After a young widow (Demi Moore) has a child and refuses to name the father, a Puritan community forces her to wear the letter A, for adulteress.
The Scarlet Letter is a 1995 American film adaptation of the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel of the same name. It was directed by Roland Joffe and stars Demi Moore, Gary Oldman, and Robert Duvall. This version was "freely adapted" from Hawthorne and deviated from the original story. It was nominated for seven Golden Raspberry Awards at the 1995 ceremony, winning "Worst Remake or Sequel."
Set in puritanical Boston in the mid 1600s, the story of seamstress Hester Prynne, who is outcast after she becomes pregnant by a respected reverend. She refuses to divulge the name of the father, is "convicted" of adultery and forced to wear a scarlet "A" until an Indian attack unites the Puritans and leads to a reevaluation of their laws and morals.
It is 1667 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and an uneasy truce exists between local Puritans and their neighbours, the Algonquian. Chief Metacomet (Eric Schweig) succeeds his father Massasoit as head of the latter just as a new colonist, Hester Prynne (Demi Moore) arrives overseas from England. As Hester waits for her husband - who is due to follow shortly after - she falls for a young minister, Arthur Dimmesdale (Gary Oldman). When it emerges that Roger Prynne has likely been killed by Native Americans, they become inseparable lovers.
Finding herself pregnant with Dimmesdales child, Hester is imprisoned for her indiscretion. The minister intends to declare his sin and face execution, but Hester convinces him otherwise. Sentenced to wear a scarlet "A" for adultery, Prynne is ostracized by the public, and a drummer boy charged to follow her whenever she comes to town. Meanwhile, Hesters husband (Robert Duvall) resurfaces, having spent his absence in captivity as a prisoner of war. Learning of the scandal, he adopts the fictitious guise of "Dr. Roger Chillingworth" and begins seeking out her paramour.
The physician eventually murders a male settler leaving Hesters home and scalps him in an effort to implicate Algonquian warriors. Infuriated by this atrocity, the colonists declare war on the Indians and Roger, distraught by the severe consequences of his action, promptly commits suicide. Hester is nearly hanged with other undesirables in the ensuing outrage, but Dimmesdale saves her neck by confessing that he is the father of her child. As he takes her place on the gallows, the Algonquian attack Massachusetts Bay; both sides sustain heavy casualties. The Puritans are more concerned with concealing the conflict from England than harassing Hester any further; she finally abandons her scarlet letter and departs with Dimmesdale for Carolina.Demi Moore as Hester Prynne
Gary Oldman as Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale
Robert Duvall as Roger Chillingworth
Edward Hardwicke as John Bellingham
Robert Prosky as Horace Stonehall
Roy Dotrice as Rev. Thomas Cheever
Joan Plowright as Harriet Hibbons
Larissa Laskin as Goody Mortimer
Amy Wright as Goody Gotwick
George Aguilar as Johnny Sassamon
Tim Woodward as Brewster Stonehall
Dana Ivey as Meredith Stonehall
Sheldon Peters Wolfchild as Moskeegee
Eric Schweig as Metacomet
Kristin Fairlie as Faith Stonehall
Sarah Campbell as Prudence Stonehall
Kennetch Charlette as Tarratine Chief
Jodhi May as Voice of Pearl
Tallulah Belle Willis as Pearl (infant)
Scout LaRue Willis as Toddler Pearl
The film was shot in British Columbia on Vancouver Island, in and around Campbell River (Beaverlodge Lands—now Rockland Road and North Island College/Timberline Secondary, Lupin Falls and Myra Falls in Strathcona Provincial Park, Little Oyster River, and White River), and in the Nova Scotia towns of Yarmouth and Shelburne in 1994. In Shelburne, the waterfront area was substantially altered to resemble a Puritan New England town in the mid-17th century. Some of the buildings on Dock Street retain the grey-tone paint finishes used for the film.
Three original scores were written for this film. The first score was composed by Ennio Morricone and was quickly rejected. A second score was composed by Elmer Bernstein, but his music was set aside in lieu of the final score, composed by John Barry. Reportedly, star Demi Moore wanted a score by Barry from the start, so Morricones and Bernsteins music were not going to be accepted, regardless of quality.
Barrys score was released on CD by Sony Records upon the films release in 1995. A CD of Bernsteins rejected score was released by Varese Sarabande in 2008. No recordings of Morricones score have been released to the public.
Demi Moore appears in The Scarlet Letter and Indecent Proposal. Demi Moore appears in The Scarlet Letter and Passion of Mind. Easy A (2010). Demi Moore appears in The Scarlet Letter and St Elmos Fire. Demi Moore appears in The Scarlet Letter and GI Jane.
The film drew scoffing and hostile reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 14% approval rating, based on 35 reviews. It won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Remake or Sequel and was nominated for Worst Actress (Moore), Worst Director, Worst Picture, Worst Screen Couple (Moore and either Duvall or Oldman), Worst Screenplay and Worst Supporting Actor (Duvall). It grossed $10.3 million against a production budget of $50 million.
In response to the negative criticism, and to the new ending, Demi Moore said that the story the filmmakers were trying to tell differed out of necessity with that of the book, which she said was "very dense and not cinematic". She noted the original story might be better suited to a miniseries on television, and that the story presented in this film needed a different ending, one that did not lose "the ultimate message of Hester Prynne" that its makers were trying to convey.