The Usual Suspects is a 1995 American neo-noir film written by Christopher McQuarrie and directed by Bryan Singer. It stars Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio del Toro, Chazz Palminteri, Kevin Pollak, Kevin Spacey and Pete Postlethwaite.
The film follows the interrogation of Roger “Verbal” Kint, a small-time con man who is one of only two survivors of a massacre and fire on a ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles. He tells an interrogator a convoluted story about events that led him and four other criminals to the boat, and of a mysterious mob boss known as Keyser Söze who commissioned their work. Using flashback and narration, Kint’s story becomes increasingly complex.
The film, shot on a $6 million budget, began as a title taken from a column in Spy magazine called “The Usual Suspects,” after one of Claude Rains’ most memorable lines in the classic film Casablanca. Singer thought it would make a good title for a film, the poster for which he and McQuarrie had developed as the first visual idea.
The Usual Suspects was shown out of competition at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival, and then initially released in a few theatres. It received favourable reviews and was eventually given a wider release. McQuarrie won an Academy Award for the screenplay and Spacey won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.
Nominations and awards
Christopher McQuarrie and Kevin Spacey were nominated for Academy Awards — for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor. They both won, and in his acceptance speech Spacey memorably said, “Well, whoever Keyser Söze is, I can tell you he’s gonna get gloriously drunk tonight.” McQuarrie also won the Best Original Screenplay award at the 1996 British Academy Film Awards. The film was also nominated for Best Film, and best editing. It won for best editing. The film was nominated for three Independent Spirit Awards — Best Supporting Actor for Benicio del Toro, Best Screenplay for Christopher McQuarrie and Best Cinematography for Newton Thomas Sigel. Both Del Toro and McQuarrie won in their categories.
The Usual Suspects was screened at the 1995 Seattle International Film Festival, where Bryan Singer was awarded Best Director and Kevin Spacey won for Best Actor. The Boston Society of Film Critics gave Spacey the Best Supporting Actor award for his work on the film. Spacey went on to win this award with the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review, which also gave the cast an ensemble acting award.