Professor and the Madman Trailer: Mel Gibson & Sean Penn Star in Dictionary Drama

The Professor and the Madman teams Mel Gibson and Sean Penn in a drama about the creation of the Oxford Dictionary.

The Professor and the Madman might sound like the title of a long-running late-1980s crime procedural that no one really watched, but the upcoming historically based drama will showcase some star power in the form of headliners Mel Gibson and Sean Penn.

The long-gestating project of Gibson’s has finally come to fruition. The film adapts the 1998 book of the same name by Simon Winchester, following two key figures in the decades-long endeavor to create what would become the Oxford English Dictionary. Gibson plays Professor James Murray, who was appointed editor of the lexicon in the late 1870s. However, his crucial collaboration with Yale-trained American army surgeon W.C. Minor (Penn) is awkward since Minor is a lunatic and a murderer; nouns that the OED would confirm is generally not an auspicious addition to any biographical sentence.

The Professor and the Madman was directed by Farhad Safinia, creator of Starz series Boss and Gibson’s screenwriting collaborator on Apocalypto.

Professor and the Madman Trailer

Check out the trailer for The Professor and the Madman just below!

Professor and the Madman Release Date

The Professor and the Madman still doesn’t have a release date, but that should change very soon.

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Professor and the Madman Details

Director Farhad Safinia worked off a script – adapting Winchester’s book – that he co-wrote with an interesting duo of writers in the legendary John Boorman (Excalibur, Deliverance), Todd Komarnicki (Sully, Perfect Stranger).

Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones), Ioan Gruffud (Fantastic Four), Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty) and Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) also fill the cast.

The film – mostly shot back in 2016 – has experienced a long, controversial process on its way to release. Gibson procured the film rights to Winchester’s novel – originally titled The Surgeon of Crowthorne – way back in 1998, with plans to turn it into a directorial project for himself. However, plans tend to change after decades and Gibson eventually ceded the director’s chair to Safinia, the co-writer and co-producer of his 2006 Mayan survival drama, Apocalypto.

However, the behind-the-scenes drama didn’t end there. The film became the center of a legal battle between Gibson (via his Icon Productions,) and Voltage Pictures over creative control issues stemming from Voltage’s alleged refusal to allow final cut privileges to director Safinia and its revocation of five additional days of shooting. However, the courtroom clash resulted this past June in a decision that favored Voltage, nullifying Gibson/Safinia’s intended final cut. Consequently, the film that’s getting released is not the intended product of its creators, resulting in Safinia having his name taken off the credits, changed to “P.B. Shemran.”

Regardless, The Professor and the Madman appears to present an interesting pairing of two onscreen icons in Gibson and Penn, who are in ambiguous phases of their respective careers. Gibson has spent the last few years quietly rehabbing his (obviously damaged) public image with roles in films like Dragged Across Concrete, Daddy’s Home Two, The Expendables 3, Get the Gringo and Machete Kills. The two-time Best Actor Oscar winner, Penn, on the other hand, is looking to rebound from his money-hemorrhaging last starring effort in the 2015 action film flop, The Gunman, which he followed last year with a starring role on the Hulu series, The First. However, teamed together in this period drama, Gibson and Penn could create some intriguing onscreen magic.

Joseph Baxter is a contributor for Den of Geek and Syfy Wire. You can find his work here. Follow him on Twitter @josbaxter.

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