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Charlie Wilson’s War: Tom Hanks & Julia Roberts Political Comedy Fails to Ignite Box Office

Charlie Wilson’s War Tom Hanks Julia Roberts Amy AdamsCharlie Wilson’s War with Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Amy Adams: Despite its prestigious, Oscar-pedigreed talent, veteran Mike Nichols’ real-life-based political comedy-drama turned out to be a major box office disappointment.
  • Charlie Wilson’s War box office: Notwithstanding its star-studded, Oscar-pedigreed cast – Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams – veteran Mike Nichols’ real-life-based political comedy-drama has ended up as a major money-loser.

Charlie Wilson’s War box office: Tom Hanks & Julia Roberts have failed to lure moviegoers to Mike Nichols’ latest ‘adult-oriented’ effort

Directed by veteran Academy Award winner Mike Nichols (The Graduate, 1967), and starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman (more on their Oscar pedigree further below), Universal Pictures’ political comedy-drama Charlie Wilson’s War has ended its run with a disappointing $66.7 million in North America (U.S. and Canada only) according to (updated final) figures found at boxofficemojo.com.

The fact that this prestigious, star-studded $75 million production (as always, not including marketing and distribution expenses) failed to attract much attention during awards season (the Golden Globes were an exception) surely didn’t help matters any.

In fact, think back to another political comedy-drama released by Universal, directed by Mike Nichols, featuring an Oscar-pedigreed stellar cast, and (several months later) being mostly ignored during awards season: The $65 million Primary Colors, which, despite the presence of Oscar nominee John Travolta, and winners Emma Thompson, Kathy Bates, and Billy Bob Thornton, collected only $39 million domestically in 1998.

Would international audiences give a damn?

But what about the international market?

Generally speaking, non-Americans couldn’t care less about American political and social issues. Imagine people outside the United States giving a damn about the deeds and misdeeds of real-life Texas Democratic Rep. Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) – i.e., his secretly helping Afghan rebels to rise up against the Soviet Union in the 1980s – even though the world is still experiencing the consequences of his actions to this day.

Looking from that narrow angle, it’s hardly surprising that Charlie Wilson’s War brought in a modest $52.8 million abroad, with its top international markets being the United Kingdom/Ireland ($8.9 million) and France ($4.8 million).

With a worldwide total of $119.5 million, Mike Nichols’ latest adult-oriented movie didn’t even get close to breaking even at the box office.

Oscar-pedigreed actors mostly ignored this past awards season

Now, what comes as a surprise is international moviegoers lacking the curiosity to check out a movie starring Oscar winners – and box office draws – Tom Hanks (Philadelphia, 1993; Forrest Gump, 1994) and Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich, 2000). Yet they didn’t.

Also in the Charlie Wilson’s War cast: The aforementioned Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, 2005), Best Supporting Actress nominee Amy Adams (Junebug, 2005), and Best Supporting Actor nominee Ned Beatty (Network, 1976), in addition to Emily Blunt, John Slattery, Om Puri, Christopher Denham, Faran Tahir, Ken Sott, and Denis O’Hare.

Aaron Sorkin was credited for the adaptation of George Crile III’s 2003 book Charlie Wilson’s War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History.

Eventual Best Supporting Actor nominee Philip Seymour Hoffman turned out to be the only individual associated with Charlie Wilson’s War to be shortlisted for this year’s Oscars. (In the case of Primary Colors, two women ended up shortlisted: Kathy Bates and Elaine May in the, respectively, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay categories.)


Charlie Wilson’s War: Tom Hanks Box Office” endnotes

Unless otherwise noted, “Charlie Wilson’s War: Tom Hanks & Julia Roberts Political Comedy Fails to Ignite Box Office” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline.com, etc.).

Comments about Charlie Wilson’s War and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).

Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, domestic/international sales/pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – accounted for).

Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take. However, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.

Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Amy Adams Charlie Wilson’s War movie image: Universal Pictures.

Charlie Wilson’s War: Tom Hanks & Julia Roberts Political Comedy Fails to Ignite Box Office” last updated in October 2022.

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