Cruise and Kidman play Irish immigrants seeking their fortune in 1890s America, eventually taking part in the Land Run of 1893.
This was Cyril Cusack's final film before his death the following year.
In Ireland in 1892, Joseph Donnelly's family home is burned down by the men of his landlord, Daniel Christie, because of unpaid rent. Vowing revenge, Joseph unsuccessfully attempts to kill Christie. Joseph meets Christie's daughter Shannon, who has rebelled against family tradition and made plans to claim free land in America. She offers to take Joseph with her as her servant so she, a single woman, can travel without scandal.
At first, Joseph doesn't agree, as he is planning to duel Christie's foreman, Stephen Chase, the man who set fire to Joseph's family's home. Christie meets Joseph during the course of the fight, and tells him that he had nothing do with Joseph's family's eviction or that of any of the other tenant farmers, since the land is managed by Chase. Dawn arrives and Chase is very close to shooting Joseph in their duel, but Shannon dashes in with her horse and buggy, convincing Joseph at the last moment to accompany her to America.
On a ship bound for America, Shannon meets Mr. McGuire, who tells them about America's free land, convincing them both of its arability. He tells them it is in Oklahoma, informing them that once they get there, they must race to claim it like everyone else. She explains that her collection of valuable silver spoons will cover all expenses to get the pair to Oklahoma, and McGuire offers to help her find a shop to sell them to once they arrive in America.
On arriving in Boston, McGuire is shot and Shannon's spoons fall out of his clothing and get snatched up by passersby. Joseph rescues her, but not the spoons. Mike Kelly is Ward Boss, a leader of the Irish immigrant community, and one of his workers introduces the pair to him. Kelly finds them jobs, but only one room to live in, which they must share. To avoid scandal, Joseph says Shannon is his sister. Because they are working class people, it would be dangerous for their fellow Irish immigrants to find out she is of a privileged background.
As the pair continues to share a room, Joseph and Shannon become attracted to each other, but both keep up a front of indifference. One night, Joseph rushes out to Boss Kelly's club, where a bare-knuckle boxing match is underway. Joseph challenges the winner, knocks him out, and soon becomes a regular at the club to make extra cash while both he and Shannon work in a chicken-plucking plant.
Back in Ireland, the Christies' house is burned down by angry tenants in the Irish Land War, so the Christies decide to emigrate to America, hoping also to find their daughter.
Joseph is told Shannon is at Kelly's club. Rushing to the club, he discovers Shannon on stage as a burlesque dancer. He tries to cover her with his jacket, demanding that she stop dancing. The Irish men surrounding the couple beg him to fight and offer him a small fortune ($200). Shannon, who previously scorned boxing, urges him to fight, since the money would get them to Oklahoma. Joseph agrees and is winning until he notices one of his backers (a member of the city council) groping Shannon on his lap. Joseph pushes through the crowd to free her, but is pushed back into the ring, where his foot accidentally "toes" the line, falsely signaling he is ready to begin fighting. But he isn't ready and his opponent lands a sucker punch, after which Joseph is defeated.
In retaliation for the hundreds of dollars Joseph's boxing loss has cost Boss Kelly and his friends, Joseph is thrown out into the street outside the club. He meets a policeman who shows him a photograph of Shannon, asking if he's seen her. Joseph then comes back to the room to find Kelly and his thugs searching their room for the money he and Shannon saved. With their valuables having been stolen by Kelly's thugs, they're both thrown out into the streets. Joseph and Shannon are left homeless.
Cold and famished, the pair enter a seemingly abandoned luxurious house. Joseph encourages Shannon to pretend the house is hers and he is her servant, but she begs him to pretend they are married and the house is theirs. During that tender moment, the owners of the house return and chase them away, shooting Shannon in the back. Joseph brings Shannon to the Christies, newly arrived from Ireland. He decides Shannon will be better cared for by them, and leaves despite his obvious feelings for her.
Joseph heads west to the Ozarks. He finds work laying track on a railroad for the last few months, seemingly abandoning his dream of owning land. He sees a wagon train out the door of his boxcar. Knowing it is headed for the Oklahoma land rush, Joseph abandons the railroad and joins the wagon train, arriving in Oklahoma Territory just in time for the Land Run of 1893.
Joseph finds Shannon, Chase, and the Christies already in Oklahoma. Chase, having seen Joseph talking to Shannon, threatens to kill him if he goes near Shannon again. Joseph buys a horse for the land rush, but the horse dies in a few hours, and he is forced to ride an unruly horse he manages to tame. He discovers that Chase has cheated by illegally inspecting the territory before the race, and is headed for the extremely desirable land he found. On this other horse, Joseph quickly outpaces everybody and catches up with Shannon and Chase.
Joseph is ready to plant his claim flag, but Chase rushes on horseback at Joseph. A fight breaks out, with Joseph falling and crushed by the horse. Shannon runs to his side and rejects Chase when he questions her actions. Joseph professes his love for Shannon. They both drive the land stake into the ground and claim their prize land before the other settlers get there.Tom Cruise as Joseph Donnelly
Nicole Kidman as Shannon Christie
Thomas Gibson as Stephen Chase
Robert Prosky as Daniel Christie
Barbara Babcock as Nora Christie
Cyril Cusack as Danty Duff
Eileen Pollock as Molly Kay
Colm Meaney as Kelly
Douglas Gillison as Dermody
Michelle Johnson as Grace
Clint Howard as Flynn
Rance Howard as Tomlin
Niall Tóibín as Joseph Donnelly's father
Jamie Gerrard as Child running in background
Chris Cattan as Extremely Old Man
Pre-production began in late April 1991. The film was shot in Montana for business reasons, but the Oklahoma Historical Society was involved in its production. Imagine Production Co. toured the areas around Montana for a week. They visited different areas before selecting Billings, Montana. Ron Howard, whose film Backdraft was in the stages of being released in theatres at the time, arrived in Billings to begin groundwork for the film. One site outside of town was a 12,000-acre ranch, which was going to be used to film the Oklahoma Land Rush scene. More than a hundred extras were used, as well as a dozen area actors for small speaking parts. Working titles for the film included The Irish Story and An Irish Story.
Principal photography began in Montana on May 28, 1991. After several weeks of preparation, the cast and crew filmed the Oklahoma Land Rush scene on July 7, 1991. Eight hundred riders and extras, nine hundred horses, mule, oxen, and two hundred wagons were used on a quarter mile wide set. Twelve cameras were used to film the action sequences. Cruise's boxing match was filmed at the Billings Depot. Local area residents were used as extras for the sequence. After filming wrapped in Billings, the cast and crew traveled to Dublin, Ireland, to complete filming. Ardmore Studios in Dublin was used to film interior sequences, and the streets of Boston were filmed in County Dublin. They spent two months there, and production was completed on September 26, 1991.
The music to Far and Away was composed and conducted by composer John Williams. The score, a mixture of traditional Irish instrumentation and conventional orchestra, prominently featured performances by the Irish musical group The Chieftains and a revision of the song "Book of Days" composed and performed by Enya. The soundtrack was released 26 May 1992 through MCA Records and features 19 tracks of music at a running time just over sixty-seven minutes. Selections from the soundtrack have been featured in the trailers for various films including Rudy (1993), Getting Even with Dad (1994), Circle of Friends (1995), Treasure Planet (2002) and Charlotte's Web (2006).
- "County Galway, June 1892" (1:55)
- "The Fighting Donellys" (2:18) – featured performance by The Chieftains
- "Joe Sr.'s Passing/The Duel Scene" (4:41)
- "Leaving Home" (1:55)
- "Burning the Manor House" (2:43)
- "Blowing Off Steam" (1:31)
- "Fighting for Dough" (2:02) – featured performance by The Chieftains
- "Am I Beautiful?" (3:38)
- "The Big Match" (5:56)
- "Inside the Mansion" (4:24)
- "Shannon is Shot" (4:06)
- "Joseph's Dream" (3:08)
- "The Reunion" (3:50)
- "Oklahoma Territory" (2:12)
- "The Land Race" (4:56)
- "Settling with Steven/The Race to the River" (4:08)
- "Joseph and Shannon" (3:14)
- "Book of Days" (2:53) – composed and performed by Enya
- "End Credits" (6:35) – featured performance by The Chieftains
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Roger Ebert praised the film's cinematography while criticizing its script:
'Far and Away' is a movie that joins astonishing visual splendor with a story so simple-minded it seems intended for adolescents... It's depressing that such a lavish and expensive production, starring an important actor like Tom Cruise, could be devoted to such a shallow story.
The movie, which cost $60 million to make, earned roughly $13 million in its first weekend at the box office and made a total of $58 million domestically (it also fared solidly abroad, with almost $79 million) and $137 million worldwide. The film altogether made $166,694,840 from worldwide and home video rentals. Far and Away currently holds a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 24 reviews. The film was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song for the song "Book of Days'". Writer Tony Parsons later called it "a stinker of a picture called Far And Away, which was far and away the worst film I have ever seen."
The film is rated M in Australia, however the rating was later changed to PG in New Zealand.