Cold Mountain (2003)


Cold Mountain is a 2003 epic period war film written and directed by Anthony Minghella.

The film is based on the bestselling 1997 novel of the same name by Charles Frazier. It stars Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Renée Zellweger with Eileen Atkins, Brendan Gleeson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jack White, Giovanni Ribisi, Donald Sutherland, and Ray Winstone in supporting roles. The film tells the story of a wounded deserter from the Confederate army close to the end of the American Civil War, who journeys home to reunite with the woman he loves. The film was a co-production of companies in Italy, Romania, and the United States.


When North Carolina secedes from the Union on 20 May 1861, the young men of Cold Mountain enlist in the Confederate States Army. Among them is W.P. Inman, a carpenter who has fallen in love with Ada Monroe, the preacher’s daughter who came from Charleston, South Carolina to care for her father. Their courtship is interrupted by the war, they share their first kiss the day Inman leaves for battle. Ada promises to wait for him.

Three years later, Inman fights in the Battle of the Crater and survives. He then comforts a dying acquaintance from Cold Mountain, while fellow soldier Stobrod Thewes plays a tune on his fiddle. Inman is later wounded in a skirmish, and as he lies in a hospital near death, a nurse reads him a letter from Ada, who pleads for Inman to come home to her. Inman recovers and deserts, embarking on a long trek back to Cold Mountain.

Inman encounters corrupt preacher Veasey, and stops him from drowning his pregnant enslaved lover. Exiled from his parish, Veasey joins Inman on his journey. They later meet a young man named Junior, and join him and his family for dinner. Junior brings the Confederate Home Guard, who take Inman and Veasey away along with other deserters. Veasey and the group are killed in a skirmish with Union cavalry, while Inman is left for dead. An elderly hermit living in the woods finds Inman and nurses him back to health. He eventually meets a grieving young widow named Sara and her infant child Ethan, and stays the night at her cabin. The next morning, three Union soldiers arrive demanding food. They take Ethan hostage and try to rape Sara, forcing Inman and Sara to kill them.

Back in Cold Mountain, Ada’s father has died, leaving her with no money and little means to run their farm in Black Cove. She survives on the kindness of her neighbors, particularly Esco and Sally Swanger, who eventually send for Ruby Thewes (Stobrod’s daughter) to help. Ruby moves in and together they bring the farm to working order, becoming close. Meanwhile, Ada continues to write letters to Inman, hoping they will reunite and renew their romance.

Ada has several tense encounters with Captain Teague, the leader of the local Home Guard who covets Ada and her property, and whose grandfather had once owned much of Cold Mountain. One day, Teague and his men kill Esco, and then torture Sally to coax her deserter sons out of hiding and kill them as well. Ada and Ruby rescue Sally, who is traumatized and rendered mute. The women celebrate Christmas with Stobrod, who has come to Cold Mountain with fellow deserters and musicians Pangle and Georgia.

While camping in the woods one night, Stobrod and Pangle are cornered by Teague and the Guard while Georgia secretly watches; Pangle inadvertently reveals they are deserters, and the Guard shoot Pangle and Stobrod. Georgia escapes and informs Ruby and Ada, who return to the scene to find Pangle dead and Stobrod badly wounded. The women and Stobrod take shelter in an abandoned Cherokee camp. Ada goes hunting for food and is reunited with Inman, who has finally returned to Cold Mountain. They return to the camp, and spend the night consummating their love.

As they head home, Ada and Ruby are surrounded by Teague and his men, having captured and tortured Georgia for their whereabouts. Inman arrives and kills Teague and most of his posse in a gunfight. He then chases Teague’s lieutenant, Bosie, and they exchange fast draws. Bosie is killed but Inman is mortally wounded. Ada finds and comforts Inman, who dies in her arms.

Years later, it is revealed that Ada’s night with Inman produced a daughter, Grace Inman, and that Ruby has married Georgia bearing two children. With Stobrod and Sally, the family celebrates Easter together at Black Cove.


  • Jude Law as William “W. P.” Inman.
  • Nicole Kidman as Ada Monroe.
  • Renée Zellweger as Ruby Thewes.
  • Eileen Atkins as Maddy.
  • Kathy Baker as Sally Swanger.
  • James Gammon as Esco Swanger.
  • Brendan Gleeson as Stobrod Thewes.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman as Reverend Solomon Veasey.
  • Natalie Portman as Sara.
  • Giovanni Ribisi as Junior.
  • Lucas Black as Oakley.
  • Donald Sutherland as Reverend Monroe.
  • Cillian Murphy as Bardolph.
  • Ethan Suplee as Pangle.
  • Jay Tavare as Swimmer.
  • Jack White as Georgia.
  • Ray Winstone as Teague.
  • Melora Walters as Lila.
  • Taryn Manning as Shyla.
  • Emily Deschanel as Mrs. Morgan.
  • Charlie Hunnam as Bosie.
  • Tom Aldredge as Blind Man.
  • James Rebhorn as Doctor.
  • Jena Malone as Ferry Girl.
  • Richard Brake as Nym.


In 1997, United Artists bought the rights to Cold Mountain for Anthony Minghella to write and direct, with Sydney Pollack as producer. MGM/United Artists and Miramax Films then announced a deal to produce eight films together, sharing the profits.

As the script was developed, the scope of the film grew from a period love story with a budget of $40 million into an expensive epic. The budget grew to nearly $120 million, with Minghella having trouble finding American landscapes that could pass for 19th-century towns. Tom Cruise, at the time married to Nicole Kidman, wanted to play Inman, but the studio did not want to pay his $20 million demand. To get the budget down, production was moved to Romania, but three weeks before filming began in July 2002, MGM pulled out. Producer Harvey Weinstein was going to cancel the shoot, but with Minghella already in pre-production he agreed to fund the $80 million project after receiving a $10 million tax break.


Cold Mountain, where the film is set, is a real mountain located within the Pisgah National Forest, Haywood County, North Carolina. It was filmed mostly in Romania, with numerous scenes filmed in Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The film was one of an increasing number of Hollywood productions made in eastern Europe as a result of lower costs in the region; and because, in this instance, Transylvania having fewer infrastructure like power cables and paved roads was less marked by modern life than the Appalachians.


The film marked a technological and industry turnaround in editing. Walter Murch edited Cold Mountain on Apple’s sub-$1000 Final Cut Pro software using off-the-shelf G4s. This was a leap for such a big budgeted film, where expensive Avid systems are usually the standard editing system. His efforts on the film were documented in the 2005 book Behind the Seen: How Walter Murch Edited Cold Mountain Using Apple’s Final Cut Pro and What This Means for Cinema.


Cold Mountain: Music from the Motion Picture shares producer T Bone Burnett with the soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a largely old-time and folk album with limited radio play that still enjoyed commercial success, and garnered a Grammy. As a result, comparisons were drawn between the two albums. The soundtrack, however, also employs many folk and blues elements.

It features songs written by Jack White of The White Stripes (who also appeared in the film in the role of Georgia), Elvis Costello and Sting. Costello and Sting’s contributions, “The Scarlet Tide” and “You Will Be My Ain True Love”, were both nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song and featured vocals by bluegrass singer Alison Krauss. Gabriel Yared’s Oscar-nominated score is represented by four tracks amounting to approximately fifteen minutes of music.


Box Office

Cold Mountain grossed $95.6 million in the United States and Canada and $77.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $173 million. Producer Harvey Weinstein said the film would break-even if it grossed $135 million.

The film made $14.5 million in its opening weekend, finishing third at the box office. It made $11.7 million in its second weekend and $7.9 million in its third, finishing fourth both times.

Critical Response

Cold Mountain was met with overall positive reviews from critics, with Zellweger’s performance receiving widespread critical acclaim.


The film was nominated for more than seventy awards, including seven Academy Award nominations. Renée Zellweger won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in the film.

In addition, the film was nominated for the following Academy Awards:

  • Best Actor (Jude Law).
  • Best Cinematography (John Seale).
  • Best Editing (Walter Murch).
  • Best Original Score (Gabriel Yared).
  • Best Original Song (T-Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello for the song “The Scarlet Tide”).
  • Best Original Song (Sting for the song “You Will Be My Ain True Love”).

Historical Accuracy

Several scholars of historical studies reviewed the film for its representation of North Carolina during the Civil War, especially the state’s mountainous western region. Their justification is the effect popular media have on national and worldwide perceptions of Appalachian people, particularly southern Appalachians in this case. The opinions vary, but the consensus among them is the historical context of the movie is close to the scholarship.

Scholars praised the film for its conformity to the historical scholarship in other subjects, with one saying “the final product should… provide so unflinching a portrayal of the bleak and unsettling realities of a far less familiar version of the Civil War, but one that would be all too recognizable to thousands of hardscrabble southern men and women who lived through it.”

One scholar said “some of the best of the soundtrack was not composed for the movie but garnered from the body of time-tested and proven masterpieces of an earlier rural American culture.” Such selections were not necessarily performed authentically in the film: the two Sacred Harp songs, although generally authentic to the period and region, contained vocal parts not yet written at that time.

The beginning Battle of the Crater is depicted as happening in broad daylight but it began at 4:44 am with the detonation of the mine.


  • Brendan Gleeson is an accomplished violin player and did all of his own playing in this movie.
  • Nicole Kidman did all of her own piano playing.
  • According to TIME Magazine, Jude Law had to gain ten kilograms (twenty-two pounds) of muscle for his role on-location in Romania.
    • As there was not any regular fitness equipment around, he did so by carrying his personal trainer around on his back, dragging logs, and pushing a tennis-court roller.
  • According to Ray Winstone (interviewed on Desert Island Discs), the horse he rode in this movie was the same horse Russell Crowe rode in Gladiator (2000), and is called George.
  • This movie has a shooting ratio of 60:1, which means that for every one minute that appears on-screen, there were sixty minutes of footage.
  • Nicole Kidman used an old converted bus once owned by executed Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu as her on-location dressing room.
  • Anthony Minghella spent five years on this movie.
    • Almost one year was used for editing.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Anthony Minghella.
  • Producer(s):
    • Steve E. Andrews … associate producer.
    • Albert Berger … producer (produced by).
    • Tim Bricknell … associate producer (as Timothy Bricknell).
    • William Horberg … producer (produced by).
    • Bob Osher … executive producer.
    • Sydney Pollack … producer (produced by).
    • Iain Smith … executive producer.
    • Bob Weinstein … executive producer.
    • Harvey Weinstein … executive producer.
    • Ron Yerxa … producer (produced by).
  • Writer(s):
    • Charles Frazier … book.
    • Anthony Minghella … screenplay.
  • Music:
    • Gabriel Yared … (original score composed by).
  • Cinematography:
    • John Seale … director of photography.
  • Editor(s):
    • Walter Murch.
  • Production:
    • Miramax (presents).
    • Mirage Enterprises.
    • Bona Fide Productions (as Bona Fide).
    • Blossom Films.
    • Castel Film Romania.
    • Cattleya (as Cattleya Films).
  • Distributor(s):
    • Miramax (2003) (USA) (theatrical).
    • Buena Vista International (2004) (UK) (theatrical).
    • TFM Distribution (2004) (France) (theatrical).
    • Buena Vista International (2004) (Sweden) (theatrical).
    • Buena Vista International (2004) (Switzerland) (theatrical).
    • Miramax (2004) (USA) (DVD) (widescreen).
    • Miramax (2004) (USA) (VHS) (widescreen).
    • Buena Vista International (2004) (Germany) (theatrical).
    • Buena Vista International (2004) (Netherlands) (theatrical).
    • Buena Vista International (2004) (Spain) (theatrical).
    • Buena Vista International (2004) (Argentina) (theatrical).
    • Toho-Towa (2004) (Japan) (theatrical).
    • Alliance Atlantis Communications (2003) (Canada) (theatrical).
    • Buena Vista International Finland (2004) (Finland) (theatrical).
    • Falcon (2004) (Czechia) (theatrical).
    • United International Pictures (UIP) (2004) (Turkey) (theatrical).
    • Walt Disney Company Nordic (2004) (Norway) (theatrical).
    • Alliance Atlantis Home Video (2004) (Canada) (DVD).
    • Arthaus (2011) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Arthaus (2011) (Germany) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
    • BBC Three (2008) (UK) (TV).
    • Buena Vista Home Entertainment (Turkey) (DVD).
    • Buena Vista Home Entertainment (2004) (Norway) (DVD) (VHS).
    • Buena Vista International (2004) (Finland) (DVD) (VHS).
    • Buena Vista International (2004) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Buena Vista International (2004) (Netherlands) (DVD).
    • Buena Vista International (2004) (Netherlands) (VHS).
    • Fantasy Film (2015) (Hungary) (DVD).
    • Gativideo (2004) (Argentina) (DVD).
    • Gativideo (2004) (Argentina) (VHS).
    • Miramax (Turkey) (DVD).
    • Music Television (MTV) (2016) (Italy) (TV).
    • National Broadcasting Company (NBC) (2007) (USA) (TV) (broadcast premiere).
    • Nelonen (2010) (Finland) (TV).
    • Net5 (2006) (Netherlands) (TV).
    • Nordisk Film (2012) (Finland) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
    • Sony Movie Channel (2017) (UK) (TV).
    • Transeuropa Video Entertainment (TVE) (2012) (Argentina) (DVD).
    • Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (2008) (Netherlands) (DVD) (2-disc collector’s edition) (steelbook).
    • Yleisradio (YLE) (2020) (Finland) (TV).
  • Release Date: 07 December 2003 (Los Angeles, US).
  • Running time: 154 minutes.
  • Rating: 15.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link(s)

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