Untamed Heart

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Untamed Heart
Untamed heart ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Tony Bill
Produced by
  • Tony Bill
  • Helen Buck Bartlett
Written by Tom Sierchio
Music by Cliff Eidelman
Cinematography Jost Vacano
Edited by Mia Goldman
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • February 12, 1993 (1993-02-12)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6 million[1]
Box office $19 million (US)[2]

Untamed Heart is a 1993 American romantic drama film starring Christian Slater and Marisa Tomei. It tells the story of a young woman unlucky in love finding true love in a very shy young man. The film was directed by Tony Bill and written by Tom Sierchio. The original music score was composed by Cliff Eidelman, and includes a classical arrangement of "Nature Boy". A remixed version of Suzanne Vega's 1981 song Tom's Diner is featured in the opening scene of the film.


Caroline is a young woman living in Minneapolis. She is a beauty school student and a part-time waitress at a diner. She works with her best friend, Cindy, and Adam, a busboy and dishwasher who keeps to himself. One night at work, after Caroline's latest boyfriend breaks up with her, she and Cindy find themselves talking about Adam. Cindy confides that she thinks Adam is "kinda cute" and adds, "I'd do him if he wasn't so dumb".

Walking home from work one night, Caroline is accosted by two men who attempt to rape her, but Adam shows up and fights them off. Unbeknownst to Caroline, Adam had been following her from a distance every night to make sure she gets home safely. The next evening at work, Caroline thanks Adam for coming to her rescue, at which point he quietly begins to open up about himself to her, and the two become closer. Caroline later confides in Cindy that she is now interested in Adam and reveals that she was almost raped and that Adam saved her life.

Things begin looking up for Caroline as she and Adam become a couple: Caroline buys a used car to get around easier, and Adam is beginning to overcome his shyness. One night the same two men who tried to rape Caroline stab Adam outside the diner. Adam is rushed to the hospital, and Caroline later identifies the perpetrators in a police lineup. They are charged with both attacking Adam and Caroline's attempted rape.

While Adam is recovering, Caroline learns that he has a heart defect and will die without a transplant. Adam, claiming that he has a baboon's heart (based on a story told to him by a nun at the orphanage where he grew up), refuses to listen, stating that he is afraid that he will no longer be the same person if he gets a transplant. Caroline tries to assure Adam that love comes from a person's brain, but she is deeply touched when Adam asks why it hurts so much "here" (pointing to his chest) when one's heart is broken.

On his birthday, Caroline visits Adam at his small apartment and surprises him by taking him to a Minnesota North Stars hockey game, but before they leave, Adam surprises her with flowers and a gift that he left for her to be opened only after they return. At the game, Adam catches a stray hockey puck. On the way home from the game, Adam falls asleep next to Caroline, but it is only when they reach her house that she discovers to her horror that his heart has given out and he has died in his sleep.

After his funeral, Caroline goes to Adam's apartment and opens the gift: a box of his record albums with a handwritten note declaring his love.



Tony Bill discovered Tom Sierchio's screenplay for Untamed Heart during one of his talent searches: he had asked an agent at William Morris to send him screenplays from new writers. Originally, Sierchio's screenplay had been submitted as a writer’s sample. Bill showed the screenplay to producer Helen Bartlett who suggested that they option it. Within two weeks of Sierchio handing his script to his agent, MGM had greenlighted the project. Originally, the film was titled The Baboon Heart in honor of an infant named Baby Fae (born 14 October 1984) who received a cross-species heart transplant from a baboon to fix a congenital heart defect.

Initially, Bill had not considered Christian Slater for the role of Adam, “but then it was just the obvious choice."[3]

For the role of Caroline, Bill remembered auditioning Marisa Tomei for his earlier film, Five Corners. While she had been too young for that role, after her success with My Cousin Vinny he felt she was right for the film. Sierchio's screenplay was originally set in New Jersey, but for logistical reasons they could not shoot there. The filmmakers considered finding a location to double for the state, but while Bill, Bartlett, and Sierchio were scouting in Minneapolis, they realized that it was the perfect place because of its strong acting community (they cast 35 of the film’s 40 roles from it) and a large commercial production community that allowed them to utilize a mostly local crew.

The city’s locations were also a strong factor in deciding to shoot there. The centerpiece was Jim’s Coffee Shop & Bakery, which actually existed at the time of production but was closed to the public for the duration of shooting the film. Bill said, “It had a wonderful combination of ingredients from every diner you’ve ever been to; we’ve done very little to change it for the film. In fact, we changed the original name of the diner in the script to reflect that it is Jim's."[4]

Principal photography began in March 1992 amidst cold temperatures. However, several scenes in winter were shot in May when fake snow maintained the illusion. One scene was shot at the Met Center, the home of the then-Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars) at the time. Tomei wanted to have a believable regional accent, so chose as her driver local Craig Kittelson to double act as her dialogue coach.


Untamed Heart received a 54% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 26 reviews.[citation needed]

Film critic Roger Ebert wrote that the film was "kind of sweet and kind of goofy, and works because its heart is in the right place".[5] Hal Hinson of The Washington Post said that the film "is hopelessly syrupy, preposterous and more than a little bit lame, but, still, somehow it got to me".[6] Vincent Canby of The New York Times, said that the film "is to the mind what freshly discarded chewing gum is to the sole of a shoe: an irritant that slows movement without any real danger of stopping it".[7] Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B−" rating and Owen Gleiberman praised Tomei's performance: "With her flashing dark eyes and libidinous overbite, Tomei is adorable — she looks like a flirtatious bunny rabbit — but what's astonishing is the range of expression that passes over those delectable features".[8] Rolling Stone magazine's Peter Travers wrote, "The Rain Man-Dying Young elements in Tom Sierchio's script are pitfalls that Slater dodges with a wonderfully appealing performance. His love scenes with the dazzling Tomei have an uncommon delicacy".[9] In his review for The New Yorker, Anthony Lane praised Tomei for bringing "startling high spirits to a dullish role. She snatches moments of happiness out of the air and shares them out to anyone who’s around".[10] Mike Clark, in his review for USA Today, wrote, "Director Tony Bill (My Bodyguard) is adept both in the yarn's meticulous buildup and in his handling of the actors".[11]


  1. ^ Kung, Michelle (2009-10-26). ""Baby Fae"-Inspired Film "Untamed Heart" Might Have Starred Madonna, Brad Pitt". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  2. ^ "Untamed Heart". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  3. ^ "Untamed Heart Production Notes". MGM. Retrieved 2006-12-20.
  4. ^ "Untamed Heart Production Notes". MGM. Retrieved 2006-12-20.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger (February 12, 1993). "Untamed Heart". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2006-12-20.
  6. ^ Hinson, Hal (February 12, 1993). "Untamed Heart". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-12-20.
  7. ^ Canby, Vincent (February 12, 1993). "Boyfriend Has Heart Of Baboon". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-20.
  8. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (February 26, 1993). "Untamed Heart". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
  9. ^ Travers, Peter (April 18, 2001). "Untamed Heart". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
  10. ^ Lane, Anthony. "Untamed Heart". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2009-05-13.
  11. ^ Clark, Mike (February 12, 1993). "Marisa Tomei pours soul into Untamed Heart". USA Today.

External links

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