The Thomas Crown Affair (1999 film)

The Thomas Crown Affair

Original theatrical poster
Directed by John McTiernan
Produced by Michael Tadross
Pierce Brosnan
Beau St. Clair
Screenplay by Leslie Dixon
Kurt Wimmer
Story by Alan Trustman
Starring Pierce Brosnan
Rene Russo
Denis Leary
Music by Bill Conti
Cinematography Tom Priestly
Edited by John Wright
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • August 6, 1999 (1999-08-06)
Running time
113 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $48 million
Box office $124,305,181

The Thomas Crown Affair is a 1999 American heist film directed by John McTiernan.[1] The film, starring Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo and Denis Leary, is a remake of the 1968 film of the same name.[1][2] The film generally received positive reviews. It was a success at the box office, grossing $124 million worldwide.[3]


At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, an attempted robbery of precious paintings fails when museum employees discover imposters posing as staff. In all the confusion of locking down the museum and capturing the robbers, Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) slips into an adjacent room and steals the painting of San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk by Monet. The insurers of the $100 million artwork send investigator Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) to assist NYPD Detective Michael McCann (Denis Leary) in solving the crime. In the beginning, the detective and his assistant make fun of Catherine for trying to find the thief. But, soon, Catherine proves that she's smarter and sharper than the detective in solving the crime.

In reviewing video of the rooms involved in both robberies, one of which was strangely "blank", Banning follows clues to discover how both robberies are connected. She quickly comes to suspect that the wealthy financier Thomas Crown is behind the theft. In the meantime, within two days of stealing the artwork, Thomas Crown, donates one of his own personal collections to the museum to be displayed in the same place where the stolen Monet painting was hanging. During the donation ceremony, he meets Catherine and while she accuses him of stealing the Monet painting, he immediately is attracted to her wittiness.

Banning is intrigued at his motivations and begins a game of cat-and-mouse to recover the painting. Despite the fact that both of them intuitively know what the other is up to, the two of them continue to meet in high class locations and intimate surroundings while Banning continues to search for the painting. On their first date, Catherine gets his blazer from him pretending to feel cold. Once she wears his blazer, she passes on his house keys to the police who immediately makes a copy of them. When he drops her off at her place, she slyly put his house keys back into his blazer. When Thomas tries to woo her, she asks him, "Do you really think that I'll sleep with someone that I'm investigating?"

The next day, she illegally enters into Thomas' house and searches for the painting. She presses a button under a table in his study and finds the Monet painting that was stolen from the museum. She triumphantly enters into the police station and asks to verify the authenticity of the painting taken from Thomas' house. Soon, they realize that it was a copy of the original. Angered at being outwitted by Thomas, she agrees to another date with him and they end up sleeping together. Afterwards, she continues to see him regularly and he takes her to his mountain house on a beach and they have a good time. When she returns from his mountain house, detective Michael shares with her photos of Thomas with another woman, Anna, just before and after his date with Catherine. When she sees the photos, Catherine immediately starts crying as she truly loves him.

The constant contact, matching of wits (and the romantic pursuit of Crown), cause Banning to fall in love with him. But her commitment to her job and her doubts about Crown's true intentions make her hesitate. Thomas, too, falls in love with her and is concerned about falling in love with a woman who investigates his crime and discusses it with his psychiatrist. When Catherine confronts him about Anna, he replies that he simply wanted to know if she's after the painting or is in really love with him.

To prove his love to her, Crown promises to return the stolen artwork to the museum before 4 PM the next day. If he can't do it, he asks her help in returning it to the proper place on the museum without anyone's knowledge. But, she refuses to help him return the artwork without anyone's knowledge. In her doubt, Banning betrays Crown's plan to Detective McCann who fills the museum with dozens of police officers in an attempt to catch him in the act. In the mean time, the police and Catherine figure out that Anna is in fact, the daughter of a famous German painter, Heinrich Knutzhorn, whom they suspect copied the Monet painting for Thomas. Catherine was fooled by the copy and took it from Thomas' house without his knowledge. Later, they realize that it was Anna who copied the painting for Thomas and who was waiting in his bed room to be paid by him for her work when Catherine visited him.

Around 3:40 PM, Thomas enters the museum amid several police officers in disguise and several others monitoring him on the surveillance cameras and immediately puts on a bowler hat. The police soon realizes that there are numerous men with bowler hats on and they can't identify Thomas from the surveillance video. Thomas throws a few tear gas shells into the room where the original Monet painting was hanging. The fire sprinklers start sprinkling water due to gas generated from the tear gas shells. Automatically, the iron doors in front of the valuable paintings start to shut to protect the paintings from water. However, the door in front of the painting that Thomas donated, which is hanging in the same place where the original stolen Monet painting was hanging was stuck and doesn't close. Water from the fire sprinklers spray on the painting that Thomas donated and it washes away the water color and the original Monet painting appears in the background. When a police officer checks what stopped the door from getting stuck, he picks up a pencil with the words, "Crown Acquisitions".

Soon, the police realizes what happened. Immediately after stealing the original Monet painting, Thomas had an artist paint another painting with water colors on top of it, and donated it to the museum within two days of stealing the original. However, they also realize that another painting is stolen from its place; one which Banning had previously expressed a desire to possess. Since the second stolen painting is insured by another company and her job is now finished, Banning's knowledge of Crown's plan allows her to meet him at a prearranged spot. Detective Michael is no longer in a mood to pursue Thomas as he's doing for a kick rather than money and he returns them anyway soon afterwards. Michael asks Catherine to convey his wishes for Thomas. When Catherine goes to the location, where she was supposed to meet Thomas, she encounters a man with a bowler hat instead and he gives her a bag with the newly stolen painting. She goes to the airport and asks the clerk to mail the painting to the police head quarters and catches a flight to go home in Britain, heart broken.

During the flight she cries as she truly loves Thomas and is heart broken because he didn't keep his word to go live with her. However, someone from her back set throws a towel and asks her to wipe out her tears. She looks back and sees Thomas Crown sitting behind her and she jumps over her seat to hug him and kiss him and tells him, "If I see you playing stunts again, I'll break both your arms".


Dunaway played the Catherine Banning role in the 1968 original.[5] However, the character's name was Vicki Anderson.

Differences from the 1968 film

The film makes several major changes from the original, most notably the amount of nudity and intimacy displayed during the romance between the two main characters. The original was rated PG, the remake, rated R.

The original story is about a millionaire masterminding a bank heist in Boston, the remake, portrays a billionaire art thief in New York City. There was no painting stolen in the first film, with Crown and his men instead stealing $2.6 million in cash from a bank. The change in the remake was based on the idea that the more tumultuous society of the time would be less inclined to sympathize with a man who committed armed robbery out of boredom.

Steve McQueen's version of Thomas Crown has no physical involvement in the actual robbery; he is a behind-the-scenes mastermind. Pierce Brosnan's version steals the painting himself.

In the original, Crown pilots the glider himself, alone; in the remake he takes Banning for a ride.

The two movies end differently. In the original, the insurance investigator betrays Crown but he escapes, saddened that she did not join him. In the remake, after the betrayal and the realization that her jealousy of Anna Knutzhorn was unfounded, she unsuccessfully attempts to join him. Her sadness is short-lived as he surprises her by being on her plane headed to Europe.


At first, director John McTiernan was unavailable for the project. Pierce Brosnan and his fellow producers considered several directors before returning to their original choice.[6] McTiernan then received the script and added his own ideas to the production.[7]

Script amendments

After McTiernan signed on to the project, he changed the theme of the central heist and a number of key scenes. McTiernan felt that contemporary audiences would be less forgiving of Thomas Crown if he staged two armed bank robberies for fun like McQueen did in the original, rather than if he staged an unarmed art heist. He wrote the heist based on the Trojan horse theme and on a technical failure of thermal cameras. McTiernan also deemed a polo match that was used in the original and had been rewritten into the new script to be cliché, and he wanted a scene that conveyed more action and excitement, not just wealth. He substituted a catamaran race, in which Brosnan performed his own stunts.

References to 1968 film

There are a number of echo references to the original 1968 version of the film. The most obvious is the casting of Faye Dunaway as Crown's psychiatrist; Dunaway portrayed insurance investigator Vicki Anderson in the original. In the remake, "The Windmills of Your Mind" plays during the ballroom scene, as background music in a couple other scenes, and during the credits at the end; the song earned an Oscar for the original film. Both films share a nearly identical scene with Crown playing high-stakes golf, and in both films Crown pilots a glider for recreation.


Filming took place throughout New York City, including Central Park. The corporate headquarters of Lucent Technologies stood in for Crown's suite of offices. Due to its being nearly impossible to film interior scenes in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the producers' request was "respectfully declined"),[5] the production crew made their own museum on a soundstage. Artisans were hired to create a realistic look to the set.[8] Another scene was filmed in a different city landmark: the main research library of the New York Public Library.

The glider scenes were shot at Ridge Soaring Gliderport and Eagle Field in Pennsylvania and at Corning-Painted Post Airport in New York. The two glider aero-tow shots were taken from film shot at different airports with different tow planes. The initial takeoff was photographed at the Harris Hill Soaring Center located at the National Soaring Museum in Elmira, NY. The glider pilot was Thomas L. Knauff, a world record holder,[9] and a member of the US Soaring Hall of Fame.[10] The glider used is a Schempp-Hirth Duo Discus, in which it is physically impossible to reach the front controls from the rear seat. Thus, the close-shot sections were shot in a modified cockpit under a blue screen in the studio.

A number of McTiernan's vehicles then appear in the next sequence, as well as his farm. The tractor in the background after the glider lands belongs to McTiernan, while the dark green Shelby Mustang that Crown drives on Martinique was originally intended to be used for Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in 1993's Last Action Hero, and was retrieved from the director's garage for this film. The six-wheeled Jeep was built specifically for the film. The house used as Crown's Caribbean getaway is owned by one of the 30 original families who settled in Martinique in the 17th century. The scenes around it, like the beach, are a montage of various other parts of Martinique, including St Pierre and the Lamentin airport.


The paintings, copies of which were supplied by "Troubetzkoy Paintings" in New York, appearing in the film are:


The Thomas Crown Affair
Soundtrack album by Bill Conti, Sting and Nina Simone
Released September 7, 1999 (original)
March 8, 2002 (re-release)
Recorded 1999
Genre Soundtrack
Length 37:44
Label Ark 21 (original)
Pangaea (re-release)
Review scores
AllMusic link

The soundtrack was composed by Bill Conti and arranged by Jack Eskew. It features a variety of jazz arrangements which harken back to the original film's version. In addition, the film ends with a reprise of the Academy Award-winning song "Windmills of Your Mind" sung by Sting. Throughout the film, segments are used of a song by Nina Simone called "Sinnerman" (from the album Pastel Blues, 1965). Mostly the non-vocal parts are used (hand-clapping and piano riffs), but in the final scenes, where Crown returns to the scene of the crime, Simone sings "Oh sinnerman, where are you gonna run to?"

Track listing

  1. "Windmills of Your Mind" Sting
  2. "Sinnerman" – Nina Simone
  3. "Everything (...Is Never Quite Enough)" – Wasis Diop
  4. "Caban La Ka Kratchie" – Georges Fordant
  5. "Black & White X 5" – Bill Conti
  6. "Never Change" – Bill Conti
  7. "Meet Ms. Banning" – Bill Conti
  8. "Goodnight/Breaking & Entering" – Bill Conti
  9. "Glider Pt. 1" – Bill Conti
  10. "Glider Pt. 2" – Bill Conti
  11. "Cocktails" – Bill Conti
  12. "Quick Exit" – Bill Conti


The film made $69,305,181 at the U.S. box office and a further $55,000,000 in other territories, totaling $124,305,181 worldwide.[3]

The film received generally positive reviews. Based on 99 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval rating from critics of 70%, with an average score of 6.4/10.[12]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


A sequel has long been in development hell. In January 2007, it was reported that the sequel would be a loose remake of the 1964 film Topkapi.[14] Brosnan said in January 2009 that Paul Verhoeven was attached to direct the film.[15] In 2010, Verhoeven said he had left the project due to script changes and a change in the regime.[16]

In the April 2014 edition of Empire, John McTiernan revealed he had written a script for the sequel whilst in prison, called Thomas Crown and the Missing Lioness.[17]


  1. 1 2 Luksic, Jim (August 6, 1999). "BROSNAN, RUSSO ARE REMAKE'S CROWN JEWELS". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  2. Smith, Christopher (August 12, 1999). "At the Movies". Bangor Daily News, The Scene. Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  3. 1 2 "The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  4. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Simon Jones". Retrieved 2015-11-02.
  5. 1 2 Pacheo, Patrick (1999-08-01). "Art of the Con". Retrieved 2007-02-24.
  6. Bond, Jeff (August 1999). "Brosnan uses his Bond clout to remake Thomas Crown Affair". EON Magazine. Retrieved 2007-02-24.
  7. Cercel, Elif (1999-08-09). "Interview with John McTiernan, Director, 'The Thomas Crown Affair'". Adobe Premiere World. Retrieved 2007-02-24.
  8. "Creating The World of Thomas Crown". Retrieved 2007-02-24.
  9. "Thomas Knauff". Retrieved 2007-02-24.
  10. "Hall of Fame biographies". Retrieved 2007-02-24.
  11. "World Collection". World Collection. Retrieved 2015-11-02.
  12. "The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
  13. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  14. Martindale, Stone (January 26, 2007). "Pierce Brosnan: Thomas Crown in The Topkapi Affair". Monsters and Critics. Archived from the original on July 12, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  15. Fischer, Paul (January 20, 2009). "Brosnan offers Topkapi update". Moviehole. Archived from the original on July 12, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  16. Rosenberg, Adam (April 15, 2010). "Exclusive: Paul Verhoeven No Longer Attached To Direct 'The Thomas Crown Affair 2'". Movies Blog. MTV. Archived from the original on July 12, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  17. Archived April 29, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
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