The Day of the Jackal
Day of the Jackal 1973 Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFred Zinnemann
Screenplay byKenneth Ross
Based onThe Day of the Jackal
by Frederick Forsyth
Produced byJohn Woolf
CinematographyJean Tournier
Edited byRalph Kemplen
Music byGeorges Delerue[1]
  • Warwick Film Productions
  • Universal Productions France
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
16 May 1973
Running time
142 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • France
Box office$16,056,255

The Day of the Jackal is a 1973 political thriller film directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Edward Fox and Michael Lonsdale. Based on the 1971 novel of the same name by Frederick Forsyth, the film is about a professional assassin known only as the "Jackal" who is hired to assassinate French president Charles de Gaulle in the summer of 1962.[2][3]

The Day of the Jackal received positive reviews and went on to win the BAFTA Award for Best Editing (Ralph Kemplen), five additional BAFTA Award nominations, two Golden Globe Award nominations, and one Oscar nomination. The film grossed $16,056,255 at the box office,[4] and earned an additional $8,525,000 in North American rentals.[5] The British Film Institute ranked it the 74th greatest British film of the 20th century.[6]


On 22 August 1962, the militant underground organisation OAS, infuriated by the French government granting independence to Algeria, attempt to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle. The assassination attempt fails, leaving de Gaulle and his entire entourage unharmed. Within six months, OAS leader Jean Bastien-Thiry and several other members are captured and Bastien-Thiry is executed.

The remaining OAS leaders, now hiding in Austria, plan another attempt, and hire a British assassin, who goes by the code name, "Jackal", for $500,000. The Jackal travels to Genoa and commissions a custom-made rifle from a gunsmith, and fake identity papers from a forger, whom the Jackal kills when the man tries blackmailing him. In Paris, the Jackal duplicates a key to a flat overlooking the Place du 18 juin 1940.

The OAS relocate to Rome. The French Action Service kidnap the OAS's chief clerk, Viktor Wolenski. Wolenski dies under interrogation, but not before the agents extract vital information about the plot, including the word "Jackal". The Interior Minister convenes a secret cabinet meeting of the heads of the French security forces. Police Commissioner Berthier recommends his deputy, Claude Lebel, to lead the investigation. Lebel is given special emergency powers, though de Gaulle's refusal to change his planned appearances complicates matters.

Colonel St. Clair, a personal military aide to de Gaulle and a cabinet member, carelessly discloses classified government information to his mistress, Denise, unaware she is an OAS agent. She passes this on to her contact, which, in turn, aids the Jackal. Meanwhile, Lebel determines that British suspect Charles Calthrop may be travelling under the name Paul Oliver Duggan, who died as a child, and has entered France.

Although the Jackal learns the authorities have uncovered the assassination plot, he decides to proceed. While at a hotel, the Jackal meets and seduces the aristocratic Colette de Montpellier. Warned by his contact, the Jackal leaves just before Lebel and his men arrive. After a nearly fatal vehicular accident, the Jackal steals a car and drives to Madame de Montpellier's country estate to hide out. He kills her after discovering the police have already spoken to her. Using a stolen passport, the Jackal then assumes the identity of a bespectacled Danish schoolteacher named Per Lundquist. After disposing of Duggan's belongings in a river, he catches a train for Paris.

Madame de Montpellier's body is discovered and her car is recovered at the railway station. Lebel, no longer hindered by secrecy restrictions, launches a public manhunt. The Jackal picks up a gay man at a Turkish bathhouse and stays at the man's flat. The Jackal kills him after the man sees a TV news broadcast that "Lundquist" is wanted for murder.

At a meeting with the Interior Minister's cabinet, Lebel says he believes the Jackal will attempt to shoot de Gaulle during the commemoration of the liberation of Paris during World War II, scheduled three days hence. Lebel plays a recording of a phone call in which St. Clair's mistress, Denise, is heard providing information to an OAS contact. St. Clair apologises for his indiscretion and immediately leaves. When asked how he knew St. Clair was the source of the leak, Lebel says he wiretapped every cabinet member's phone. Denise returns to St. Clair's apartment and discovers that he has committed suicide and finds the police are waiting for her.

On Liberation of Paris Day, the Jackal, disguised as an elderly veteran amputee on crutches, enters a building using the key he had earlier procured. In an upper apartment overlooking the ceremonial area, he assembles the rifle hidden within his crutch and waits by the window. When Lebel discovers that a policeman allowed a disabled man to pass through the security cordon, the two race to the building. As de Gaulle presents the first medal, the Jackal takes aim but as he shoots he narrowly misses when the president suddenly leans forward. As he reloads the rifle for another shot, Lebel and the policeman burst in. The Jackal shoots the policeman, but Lebel kills him using the cop's submachine gun.

The Jackal is buried in an unmarked grave, with Lebel as the only witness. While police are searching Charles Calthrop's flat, the real Calthrop suddenly arrives. He accompanies police to Scotland Yard and is later cleared. Inspector Thomas then asks who the Jackal really was.



The Day of the Jackal was originally part of a two-picture deal between John Woolf and Fred Zinnemann, the other being an adaptation of the play Abelard and Heloise by Ronald Millar.[7]

Universal Studios initially wanted to cast a major American actor as the Jackal, with Robert Redford and Jack Nicholson flown to Europe to audition. Although Universal favoured Nicholson, Zinnemann ultimately secured a production agreement stipulating that only European actors would be cast. Afterwards British actors David McCallum, Ian Richardson, and Michael York were considered before Zinnemann cast Edward Fox. Jacqueline Bisset was offered the role of Denise but had to decline due to scheduling conflicts.[8]

Zinnemann wrote that Adrien Cayla-Legrand, the actor who played de Gaulle, was mistaken by several Parisians for the real de Gaulle during filming—though de Gaulle had been dead for two years prior to the film's release. The sequence was filmed during a real parade, leading to confusion; the crowd (many of whom were unaware that a film was being shot) mistook the actors portraying police officers for real officers, and many tried to help them arrest the "suspects" they were apprehending in the crowd.

The Reading Room at the British Museum Library, where the Jackal reads Le Figaro
The Reading Room at the British Museum Library, where the Jackal reads Le Figaro
Hotel Negresco in Nice where the Jackal learns his mission has been revealed.
Hotel Negresco in Nice where the Jackal learns his mission has been revealed.

The Day of the Jackal was filmed in studios and on location in France, Britain, Italy and Austria.[9] Zinnemann was able to film in locations usually denied to filmmakers—such as inside the Ministry of the Interior—due in large part to French producer Julien Derode's skill in dealing with authorities.[9] Nevertheless, the opening sequence was not shot in the Élysée courtyard but at the hôtel de Soubise, main office of the French National Archives. The two palaces were both built at the beginning of the 18th century, but the Hôtel de Soubise is more accessible and has less security than the Élysée.

During the massive annual 14 July parade down the Champs-Élysées, the company was allowed to film inside the police lines, capturing extraordinary closeup footage of the massing of troops, tanks, and artillery during the final Liberation Day sequence. During the weekend of 15 August, the Paris police cleared a very busy square of all traffic to film additional scenes.[9][10]

Frederick Forsyth later wrote that for the film contract to buy rights for his novel, he was offered two options: £17,500 plus a small percentage of subsequent film profits, or £20,000 and no royalties. He took £20,000, noting that such a payment was already a massive sum to him, but due to his naivety about finances he waived rights to a small fortune in royalties given the film's enduring success.[11]

List of locations

Location Sequence
150 Rue de Rennes, Paris 6, France Assassination sequence
Archives nationales, Hôtel de Soubise, 60 rue des Francs-Bourgeois, Paris 3 As the Élysée Palace
Boulevard de la Reine, Versailles, France Bank, as "Banque de Grenoble", in fact a savings bank
Boulevard des Batignolles, Paris 17 OAS contacts Denise
British Museum, Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London, England The Jackal reads Le Figaro
Champs-Élysées, Paris 8 Military parade
Château du Saussay, Ballancourt-sur-Essonne, Essonne, France Madame Colette de Montpellier's chateau
Entrevaux, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, France The Jackal drives by toward Paris
French Riviera, Alpes-Maritimes, France
Gare d'Austerlitz, Place Valhubert, Quai d'Austerlitz, Paris 13
Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London
Hôtel de Beauveau, Place Beauvau, Paris 8 Ministry of Interior
Hotel Colombia, Genoa, Liguria, Italy
Hotel Negresco, 37 Promenade des Anglais, Nice, Alpes-Maritimes, France Jackal learns that his cover is blown
Imperia, Liguria, Italy
La Bastide de Tourtour, Tourtour, Var, France Hotel where the Jackal meets Colette
Limousin, France
Piazza San Silvestro, Rome Wolenski in the real central Post Office
Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England Studio
Place Charles Michels, Paris 15 Van attacked
Place du 18 juin 1940, Paris 6 Final assassination sequence
Place Vauban, Paris 7 Biker stops to place phone call
Prater Park, Vienna, Austria Rendezvous with OAS heads
Quai d'Austerlitz, Paris 13
Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris Outside the Palais de l'Élysée
Scotland Yard, Whitehall, London UK police
Somerset House, Strand, London The Jackal obtains a birth certificate
St. James's Park, London
Studios de Boulogne, avenue Jean-Baptiste Clément, Boulogne-Billancourt, France Studio
Ventimiglia, Liguria, Italy Before crossing the border into France
Veynes, Hautes-Alpes, France Train station, as Tulle station
Via di Panico, Rome Kidnapping of Wolenski
Victoria Embankment, Westminster, London UK police


Critical response

UK quad poster
UK quad poster

The film received positive reviews, with a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 29 reviews.[12] Among those who praised the film was Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, who gave it his highest rating of four stars, writing:

I wasn't prepared for how good it really is: it's not just a suspense classic, but a beautifully executed example of filmmaking. It's put together like a fine watch. The screenplay meticulously assembles an incredible array of material, and then Zinnemann choreographs it so that the story — complicated as it is — unfolds in almost documentary starkness.[13]

Ebert concluded, "Zinnemann has mastered every detail ... There are some words you hesitate to use in a review, because they sound so much like advertising copy, but in this case I can truthfully say that the movie is spellbinding."[13] Ebert included the film at No. 7 on his list of the Top 10 films of the year for 1973.[14]

Box office

The film grossed $16,056,255 at the box office[4] earning North American rentals of $8,525,000.[5] Zinnemann was pleased with the film's reception at the box office, telling an interviewer in 1993, "The idea that excited me was to make a suspense film where everybody knew the end - that de Gaulle was not killed. In spite of knowing the end, would the audience sit still? And it turned out that they did, just as the readers of the book did."[15]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards, 1974[16] Best Film Editing Ralph Kemplen Nominated
BAFTA Awards, 1974[16] Best Film Editing Ralph Kemplen Won
Best Film Nominated
Best Direction Fred Zinnemann Nominated
Best Screenplay Kenneth Ross Nominated
Best Sound Track Nicholas Stevenson, Bob Allen Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Michael Lonsdale Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Delphine Seyrig Nominated
Golden Globe Awards, 1974[16] Best Director Fred Zinnemann Nominated
Best Motion Picture, Drama Nominated
Best Screenplay Kenneth Ross Nominated

Subsequent films

The film was the inspiration for the 1997 American film The Jackal, featuring Richard Gere, Bruce Willis, Sidney Poitier and Jack Black. The 1997 film is about an assassin nicknamed The Jackal who wants to assassinate a highly significant target, but other than that, it has little in common with the original story. Frederick Forsyth refused to allow his name to be used in connection with it, and director Fred Zinnemann fought with the studio to ensure that the new film did not share the first film's title.

In 1988, the same plot inspired the Malayalam movie August 1.

See also


  1. ^ "The Day of the Jackal". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 11 July 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  2. ^ Lockhart, Freda Bruce (20 July 1973). "Unpretentious perfectionist". Catholic Herald. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  3. ^ "Citroen helps de Gaulle survive assassination attempt". 19 August 2020. Retrieved 22 August 2022.
  4. ^ a b "The Day of the Jackal, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Big Rental Films of 1973". Variety: 19. 9 January 1974.
  6. ^ British Film Institute - Top 100 British Films (1999). Retrieved 27 October 2017
  7. ^ "Film of Abelard and Heloise". The Times. 9 March 1971.
  8. ^ "The Day of the Jackal". Retrieved 7 December 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ a b c Nixon, Rob. "The Day of the Jackal (1973)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  10. ^ "The Day of the Jackal film locations". Movie Locations. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  11. ^ Forsyth, Frederick (2015). The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue. NY: Putnam
  12. ^ "The Day of the Jackal". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 26 January 2015.
  13. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (30 July 1973). "The Day of the Jackal". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  14. ^ "Ten Best Lists by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert". Inner Mind. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  15. ^ Arthur Nolletti, ed. (1999). The Films of Fred Zinnemann: Critical Perspectives. Albany: State University of New York. p. 20. ISBN 9780791442265. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
  16. ^ a b c "The Day of the Jackal: Awards". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2016. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2015.