Spotlight Information

Spotlight is a 2015 American biographical crime drama film directed by Tom McCarthy and written by McCarthy and Josh Singer. The film follows The Boston Globe "Spotlight" team, the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative journalist unit in the United States, and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests. It is based on a series of stories by the actual Spotlight Team that earned The Globe the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The film stars Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d'Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, and Billy Crudup.

Spotlight was shown in the Out of Competition section of the 72nd Venice International Film Festival. It was also shown at the Telluride Film Festival and the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. The film was released on November 6, 2015, by Open Road Films. It won numerous guilds and critics' association awards, and was named one of the finest films of 2015 by various publications. The film received a total of six nominations at the 88th Academy Awards, winning two for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. It is the first film since 1952's The Greatest Show on Earth to win Best Picture and one other award.


In 2001, The Boston Globe hires a new editor, Marty Baron. Baron meets Walter "Robby" Robinson, the editor of the Spotlight team, a small group of journalists writing investigative articles that take months to research and publish. After Baron reads a Globe column about a lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, who says that Cardinal Law (the Archbishop of Boston) knew that the priest John Geoghan was sexually abusing children and did nothing to stop him, he urges the Spotlight team to investigate. Journalist Michael Rezendes contacts Garabedian, who initially declines interview. Though he is told not to, Rezendes reveals that he is on the Spotlight team, persuading Garabedian to talk.

Initially believing that they are following the story of one priest who was moved around several times, the Spotlight team begin to uncover a pattern of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Massachusetts, and an ongoing cover-up by the Boston Archdiocese. Through a man who heads a victim's rights organization, they widen their search to thirteen priests. They learn through an ex-priest who worked at trying to rehabilitate paedophile priests that there should be approximately ninety abusive priests in Boston (six percent of priests). Through their research, they develop a list of eighty-seven names, and begin to find their victims to back up their suspicions. When the September 11 attacks occur, the team is forced to deprioritize the story. They regain momentum when Rezendes learns from Garabedian that there are publicly available documents that confirm Cardinal Law was aware of the problem and ignored it. Although Rezendes argues vociferously to run the story immediately before more victims suffer and rival newspapers publish, Robinson remains steadfast to research further so the whole system that Law serves in this scandal can be exposed. After The Boston Globe wins a case to have even more legal documents unsealed, the Spotlight team finally begins to write the story, and plan to publish their findings in early 2002.

As they are about to go to print, Robinson confesses to the team that he was sent a list of twenty pedophile priests in 1993 in a story he never followed up on. Baron, nevertheless, tells Robinson and the team that the work they are doing is important. The story goes to print with a link leading to the documents that expose Cardinal Law, and a phone number requesting victims of pedophile priests to come forward. The following morning, the Spotlight team is inundated with phone calls from victims coming forward to tell their stories. The film closes with a list of places in the United States and around the world where the Catholic Church has been involved in concealing abuse by priests.


The Spotlight Team

Additional characters

  • Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian, attorney
  • Gene Amoroso as Stephen Kurkjian, Boston Globe general investigative reporter
  • Jamey Sheridan as Jim Sullivan, an attorney representing the Church
  • Billy Crudup as Eric MacLeish, an attorney
  • Maureen Keiller as Eileen McNamara, Boston Globe columnist
  • Richard Jenkins as Richard Sipe, psychotherapist (telephone voice, uncredited)
  • Paul Guilfoyle as Peter Conley
  • Len Cariou as Cardinal Bernard Law
  • Neal Huff as Phil Saviano of SNAP
  • Michael Cyril Creighton as Joe Crowley
  • Laurie Heineman as Judge Constance Sweeney
  • Tim Progosh as Principal Bill Kemeza



McCarthy and Singer completed the script in June 2013. It was listed on the 2013 Black List of unproduced screenplays. Singer told Creative Screenwriting that one of his goals for the film was to highlight the power of journalism, which he feels has been waning. He explained, "This story isn"?t about exposing the Catholic Church. We were not on some mission to rattle people"?s faith. In fact, Tom came from a Catholic family. The motive was to tell the story accurately while showing the power of the newsroom - something that"?s largely disappeared today. This story is important. Journalism is important, and there is a deeper message in the story."


Principal photography began on September 24, 2014, in Boston, Massachusetts, and continued in October in Hamilton, Ontario. Filming took place at Fenway Park, The Boston Globe offices in Dorchester, Boston, the Boston Public Library, and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. The film's editor Tom McArdle said of the post-production process "We edited for eight months. We just wanted to keep refining the film. We cut out five scenes plus some segments of other scenes. Often we would just cut out a line or two to make a scene a little tighter."


The film "premiered to sustained applause" at the Venice Film Festival and the audience "erupted in laughter" when the film reported that following the events in the film Cardinal Bernard Law was reassigned to a senior position of honor in Rome. It had a limited release on November 6, 2015, with its nationwide release scheduled for three weeks later on November 25.


Box office

, Spotlight has grossed $39.3 million in North America and $24.1 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $63.4 million, against a budget of $20 million.

In the opening weekend of its limited release, the film grossed $295,009 from five theaters ($59,002 average), one of the highest per-screen averages of any release of 2015. The film grossed $4.4 million in the first weekend during its wide release, finishing 8th at the box office.

Critical response

Spotlight received widespread acclaim. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film holds a rating of 96%, based on 260 reviews, with an average rating of 8.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Spotlight gracefully handles the lurid details of its fact-based story while resisting the temptation to lionize its heroes, resulting in a drama that honors the audience as well as its real-life subjects." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 93 out of 100, based on 45 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."

Varietys Justin Chang called the film "a superbly controlled and engrossingly detailed account of the Boston Globes Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into the widespread pedophilia scandals and subsequent cover-ups within the Catholic Church".

At the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, Spotlight finished third in the audience balloting for the People's Choice Award.

Reactions from the Catholic Church

The November 9, 2015, review published by the Catholic News Service called the film a "generally accurate chronicle" of the Boston scandal, but objected to some of the portrayals and the film's view of the Church. In February 2016, a Vatican City commission on clerical sex abuse attended a private screening of the film. Vatican Radio, official radio service of the Holy See, called it "honest" and "compelling" and said it helped the U.S. Catholic Church "to accept fully the sin, to admit it publicly, and to pay all the consequences." Luca Pellegrini on the Vatican Radio website wrote that the Globe reporters "made themselves examples of their most pure vocation, that of finding the facts, verifying sources, and making themselves"?for the good of the community and of a city"?paladins of the need for justice." Following the film's Best Picture win at the Oscars, the Vatican Radio and newspaper assured that the movie was not "anti-Catholic film" and revealed that clerics in Rome have been recommending the film to each other. On the Catholic News Service, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles Robert Barron said that it is "not a bad movie", as it shows that the wider community shares the responsibility for sexual abuse committed by priests, but that the film is wrong to insinuate that the Church has not reformed.


A January 8, 2016, article in The New York Times cited a detractor of the film who said that Spotlight "is a misrepresentation of how the Church dealt with sexual abuse cases", asserting that the movie's biggest flaw was its failure to portray psychologists who had assured Church officials that abusive priests could be safely returned to ministry after undergoing therapy treatments. Open Road Films rebutted the detractor, saying he was "perpetuating a myth in order to distract from real stories of abuse."

Controversy over portrayal of Jack Dunn

The film was attacked by Jack Dunn (played by Gary Galone in the film), a member of the board at Boston College High School, and its public relations head, for portraying him as indifferent to the scandal. After viewing the film, Dunn says he was immediately aware of the issues involved and worked to respond. Two of the Globe reporters depicted in the film, Walter Robinson and Sacha Pfeiffer, issued a statement in response to Dunn, firmly standing by their recollections of the day, saying Dunn did "his best to frame a story in the most favorable way possible for the institution he is representing. That"?s what Jack did that day." They said Dunn mounted a "spirited public relations defense of Boston College High School during our first sit-down interview at the school in early 2002", the lone scene in which Dunn is depicted in the film.


See List of accolades received by Spotlight (film) for more information Spotlight has been critically acclaimed, and has been included in many critics' Top Ten Films of 2015 lists. The film has received over 100 industry and critics awards and nominations. The American Film Institute selected Spotlight as one of the Top Ten Films of the year. The film garnered three Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Director for McCarthy, and Best Screenplay for McCarthy and Josh Singer. It was nominated for five Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay for Singer, Best Editing for Tom McArdle and Honorary Robert Altman Award for the cast. Rachel McAdams and the ensemble cast received Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role and Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, respectively.

The New York Film Critics Circle awarded Michael Keaton Best Actor award, while it won the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Ensemble cast at New York Film Critics Online Awards. Spotlight won the Best Film and Best Screenplay from Los Angeles Film Critics Association. It received eight nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay and Best Score. It won the Best Cast in a Motion Picture at Satellite Awards and was nominated for six other awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay.

At the Academy Awards, the film received six nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Ruffalo, Best Supporting Actress for McAdams, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing, winning Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. It is the first Best Picture to win fewer than three Academy Awards since The Greatest Show on Earth in 1953. At $39.2 million, it is the second lowest domestically grossing film ever to win Best Picture (The Hurt Locker's $17 million).

Spotlight was listed on over 120 critics' and publications' top ten lists.

See also

  • Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)

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