Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Erin Brockovich (2000)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Erin Brockovich (2000)

In director Steven Soderbergh's biographical legal drama about corporate pollution, based upon a true case of toxic waste and environmental activism in 1993; in the David vs. Goliath story, it told about a legal assistant and single mother - the title character Erin Brockovich - who helped to reach a settlement with the Pacific, Gas & Electric (PG&E) energy company regarding contamination of the water supply in the town of Hinkley, California:

  • in the film's opening, unemployed, struggling, flirtatious, and dogged lower-class Erin Brockovich (Best Actress-winning Julia Roberts), a twice-divorced single mother with three children, was desperately looking for work
  • as she left a doctor's office after a failed job interview and pulled out of her parking spot on the street, she was broad-sided in an intersection by a speeding ER doctor (Jack Gill) driving a Jaguar; she was referred to the Masry & Vititoe law office of jaded and beleaguered lawyer Ed Masry (Albert Finney) who agreed to file a personal injury lawsuit on her behalf
  • on the stand, she testified to her injuries: "They took some bone from my hip and put it in my neck; I didn't have insurance so I'm about $17,000 in debt right now"; the defense lawyer (Pat Skipper) insinuated that she had orchestrated the accident: "Broke, three kids, no job. A doctor in a Jaguar must've looked like a pretty good meal ticket"; the earthy, vulgar and foul-mouthed Erin erupted and shouted back: "THAT ASSHOLE SMASHED IN MY F--KING NECK!"; her outburst lost the case
  • in the courthouse hallway, Erin ranted at Masry about how she was desperate for a paycheck (and had only $74 dollars in her bank account); Masry apologized to her for her predicament, but she refused to accept it: "Do they teach lawyers to apologize -- because you suck at it"
  • soon after, she reappeared in Masry's law firm office and pretended to be hired and working: ("I don't need pity. I need a paycheck. And I've looked, but when you've spent the past six years raising babies, it's real hard to convince someone to give you a job that pays worth a damn"); she glanced over at office secretary Brenda (Conchata Ferrell), and added: "You getting every word of this down, honey, or am I talkin' too fast for you!?"; Erin was at first refused when Ed claimed he had a full staff, but she snapped back with an expletive: "BS. If you had a full staff, this office would return a client's damn phone calls!"
  • the persistent Erin resorted to downright groveling for a job: "I'm smart, I'm hard-working, and I'll do anything, and I'm not leaving here without a job. (pause and then softly) Don't make me beg. If it doesn't work out, fire me. Don't make me beg!"; Ed briefly assented: "No benefits" and relented - he offered her a low-paying job as a legal assistant/file clerk, and she immediately asked for an advance on her first paycheck, but had to resort to being given a $100 bill by her boss; he soon suggested that she dress more appropriately for a law firm because it was making the other "girls" (workers) uncomfortable, but she refused: "As long as I have one ass instead of two, I'll wear what I like if that's all right with you. You might want to re-think those ties"
  • during personal time one evening, Erin became aggravated by her noisy, Harley-riding neighbor and would-be suitor George (Aaron Eckhart) when he asked for her phone number; she revealed how she was a young and broke divorced mother with three kids: "Ten...that's how many months old my baby girl is....How 'bout this for a number? Six. That's how old my other daughter is. 8 is the age of my son. And two is how many times I've been married and divorced. 16 is the number of dollars I have in my bank account. 850-3943. That's my phone number, and with all the numbers I gave you, I'm guessing zero is the number of times you're gonna call it"
  • shortly later, Erin realized that George was comfortable with her kids when he unexpectedly stepped in and cared for them in her absence; he even volunteered to help: "If you need someone to look after your kids -- you know, whether at school or after school or whatever, I don't have a job now, so...(Erin: I'm unemployed) By choice, I work when I need to," but she was initially gruff and resistant; he commented by asking: "You always this hard on people who try to help you?"; she answered: "I'm out of practice," but reconsidered and accepted - with a caveat: "This isn't gonna get you laid, you know?"
  • on her own initiative at work and at home after finding some medical records and blood samples placed in real estate files, Erin did further digging into the background of the unusual medical cases related to a pro-bono case involving San Francisco-based Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E); she discovered that the company seemed to be actively but secretly buying up properties in the town of Hinkley, California from residents who were sick; one resident's toxicology report revealed decreased white blood cells and increased lymphocytes and further issues; was it possible that the company's irresponsibility had led to a cover-up of contamination?
  • with dedicated initiative, the newly-hired Erin drove to the almost-deserted rural town of Hinkley, CA to visit with the Jensen family living on Hope Street; Donna (Marg Helgenberger) claimed she had renovated her property and was holding out on selling it to PG & E for their "fair market value" offer of $66,500 dollars, and that her husband Pete Jensen (Michael Harney) had Hodgkin's Disease in remission; she shocked Erin by telling her that PG & E paid for all of the family's doctor's visits "'cause of the chromium"; with the unusual admission, Donna was inferring that a carcinogenic substance was causing most of the residents to suffer from serious health effects (tumors, miscarriages, and Hodgkin's Disease)
  • after leaving Hinkley, Erin visited UCLA where she learned from an expert source that "hexavalent chromium" (known as Chromium 6) was an extremely harmful and carcinogenic substance causing "chronic headaches and nosebleeds, to respiratory disease, liver failure, heart failure, reproductive failure, bone or organ deterioration, plus of course, any type of cancer"; Chromium 6 was commonly used in industrial situations as a rust and corrosion inhibitor in utility plants (including Hinkley's water-plant machinery); she was warned: "I wouldn't advertise what you're looking for if I were you. Incriminating records have a way of disappearing when people smell trouble"
  • in the Lahontan Regional Water Board office, the brazen Erin Brockovich posed as a buxom file clerk and admitted to the nervous, anxious-to-please counter attendant Mr. Scott (Jamie Harrold) that she was on a search for water records: "Believe it or not, I'm on the prowl for some water records" - she used her push-up bra and cleavage to flirtatiously access the files in the back room, after she suggested: "You know, it would probably be easiest if I just squeezed back there and poked around myself"

PG & E's "Cleanup and Abatement Order" For Hinkley's Hexavalent Chromium

Evidence of Polluted Groundwater and Contamination
  • after many hours, she confirmed her suspicions and began xeroxing key documents; she was shocked to find key pieces of evidence of an incriminating 1966 memo (a "Cleanup and Abatement Order") that mentioned "hexavalent chromium" in a Hinkley on-site ground water monitoring well that needed cleanup; there was also "contamination" by toxic chemicals that had illegally seeped into the "polluted groundwater"; the memo proved that the corporate headquarters knew the water was contaminated with hexavalent chromium prior to 1987, but did nothing about it; it was clear that PG&E had advised the Hinkley operation to keep everything secret and cover it up
  • Erin returned to work after a week of doggedly pursuing interviews and her follow- through on her investigation; when she returned to the office, she learned that she had been fired in the interim; she tried to rationalize: "What am I supposed to do, check in every two seconds?"; Ed promised that he would find a different job for her
  • shortly later, Ed appeared at her doorstep with news from Erin's UCLA expert Dr. Frankel (Randy Lowell) about how the legal limit for "hexavalent chromium" was 10 times higher in Hinkley: "It could be responsible for the cancers in that family you asked about, the Jensens"; after Ed admitted how he had assumed that Erin was "off having fun," she demanded her job back to explain her "cancer stuff" findings: "You wanna know? You have to hire me back...I want a raise and benefits, including dental"; he agreed to a 10% raise, plus benefits, and then Ed asked how she was able to so easily obtain copies of incriminating classified documents at the County Water Dept - she told him bluntly: "They're called boobs, Ed"
  • after faxing the copied documents to PG & E's Claims Department, young, low-level, hot-shot PG & E lawyer Mr. David Foil (Michael Shamberg) was sent to Ed's office; Ed scoffed and responded sarcastically after the company offensively offered a final value of $250,000 for the purchase of the Jensen home; Ed asserted that PG & E's own technicians had documented dangerous levels of 'hexavalent chromium' in its own test wells, and that there was proven exposure of the residents of Hinkley to the chemicals, resulting in exorbitant medical expenses; as the PG & E representative departed, he boasted of the entire worth of PG & E at $28 billion - reportedly all the money the company had at their disposal; Ed mocked his boast: "I didn't know it was that much! Wow! Twenty-eight billion! Holy cow!"
  • Erin and Ed investigated further, including more visits to the Water Department records office, and pondered whether they should file an expensive, major class action lawsuit against the multi-billion dollar energy corporation, for its systematic cover-up of the industrial poisoning of the community; they had uncovered rampant evidence (after further interviews) of residents' exposure to the dangerous substances in the groundwater
  • Erin convinced a reluctant Ed to take on the David vs. Goliath case, when he agreed: "If, and only if, you find all the evidence to back this up, I'll do it, I'll take it on"; when she congratulated him: "You're doing the right thing, Mr. Masry," he responded: "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Remind me of that when I'm filing for bankruptcy"; as a result of their incessant digging into the case, Erin received a threatening "creepy" phone call to back off; tensions also grew on Erin's homefront from her older boy Matthew (Scotty Leavenworth) about her frequent absences and lack of attention to him, and also from her neglected and over-burdened boyfriend George
  • from one of PG & E's ex-employees Mr. Nelson Perez (Larry Martinez), Erin learned that the company had dumped excess contaminated water (after using "hexachrom" as an anti-corrosive) from the cooling tanks into six ponds in town (that were later covered over), but had failed to line the bottom of the ponds with concrete so the toxic water couldn't seep into the soil and groundwater
  • running out of time and money, Ed was worried that they couldn't pin the fault on the higher echelons of PG & E's corporation: ("(We've got) the PG&E in Hinkley by the balls, but nobody's gonna get rich unless we can pin this on PG & E corporate in San Francisco"); he feared that the company would claim that they didn't know: "If they didn't know, we can't hit them with punitive damages"; Ed suggested a new strategy - file a lawsuit against PG & E to provoke a reaction "to see if they offer a reasonable settlement"; if a judge dismissed the cases against the company, then PG & E would have no reason to settle "and it's all over"
  • in Barstow, CA in a San Bernadino County Law & Justice Building courtroom, Judge Simmons (LeRoy A. Simmons) ruled that the lawsuit of the claimants in the Hinkley, California vs. Pacific Gas and Electric, regarding damages, medical expenses and personal trauma due to contamination of the groundwater, could proceed and go to trial
  • shortly later, a negotiating conference and meeting was held at Masry's law firm with a group of PG & E officers; Brockovich reacted emotionally with an angry outburst to a statement by Ms. Sanchez (Gina Gallego) that her offer of a $20 million settlement was more than any of the defendants had ever dreamed of: "See, now that pisses me off. First of all, since the demurrer, we have more than 400 plaintiffs. And let's be honest, we all know there are more out there. They may not be the most sophisticated people, but they do know how to divide and $20,000,000 dollars isn't s--t when you split it between them. Second of all, these people don't dream about being rich. They dream about being able to watch their kids swim in a pool without worrying that they'll have to have a hysterectomy at the age of 20. Like Rosa Diaz, a client of ours. Or have their spine deteriorate, like Stan Bloom, another client of ours. So before you come back here with another lame-ass offer, l want you to think real hard about what your spine is worth, Mr. Walker. Or what you might expect someone to pay you for your uterus, Ms. Sanchez. Then you take out your calculator and you multiply that number by 100. Anything less than that is a waste of our time"; when the representative grabbed for a glass of water, Erin added: "By the way, we had that water brought in special for you folks. It came from a well in Hinkley"; Brockovich and Masry declined the miniscule "lame-ass" offer
Erin Confronting a "Lame-Ass Offer" from PG & E Lawyer Ms. Sanchez, and Offering Her Water From a Well in Hinkley
  • meanwhile in the midst of her long hours at work, Erin's boyfriend George had become her constant babysitter without much thanks, in a clear role-reversal; however, he was fed up and proposed that she quit her workaholic job, or he was leaving: "There may be many men out there who don't mind being the maid and getting nothing in return, but I sure as s--t ain't one of 'em"; Erin sharply replied that she was done with men ruling her life: "All I've ever done is bend my life around what men decide they need! Well, not now. I'm sorry. I won't do it"; the two temporarily broke off their relationship
  • as the case progressed, Erin and Ed met with more PG & E officials regarding the company's request to seek binding arbitration without a "real trial"; the plaintiffs in the case - all 634 of them - would be offered compensation for their varying medical conditions; the haughty tone of researcher Theresa (Veanne Cox), who snidely and insultingly commented about Erin's missing details or "holes" in her research, set Erin off: ("Don't talk to me like I'm an idiot, okay? I may not have a law degree, but I've spent 18 months on this case, and I know more about these plaintiffs than you ever will")
  • to prove that her work wasn't incomplete and to demonstrate that she cared, Erin gave an impressive run-down of the ailments and some of the details about the 634 Hinkley plaintiff-clients: "Annabelle Daniels: 714-454-9346. 10 years old, 11 in May. Lived on the plume since birth. Wanted to be a synchronized swimmer so she spent every minute she could in the PG& E pool. She had a tumor in her brain stem detected last November, an operation on Thanksgiving, shrunk it with radiation after that. Her parents are Ted & Rita. Ted's got Crohn's disease, Rita has chronic headaches, and nausea and underwent a hysterectomy last fall. Ted grew up in Hinkley. His brother Robbie, and his wife May and their five children: Robbie Jr, Martha, Ed, Rose & Peter also lived on the plume. Their number is 454-9554. You want their diseases?"; Theresa responded: "Okay, look, I think we got off on the wrong foot here," but Erin went further: "That's all you got, lady. Two wrong feet and f--king ugly shoes!"
  • Erin learned that all the plaintiffs had to agree to arbitration by a judge (instead of a long drawn-out jury trial), whose decision was final and could not be appealed; arbitration would insure that the plaintiffs would receive the maximum payout from PG & E, but it wasn't what was initially promised to the disgruntled and resistant Hinkley residents; in order for the binding arbitration case to proceed without falling apart, it was required that about 70% of the plaintiffs had to agree (but PG & E was demanding 90% compliance) ("Everyone has to agree or no one has a chance"); there was a possibility of payouts between $50 and $400 million
  • going door-to-door in a signature campaign to get all the residents agree to binding arbitration, Erin struggled to acquire the signatures of all 634 clients from Hinkley; at a bar during her campaign, Erin was approached by ex-PGE employee Charles Embry (Tracey Walter) who admitted to Erin that he had been ordered by his supervisor to shred documents at the Hinkley water plant to destroy evidence (information about the holding ponds and readings from the test wells), but he had saved a few key documents; he sheepishly admitted: "I wasn't a very good employee"; she had obtained key evidence of corporate P G & E's knowledge of the poisoning as early as March, 1966, thereby tying them to the illegal wrongdoing; they had written - paraphrasing: "Yes, the water's poisonous, but it would be better for all involved if this matter was not discussed with the neighbors"
  • in another meeting, Erin matter-of-factly announced to her dumb-founded associates that she had obtained all 634 signatures of Hinkley residents, plus Charles Embry's damning stash of "internal PG & E documents all about the contamination"; she then answered how she had succeeded: "Seeing as how I have no brains or legal expertise and Ed here was losing all faith in the system...I just went out there and performed sexual favors. 634 blowjobs in five days. I'm really quite tired"
  • the case was decided in 1996 with binding arbitration - the judge ordered PG&E to pay a settlement amount of $333 million to be distributed amongst the hundreds of plaintiffs, while the Jensens would receive $5 million of that amount
  • in the film's conclusion in Ed's new law office building in Van Nuys, when Erin was about to be presented with her bonus check by Ed that he claimed was not exactly what she had been promised - she vehemently complained: "All you lawyers do is complicate situations that aren't complicated. Do you know why people think all lawyers are backstabbing, bloodsucking scumbags? Because they are! Now, I cannot believe you are doing this to me now....You expect me to go out there, leave my kids to be looked after by strangers, knock on doors, get these people to trust you with their lives, and the whole time you're screwing me! I want you to know something, Ed. It is not about the number! It is about the way my work is valued in this firm. It's about how no matter what I do, you're not... "
  • but then she stopped short when she saw that the check was for $2 million dollars and he explained how he had increased the amount from what she had earlier asked for; Ed noted her inability to apologize: "Do they teach beauty queens how to apologize? Because you suck at it!"
  • in a postscript, it was stated: "The settlement awarded to the plaintiffs in the case of Hinkley vs. PG&E was the largest in a direct-action lawsuit in United States history"

Single Mother Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) - In a Failing Job Interview

Ed Masry (Albert Finney)

Erin on Witness Stand After Car Accident: "That asshole smashed in my f--king neck"

Begging for a Job From Her Litigation Lawyer Ed Masry

Next Door Harley-Riding Neighbor George (Aaron Eckhart)

George 'Baby-sitting" Erin's Young Children

In Hinkley, CA, Speaking to Sick Home Owner Donna Jensen (Marg Helgenberger)

Erin's Sexy Pursuit of "Water Records" at the County Water Department

Water Department Clerk Mr. Scott (Jamie Harrold)

Erin Revealing Her Secret Weapon to Her Boss: "They're called boobs, Ed"

Worried Hinkley Resident Donna Jensen About the Harmful Effects of Chromium 6 On Herself and Her Family

Young Hot-Shot PG&E Lawyer Mr. Foil (Michael Shamberg)

Erin's Boss Ed to Young PG&E Lawyer About the Company's Worth: "28 billion! Holy Cow!"

A Rare Moment: Erin with Her Family and George

Erin's Discovery of Ponds at the PG & E Plant to Hold Excess Contaminated Water

Personal Clash with George Announcing His Break-Up with Erin

Erin to Prim Researcher Theresa (Veanne Cox) : "Don't talk to me like I'm an idiot"

Erin Putting Down Theresa

Informant Charles Embry (Tracey Walter), an ex-PG& E Employee

Erin's Statement That She Performed Sexual Favors to Obtain Signatures and Damning Evidence

Erin Complaining to Ed About the Amount of Her Bonus Check Before Looking at It

Ed's Retort


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