Mr. Holland's Opus

Mr. Holland's Opus
Mr. Holland's Opus

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Stephen Herek
Produced by

Ted Field
Robert W. Cort

Patrick Sheane Duncan (Executive Producer)
Written by Patrick Sheane Duncan
Starring Richard Dreyfuss
Glenne Headly
Jay Thomas
Olympia Dukakis
William H. Macy
Alicia Witt
Music by Michael Kamen
Cinematography Oliver Wood
Editing by Trudy Ship
Studio Interscope Communications
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
Distributed by Hollywood Pictures
Release date(s) January 19, 1996 (1996-01-19)
Running time 143 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $106,269,971

Mr. Holland's Opus is a 1995 American drama film directed by Stephen Herek, produced by Ted Field, Robert W. Cort, and Michael Nolin, and Executive Produced by Patrick Sheane Duncan.[1] It stars Richard Dreyfuss in the title role, and the cast includes Glenne Headly, Olympia Dukakis, William H. Macy and Jay Thomas.

Mr. Holland's Opus is presented as a video biography of the 30-year career of the eponymous lead character, Glenn Holland, as a music teacher at the fictional John F. Kennedy High School in Portland, Oregon.



In 1964, Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) is a talented musician and composer who has been relatively successful in the exhausting life of a professional musical performer. However, in an attempt to enjoy more free time with his young wife, Iris (Glenne Headly), and to enable him to compose a piece of orchestral music, the 30-year-old Holland accepts a teaching position.

Unfortunately for Holland, he is soon forced to realize that his position as a music teacher makes him a marginalized figure in the faculty's hierarchy. For instance, he comes face to face with how seriously he is outranked by the high school's football coach (Jay Thomas), who ultimately becomes a close friend. Administrators either dislike him, as does assistant principal Gene Wolters (William H. Macy), or push him relentlessly, as does principal Helen Jacobs (Olympia Dukakis).

Holland's lack of quality time with Iris becomes problematic when their son, Cole, is diagnosed as deaf. Glenn reacts with hostility to the news that he can never teach the joys of music to his own child. Iris willingly learns American Sign Language to communicate with her son, but Glenn resists. This causes further estrangement within the family.

Through three decades, Mr. Holland is closer to students at John F. Kennedy High School than he is to his own son. He addresses a series of challenges created by people who are either skeptical of—or hostile towards—the idea of musical excellence within the walls of a typical middle-class American high school. He inspires many students, but never has private time for himself or his family, forever delaying the composition of his own orchestral composition. Ultimately, he reaches an age when it is too late to realistically find financial backing or ever have it performed.

In 1995, the adversaries of the Kennedy High music program win a decisive institutional victory. Holland's longtime adversary Wolters, promoted to school principal when Jacobs retires, works with the school board to eliminate music (along with the rest of the fine arts program) in the name of necessary budget cuts, thereby leading to Mr. Holland's ignominious dismissal at the age of 60. Glenn is a realist who realizes that his working life is over. He believes that his former students have mostly forgotten him.

On his final day as a teacher, the despairing Mr. Holland is led to the school auditorium, where his professional life is surprisingly redeemed. Hearing that their beloved teacher is leaving, hundreds of his pupils have secretly returned to the school to celebrate his life.

Mr. Holland's orchestral piece, never before heard in public, has been put before the musicians by his wife and son. One of his most musically challenged students, Gertrude Lang (Alicia Witt (young) /Joanna Gleason (adult)), who has become governor of the state, sits in with her clarinet. Gertrude and the other alumni ask the retiring teacher to serve as their conductor for the premiere performance of Mr. Holland's Opus ("The American Symphony"). A proud Iris and Cole look on, appreciating the affection and respect that Mr. Holland receives.



The movie was written by Patrick Sheane Duncan (for which he received a Golden Globe nomination) and directed by Stephen Herek. Dreyfuss was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor and a Golden Globe.

Filming locations

The movie was filmed in and around Portland, Oregon with many exterior and interior scenes taking place at Ulysses S. Grant High School.[2]

Archive footage

Archive footage seen in the film includes:


The film features an orchestral score by Michael Kamen and many pieces of classical music. Kamen also wrote An American Symphony, the work Mr. Holland is shown working on throughout the movie.

Soundtrack releases

Two soundtrack albums were released for this film in January 1996. One is the original motion picture score, and includes all of the original music written for the film by Michael Kamen. The second album is a collection of popular music featured in the film:

  1. "Visions of a Sunset" - Shawn Stockman (of Boyz II Men)
  2. "One, Two, Three" - Len Barry
  3. "A Lover's Concerto" - The Toys
  4. "Keep On Running" - Spencer Davis Group
  5. "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" - Stevie Wonder
  6. "Imagine" - John Lennon
  7. "The Pretender" - Jackson Browne
  8. "Someone to Watch Over Me" - Julia Fordham
  9. "I Got a Woman" - Ray Charles
  10. "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)" - John Lennon
  11. "Cole's Song" - Julian Lennon & Tim Renwick
  12. "An American Symphony (Mr. Holland's Opus)" - London Metropolitan Orchestra & Michael Kamen


Box office

In the United States, gross domestic takings totaled US$ 82,569,971. International takings are estimated at $23,700,000, for a gross worldwide takings of $106,269,971.[3] Rental totals reached $36,550,000 in the US.

The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation

Inspired by the motion picture, its composer, Michael Kamen, founded The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation (MHOF) in 1996 as his commitment to the future of music education.[4]


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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