The Player (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Altman|
|Produced by||David Brown
|Written by||Michael Tolkin|
|Music by||Thomas Newman|
|Edited by||Geraldine Peroni|
|Distributed by||Fine Line Features (US) Pathé (UK)|
|Running time||124 minutes|
The Player is a 1992 American satirical film directed by Robert Altman from a screenplay by Michael Tolkin based on his own 1988 novel of the same name. It is the story of Hollywood studio executive Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) who murders an aspiring screenwriter he believed was sending him death threats.
The Player has many film references and Hollywood insider jokes, with around sixty Hollywood celebrities agreeing to make cameo appearances in the film. Altman stated, "It is a very mild satire," offending no one.
Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is a studio executive dating story editor Bonnie Sherow (Cynthia Stevenson). He hears story pitches from screenwriters and decides which have the potential to be made into films, green-lighting only 12 out of 50,000 submissions every year. His job is endangered when up-and-coming story executive Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher) begins working at the studio. Mill has also been receiving death-threatening postcards, assumed to be from a screenwriter whose pitch he rejected.
Mill surmises that the disgruntled writer is David Kahane (Vincent D’Onofrio). Mill lurks around Kahane's home and is told by Kahane's girlfriend, June Gudmundsdottir (Greta Scacchi), whom he watches while talking to her on the phone, that Kahane is at a showing of The Bicycle Thief. Mill goes to the theater, pretending to recognize Kahane in the lobby after the film, and offers him a scriptwriting deal, hoping this will stop the threats. The two go to a nearby bar and have some drinks. Kahane gets intoxicated and rebuffs Mill’s offer; he calls Mill a liar, pointing out that he knows Mill didn't really go to the theater to see The Bicycle Thief because Kahane saw Mill wander in late and only catch the last five minutes of it, and denies responsibility for sending Mill the postcards. Kahane continues goading Mill about his job security at the studio. In the bar's parking lot the two men fight. Suddenly enraged, Mill goes too far and accidentally drowns Kahane in a shallow pool of water, then makes it appear as though Kahane died during a botched robbery.
The next day Mill receives a fax from his stalker. Thus, Mill has killed the wrong man, and the stalker apparently knows this. Mill attends Kahane’s funeral and gets along with June; she knows none of the other mourners. Studio chief of security Walter Stuckel (Fred Ward) confronts Mill about the murder and says that the police know Mill was the last one to see Kahane alive. Detectives Avery (Whoopi Goldberg) and DeLongpre (Lyle Lovett) suspect Mill is guilty of murder. They question him and DeLongpre keeps an eye on him. Mill receives a postcard from the writer suggesting they meet at a club. While Mill is waiting, he is cornered by two screenwriters who pitch Habeas Corpus, a legal drama featuring no major stars and with a depressing ending. Mill's stalker does not appear, but after leaving the club, Mill receives a fax in his Range Rover from the stalking writer, advising him to look under his raincoat, where he discovers a live rattlesnake in a box, which a terrified Mill bludgeons with his umbrella.
Soon after, Mill appears at June's house, and tells her that his near-death experience made him realize he has feelings for June. Having persuaded Bonnie to leave for New York on studio business, Mill takes June to a Hollywood awards banquet and their relationship blossoms. Apprehensive that Larry Levy continues encroaching on his job, Mill phones Levy and invites the two writers to pitch Habeas Corpus. Mill convinces Levy that the scenario is good and the movie will be an Oscar contender. Mill's plan is to let Levy shepherd the film through production and have it flop. Mill will step in at the last moment, suggesting some changes to salvage the film’s box office, letting him reclaim his position at the studio.
Mill asks June to go away with him to Puerto Vallarta, and Bonnie confronts him about his relationship with June. At the airport, Griffin discovers DeLongpre with police officers patrolling the terminal. He pretends to have left his passport at home and suggests a change of plans to June, and the pair head for an isolated desert resort and spa. During their weekend, Griffin and June consummate their relationship, and Mill confesses his role in Kahayne's murder to her, but far from condemning him, she tells him that she loves him. Mill receives a call from his attorney, who informs him that studio head Joel Levison (Brion James) has been fired, and the police want Mill to participate in a lineup. An eyewitness has come forward who claims to have seen the murder and can identify the assailant. Mill gains a reprieve when the witness fails to identify him in the lineup.
One year later, studio power players are watching the end of Habeas Corpus with a new, tacked-on, upbeat "Hollywood" ending. Mill's plan to "save" the movie has worked and he is head of the studio. June is now Griffin's wife and pregnant with his child. Bonnie objects to the changes and is fired by Levy, a decision Griffin does not overrule; he rebuffs Bonnie when she appeals her termination to him. Mill receives a pitch over the phone from Levy and a man who reveals himself as the postcard writer. The man pitches an idea about a studio executive who kills a writer and gets away with murder. Mill recognizes the pitch as blackmail and gives the writer a deal if he can guarantee the executive a happy ending. The writer’s title for the film is The Player.
- Tim Robbins as Griffin Mill
- Greta Scacchi as June Gudmundsdottir
- Fred Ward as Walter Stuckel
- Whoopi Goldberg as Detective Avery
- Peter Gallagher as Larry Levy
- Brion James as Joel Levison
- Cynthia Stevenson as Bonnie Sherow
- Vincent D'Onofrio as David Kahane
- Dean Stockwell as Andy Civella
- Richard E. Grant as Tom Oakley
- Sydney Pollack as Dick Mellon
- Lyle Lovett as Detective DeLongpre
- Dina Merrill as Celia
- Jeremy Piven as Steve Reeves
Altman had troubles with the Hollywood studio system in the 1970s after a number of studio films (McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye) lost money or had trouble finding audiences despite the critical praise and cult adulation they received. Altman continued to work outside the studios in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, often doing small-budget projects or filmed plays to keep his career alive. The Player was a comeback to making films in Hollywood, although it was distributed by Fine Line Features rather than a major studio (though FLF in itself was a division of New Line Cinema, Fine Line was reorganized into Picturehouse in 2005). It ushered in a new period of filmmaking for Altman, who continued on to an epic adaptation of Raymond Carver's short stories, Short Cuts (1993).
Opening sequence shot
Altman was praised for the sex scene in which Robbins and Scacchi were filmed from the neck up. Scacchi later claimed that Altman had wanted a nude scene, but that it was her refusal which led to the final form.
The film received critical acclaim; Altman won a number of European best-director awards (the BAFTA, Best Director at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival) and he was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe as best director (the film won the Golden Globe for best "comedy or musical"). Tolkin was nominated for a Screenwriting Academy Award, and he received an Edgar Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay. Geraldine Peroni was nominated for the Academy Award for Film Editing. Tim Robbins also won the Golden Globe for "best actor in a comedy or musical" and the Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival.
American Film Institute recognition:
- Tolkin, Michael, "The Player", 1st ed., New York : Atlantic Monthly Press, 1988. ISBN 0-87113-228-1
- DVD commentary on The Player.
- J.C. Maçek III (2012-11-09). "The Pragmatic Anarchy of the Long Take". PopMatters.
- "Greta Scacchi: 'I'm done with taking off my clothes on screen'". Daily Telegraph. 25 July 2008. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
- "Festival de Cannes: The Player". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-08-15.
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees
- The Player at the Internet Movie Database
- The Player at the TCM Movie Database
- The Player at AllMovie
- The Player at Box Office Mojo
- The Player at Rotten Tomatoes