King David (film)

King David is a 1985 American epic historical drama film about the life of the second King of the Kingdom of Israel, David. The film was directed by Bruce Beresford, produced by Martin Elfand and written by Andrew Birkin. The film stars Richard Gere in the title role, alongside ensemble cast such as: Edward Woodward, Alice Krige, Denis Quilley, Cherie Lunghi, Hurd Hatfield, Jack Klaff, John Castle, Tim Woodward, George Eastman, Christopher Malcolm, Gina Bellman and James Coombes in supporting roles.

King David
King david.jpeg
Original film poster
Directed byBruce Beresford
Produced byMartin Elfand
Written byAndrew Birkin
James Costigan
Music byCarl Davis
CinematographyDonald McAlpine
Edited byWilliam M. Anderson
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
March 29, 1985 (1985-03-29)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$21 million
Box office$5,111,099[1]

King David was released by Paramount Pictures which was also the production company, on March 29, 1985, while in other countries it was released in 1986 and 1987. Upon release, the film received mostly negative reviews for its screenplay writing, pace, some of the acting and the action sequences. However, Gere's performance and the cinematography were praised. In addition to being a critical failure, the film was also a box office failure, grossing $5.9 million worldwide against its $21 million production budget.


The film follows the life of David, drawing mainly from biblical accounts, especially I and II Samuel, I Chronicles, and the Psalms of David.[2]




In July 1978 Michael Eisner of Paramount said he wanted the studio to make a Biblical film for release in 1981.[3] This was a King David script. According to Andrew Birkin, who was one of the later writers, the studio were attracted to the story because of its parallels to Star Wars with David as Luke Skywalker and Samuel as Obi-Wan Kenobi.[4]

Jeffrey Katzenberg of Paramount met Bruce Beresford at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980 when the director was there with Breaker Morant. He gave Beresford the script. Beresford "liked the story, didn't like the script" so bought in Andrew Birkin "who's come up with an outstanding screenplay."[5]

Birkin felt David's story was more ideal for a ten hour mini series and struggled to include key elements like Samuel. "I found the brutality of te Old Testament hard to take" said Birkin. "I hadn't realized that God's commandments were set out so clearly -there's no pink pages. It was hard to make God a hero. It was also hard in 1984 to write a film about our late lamented Imperialists. This is not a Ten Commandments story of beleagured people in exile. David was the Cecil Rhodes of Ancient Israel. It was hard to make a case for him, the kind who carved an empire according to the map devised by Abraham."[4]

Beresford said, "The forces that impinged on David, the decisions he had to make, the relationships he had with people and with God and the way he felt about Him - it becomes fascinating when you follow everything that happened to David from his childhood to his death."[6]

"What made David fascinating were his strengths and weaknesses," said Beresford.[4]

Beresford watched a number of Biblical films and was most impressed by The Gospel According to St Matthew and Jesus of Nazareth.[4]

In June 1982 Beresford said he would make the film for Paramount, after he made Tender Mercies.[7] In February 1983 he said the budget would be $16 million and "it's got an absolutely wonderful script. I think we've gotten away from all of those old cliches of Hollywood biblical movies."[8]

"What I want to do is make a different sort of Biblical film," he said. "The ones Hollywood made in the past were far too reverential. It was as if the moment they got hold of the Bible they became awestruck. The actors fell over themselves to be sententious and all those heavenly choirs and shafts of light... The only way is for actors to speak the lines normally not as if they were inverted commas."[5]

"Religion has to come into King David, because it was part of everybody's everyday life then," said Beresford. "People used to talk about God like we talk about going to a restaurant. They'd say: 'God did this. God did that.' But the emotional experiences in the film will be easily recognizable because they're so universal."[6]

Beresford wanted American actors rather than English ones to give the movie a more contemporary feel.[5] The producer said he personally chose Richard Gere to play the lead.[6] However a later report said Beresford wanted to use an unknown and Gere was forced upon him. "Bruce knew what the reaction would be toward Gere in the role," said the source. "He knew it would be ridiculous, but, once he'd signed on, he couldn't just walk off. He knew that if he did, he'd never work in Hollywood again."[9]

The film was originally going to be shot in Israel.[10] Eventually it was decided this was impractical as Israel did not have any buildings older than the Roman Empire. They considered Morocco and Tunisia before settling on Italy.[4]


Filming started in May 1984 in England, by which time the budget was $23 million.[11] Locations included Matera and Craco both in Basilicata, and Campo Imperatore in Abruzzo, the Lanaitto valley (Oliena) in Sardinia, Italy, and at Pinewood Studios in England.[12]

It was a difficult shoot. Both Beresford and Gere came down with viruses. Extras went on strike for more pay. Many locations were remote. The script used was the ninth draft.[4]

""Normally if you're making an ordinary movie and the weather turns bad you say: Oh well, we'll shoot tomorrow," said Beresford. "But if you've got 2,000 extras there and suddenly it starts snowing-as it did with us-it's useless saying: I can't shoot in this. You've got to because you can't get the people back again." [13]

According to one report "Gere knew Beresford wanted him replaced, and that made for quite a bit of friction on the set. Beresford did what he wanted to do in the scenes where Gere doesn't appear, and Gere did what he wanted to do in his scenes. The film ended up as a multi-million dollar joke that everyone thinks is funny except the people who made it and the Paramount investors." [9]

Beresford later said ""The King David script was just never right. We started off on the wrong foot and then it turned into a catalogue of disaster. Really, I don't know how I got mixed up in such a mess - I felt like the captain of the Titanic heading toward a critical iceberg and I hit it. It was inevitable."[14]



The film was not well received by the critics, with The New York Times calling it "not a good film".[15] Review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 'rotten' 8% rating.[16] Richard Gere's performance in the film earned him a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Actor, which he lost to Sylvester Stallone for Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV.

Box OfficeEdit

Beresford said ""The film cost $22 million and lost it all - and more.And the minute the movie died, I checked out a list of famous directors who also had works that bombed - to see if they ever got back on the right foot again."[14]


Years later, Bruce Beresford said of the film:

I think there are a few things in it that are interesting. But, I think there are so many things that are wrong. We never liked the script... we never really caught the friendship between David and Jonathan. There weren't enough scenes between them. And David, himself – I think Richard Gere was miscast. He is a wonderful actor but he is much better in contemporary pieces.[17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ King David at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ "King David (1985) - Trivia". IMDb.
  3. ^ What to Do for an Encore: CRITIC AT LARGE Champlin, Charles. Los Angeles Times 7 July 1978: h1.
  4. ^ a b c d e f MOVIES: 'KING DAVID' AND ITS MODERN GOLIATHS BORSTEN, JOAN. Los Angeles Times 29 July 1984: t18.
  5. ^ a b c BERESFORD VERSION OF THE BIBLE Mann, Roderick. Los Angeles Times 8 Mar 1983: g1
  6. ^ a b c Richard Gere 'wonderful' as King David Wolf, Matt. The Globe and Mail 8 June 1984: E.3.
  7. ^ AT THE MOVIES Chase, Chris. New York Times 18 June 1982: C.10.
  8. ^ FROM THE BOER WAR BRUCE BERESFORD TURNS TO TEXAS LIFE Gelder, Lawrence Van. New York Times27 Feb 1983: A.17.
  10. ^ GOLAN FILM STUDIO SWITCHES SITES BORSTEN, JOAN. Los Angeles Times (5 Apr 1983: g4.
  11. ^ Tempo/Arts: Gere works to fill shoes of King David Wolf, Matt. Chicago Tribune 7 June 1984: s9.
  12. ^ "King David". Pinewood Studios.
  13. ^ DOWN BY THE OLD DeMILLE STREAM . . .: [Home Edition] Mann, Roderick. Los Angeles Times 17 Mar 1985: 26.
  14. ^ a b Bruce Beresford rediscovers the magic touch with his latest film: [FINAL Edition] By BILL BROWNSTEIN Special to The Gazette. The Gazette; Montreal, Que. [Montreal, Que]30 Aug 1986: D8.
  15. ^ Canby, Vincent (March 29, 1985). "Movie Review – SCREEN: 'KING DAVID,' A BIBLICAL EPIC". The New York Times.
  16. ^ "King David". Rotten Tomatoes.
  17. ^ "Interview with Bruce Beresford". Signet. May 15, 1999. Retrieved June 13, 2019.

External linksEdit