedic 'Mickey'". The Washington Post (The Washington Post Company). Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  41. ^ Staff (August 20, 1999). "Eddie Murphy doubles the laughs in 'Bowfinger'". Kansas City Star: pp. Section: What's New. 
  42. ^ Maslin, Janet (September 10, 1999). "Movie Guide: Now Playing". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  43. ^ Staff (September 19, 1999). "Real To Reel; Ugly face of glamour". Daily Mail (Associated Newspapers Ltd): pp. Section: Features. 
  44. ^ Staff (December 10, 1999). "Playing at local movie theaters". Deseret Morning News. 
  45. ^ Maltin, Leonard; Cathleen Anderson, managing editor (August 2003). Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 2004 Edition. Penguin Group (USA) Inc.. p. 168. ISBN 0-451-20940-0. 
  46. ^ Natale, Richard (August 16, 1999). "Sense' Scares Off Challengers; Box Office.Thriller holds onto No. 1 spot, keeping 'Bowfinger' comedy at bay". Los Angeles Times: pp. Page 1. 
  47. ^ Klady, Leonard (August 23, 1999). "B.O. dollars & 'Sense': Thriller tops for 3rd week at $24 mil; 'Mickey' taps $10 mil". Variety (Reed Business Information). Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  48. ^ Staff (August 23, 1999). "Blame It On The Rain". The Boston Globe (The New York Times Company). 
  49. ^ Associated Press (August 23, 1999). "`Sixth Sense' tops box office for third week". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 
  50. ^ Klady, Leonard (September 7, 1999). "'Sixth Sense' takes fifth, powers holiday: 'Bride' on honeymoon". Variety (Reed Business Information). Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  51. ^ Klady, Leonard (September 13, 1999). "'Stigmata' bleeds BO: 'Sense' slips to second; 'Stir' in mix". Variety (Reed Business Information). Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  52. ^ Lyman, Rick (October 11, 1999). "Universal Hopes 1999's Hits Will Silence the Rumor Mill". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2007-12-18. 
  53. ^ Groves, Don (December 16, 1999). "America's pics find foreign B.O. hit, miss puzzle: O'seas box office doesn't always follow U.S. money-makers". Variety (Reed Business Information). Retrieved 2007-12-18. 

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