Players (1979)

PG | 120 mins | Drama, Romance | 8 June 1979

Director:

Anthony Harvey

Writer:

Arnold Schulman

Producer:

Robert Evans

Cinematographer:

James Crabe

Editor:

Randy Roberts

Production Designer:

Richard Sylbert

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, producer Robert Evans was eager to film another romance after shepherding the box-office hit Love Story (1970, see entry) as production executive at Paramount Pictures Corp. He developed the concept for Players with screenwriter-executive producer Arnold Schulman and associate producer Tommy Cook. As reported in a 30 May 1979 HR column, Cook, who transitioned from his early days as an actor and junior tennis champion into an organizer of celebrity tennis tournaments, brought the story idea to Evans. Love Story also inspired Evans to reteam with the film’s co-star, Ali MacGraw, and to hire Anthony Harvey as director. Harvey was originally signed to direct Love Story, but withdrew from the project. Before departing, Evans recalled that Harvey was responsible for eliciting a memorable screen test from MacGraw.
       The unique casting process involved selecting professional tennis athletes for lead and feature roles, such as Dean-Paul Martin, Guillermo Vilas, and Pancho Gonzalez. With the exception of Martin, players appeared as themselves in the film. Martin, the son of entertainer Dean Martin, was a member of the pro-tennis team, The Phoenix Racquets, and had been coached during childhood by Tommy Cook, who suggested him for the role of “Chris Christensen,” according to the 30 May 1979 HR article. Although Martin was disinterested in an acting career, a story set within the world of contemporary tennis was a rare subject for films, and he was persuaded to audition. A 30 May 1978 LAT article mentioned that Martin consulted with psychiatrist ...

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       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, producer Robert Evans was eager to film another romance after shepherding the box-office hit Love Story (1970, see entry) as production executive at Paramount Pictures Corp. He developed the concept for Players with screenwriter-executive producer Arnold Schulman and associate producer Tommy Cook. As reported in a 30 May 1979 HR column, Cook, who transitioned from his early days as an actor and junior tennis champion into an organizer of celebrity tennis tournaments, brought the story idea to Evans. Love Story also inspired Evans to reteam with the film’s co-star, Ali MacGraw, and to hire Anthony Harvey as director. Harvey was originally signed to direct Love Story, but withdrew from the project. Before departing, Evans recalled that Harvey was responsible for eliciting a memorable screen test from MacGraw.
       The unique casting process involved selecting professional tennis athletes for lead and feature roles, such as Dean-Paul Martin, Guillermo Vilas, and Pancho Gonzalez. With the exception of Martin, players appeared as themselves in the film. Martin, the son of entertainer Dean Martin, was a member of the pro-tennis team, The Phoenix Racquets, and had been coached during childhood by Tommy Cook, who suggested him for the role of “Chris Christensen,” according to the 30 May 1979 HR article. Although Martin was disinterested in an acting career, a story set within the world of contemporary tennis was a rare subject for films, and he was persuaded to audition. A 30 May 1978 LAT article mentioned that Martin consulted with psychiatrist Lee Baumel, rather than a drama coach, to practice releasing emotions in preparation for his feature film debut. Actor Tony Franciosa was enlisted to advise the newcomer about camera technique, but is not credited onscreen. Recognizing Martin’s potential, Evans signed him to a six-picture deal. A 24 Mar 1978 LAHExam brief reported that actor-tennis player, Vincent Van Patten, was also considered for the lead. Other professional tennis players agreed to appear in the film under certain conditions. For example, as described in a 12 Sep 1978 DV column, tennis champion Ilie Nastase did not want to lose the Wimbledon semifinal, as written in the script, so the filmmakers found a compromise whereby Nastase suffers a leg injury in the scene and must default to Martin.
       HR news items from 11 Aug 1978 and 5 Sep 1978 announced that Betsy Drake and Rue McClanahan had signed for parts, but neither actress is credited onscreen.
       According to production notes, principal photography began 3 Jul 1978 at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, England, home to one of the four Grand Slam tennis championships. In an exceptional arrangement for the traditional All England Club, the filmmakers were permitted to shoot crowd, locker room, and certain on-court scenes during the fortnight tournament. Prior to the start of the ladies’ final between opponents Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, the production took advantage of the real setting and filmed Martin and Vilas walking onto Centre Court and bowing to Princess Margaret and the Duchess of Kent in the Royal Box. The week after the tournament, the five-set match between Martin and Vilas was staged on Centre Court and included the participation of actual Wimbledon officials, such as tournament umpire Herbert Syndercombe, referee Fred Hoyles, and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) commentator, Dan Maskell. A 17 Jul 1978 brief in Time magazine mentioned that the Wimbledon rental fee was $35,000. Additional locations included areas in and around Cuernavaca, Mexico, Caesars Palace Casino in Las Vegas, NV, and the LAC II yacht in Monte Carlo, Monaco. The 12 Sep 1978 DV column noted that the production also used the Los Angeles, CA, Tennis Club. An 18 Jan 1979 LAT article reported that when Harvey fractured his knee during the final weeks of shooting in Las Vegas, Evans took over directing duties.
       As described in an 18 Jun 1979 LAT article, a conflict between executive producer Arnold Schulman and Evans became evident in the wake of the picture’s release to poor reviews. Soon after the 8 Jun 1979 opening, Schulman purchased full-page advertisements in DV and HR, which quoted some of the negative comments about his screenplay and included a claim that Evans rewrote his script “line by line.” Later, as reported in a 2 Sep 1980 DV article, Schulman filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Evans and Paramount Pictures Corp. for breach of contract and against Harper & Row Publishing Inc. for neglecting to publish a novel based on the film. The outcome of the litigation was not available in the production file.
       Dean-Paul Martin received a 1980 Golden Globe nomination as New Star of the Year, Actor.
      End credits include the following statements: “Rackets and tennis wear for Dean-Paul Martin supplied by Fila-Italy; Paramount Pictures Corporation acknowledges the cooperation of the committee, members and staff of the All England Lawn Tennis Club at Wimbledon in the making of this film; Trans World International’s participation in the filming at Wimbledon is gratefully acknowledged; Overseas travel arrangements for the production were made with the cooperation of Pan American World Airways; Paramount Pictures Corporation appreciates the cooperation extended by The Phoenix Racquets.”

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
12 Sep 1978
---
Daily Variety
2 Sep 1980
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 1978
---
Hollywood Reporter
5 Sep 1978
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 May 1979
---
LAHExam
24 Mar 1978
---
Los Angeles Times
30 May 1978
Section G, p. 7
Los Angeles Times
18 Jan 1979
Section E, p. 16
Los Angeles Times
8 Jun 1979
p. 1
Los Angeles Times
18 Jun 1979
Section E, pp. 7-8
New York Times
8 Jun 1979
p. 9
Time
17 Jul 1978
---
Variety
13 Jun 1979
p. 15
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Paramount Pictures Presents
A Robert Evans Production
An Anthony Harvey Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
Unit mgr, Mexico
Prod mgr, United Kingdom/Monte Carlo
Asst dir, United Kingdom/Monte Carlo
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir, United Kingdom/Monte Carlo
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed, United Kingdom/Monte Carlo
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Soft sculpture des by
COSTUMES
Cost des
Miss MacGraw's ward
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Re-rec mixer
George Watters, Jr.
Sd eff ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles created by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Scr supv
Unit pub
Prod auditor
Asst to Mr. Evans
Asst to Mr. Erickson
Prod consultant
Prod supv, Mexico
Exec asst, Mexico
Transportation coord, Mexico
Asst to Mr. Hill, United Kingdom/Monte Carlo
Secy, United Kingdom/Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo loc mgr
STAND INS
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Fox Fanfare," by Alfred Newman; "El Son De La Negra," by Silvestre Vargas and Ruben Fuentes; "Marcha Marinos," by Estanislao Garcia; "Dawn of Freedom," by A. Lotter; "Through Night To Light," by E. Laukien; "To The Front," by J. Ord-Hume; "Old Comrades," by C. Tieke; "Namur," by W. Richards; "Semper Fidelis," by J. P. Sousa; "Washington Post March," by J. P. Sousa.
SONGS
"Isn't It Romantic," by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart; "Lover," by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart; "I Can Get Off On You," by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson; "La Hiedra Venenosa," by Lieber-Stoller, performed by Los Rebeldes Del Rock, courtesy of Orfeon Records; "El Mundo," by G. Maccia-Fontana-Dos-A. Martinez, performed by José José, courtesy of Orfeon Records; "Slow Down," by John Miles and Bob Marshall, performed by John Miles, courtesy of The Decca Record Co., Ltd.
SONGWRITERS/COMPOSERS
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Catch a Falling Star
Getting Off
Reflections
Release Date:
8 June 1979
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 8 Jun 1979
Production Date:
began 3 Jul 1978 in Wimbledon, England; Cuernacava, Mexico; Las Vegas, NV; Los Angeles, CA; and Monte Carlo, Monaco
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Paramount Pictures Corporation
6 September 1979
PA43475
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
120
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25366
SYNOPSIS

Unseeded professional tennis player, Chris Christensen, upsets the competition to reach the finals of the Wimbledon Championships outside London, England, against the top-ranked, Guillermo Vilas. As the opening set begins, Chris notices the empty courtside seat reserved for his girl friend Nicole and thinks about the first time he met her when he was an unknown player, struggling to make a living. At that time, Chris drives a beat-up van to a tournament in Cuernavaca, Mexico, with his best friend, Rusty, and the men witness an American woman crash off the road. Chris pulls her from the sports car just before the vehicle explodes. Eager to know more about the attractive, older woman named Nicole, Chris attends to her as she files an accident report and arranges for a rental car. Although aloof, Nicole invites Chris to dinner, in appreciation of his help and handsome good looks. While sightseeing in Cuernavaca that night, Nicole shares that it is her birthday. The next day, Chris competes in the tournament as Nicole watches from the stands. Meanwhile, Rusty bets on the game with one of the spectators in a well-rehearsed swindle that he and Chris initiated as ten-year-olds. After the match, Rusty meets Chris in the locker room to count their winnings when the spectator unexpectedly appears and instructs his henchmen to beat up the two Americans. During the fight, Chris’s hand is injured, and Nicole translates for him at the hospital. She also mocks him for being a “hustler.” After Chris is released, Nicole invites him to stay at her lavish villa in Cuernavaca, but Chris is disappointed ...

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Unseeded professional tennis player, Chris Christensen, upsets the competition to reach the finals of the Wimbledon Championships outside London, England, against the top-ranked, Guillermo Vilas. As the opening set begins, Chris notices the empty courtside seat reserved for his girl friend Nicole and thinks about the first time he met her when he was an unknown player, struggling to make a living. At that time, Chris drives a beat-up van to a tournament in Cuernavaca, Mexico, with his best friend, Rusty, and the men witness an American woman crash off the road. Chris pulls her from the sports car just before the vehicle explodes. Eager to know more about the attractive, older woman named Nicole, Chris attends to her as she files an accident report and arranges for a rental car. Although aloof, Nicole invites Chris to dinner, in appreciation of his help and handsome good looks. While sightseeing in Cuernavaca that night, Nicole shares that it is her birthday. The next day, Chris competes in the tournament as Nicole watches from the stands. Meanwhile, Rusty bets on the game with one of the spectators in a well-rehearsed swindle that he and Chris initiated as ten-year-olds. After the match, Rusty meets Chris in the locker room to count their winnings when the spectator unexpectedly appears and instructs his henchmen to beat up the two Americans. During the fight, Chris’s hand is injured, and Nicole translates for him at the hospital. She also mocks him for being a “hustler.” After Chris is released, Nicole invites him to stay at her lavish villa in Cuernavaca, but Chris is disappointed when he is treated as a guest, rather than a potential lover. Wandering through the house, he learns that Nicole is a rich artist, who has made her home in Mexico. After he overhears Nicole speaking French on the telephone, she announces that she will be away for a few days and suggests Chris stay at the villa while she is gone. Nicole travels to a yacht in Monte Carlo, Monaco, where she rendezvouses with Marco, her wealthy European lover and patron. Returning home, she finds Chris partying with a pretty young Mexican woman. Nicole orders the woman to leave while Chris loses consciousness from intoxication. The next day, Nicole declares that she wants to discipline Chris for a month, in an effort to keep the young athlete from wasting his potential, and Chris submits to her fitness regime. The couple also begins a passionate affair, and Nicole divulges her privileged background as an artist in high society. During a romantic evening, Nicole receives a call from Marco, instructing her to meet him overseas the following day. As she packs, Chris begs her not to go and declares his love for her, but Nicole says she has no choice. While she is away, Chris steals money from Nicole’s dresser and squanders it in a poker game. When Nicole returns to Cuernavaca and discovers the cash missing, she initially blames her housekeeper, but Chris confesses. Following a heated argument, Nicole asks Chris to leave, while encouraging him not to waste his improved fitness. Back in the U. S., Chris travels to Las Vegas, Nevada, where the legendary tennis champion Pancho Gonzalez resides. Chris brazenly asks Pancho to coach him by challenging the veteran to win a point against him. Pancho and his guest, the tennis star John McEnroe, are speechless as the newcomer plays a flawless game. After Pancho agrees to the coaching job, Chris begins a comprehensive training program and wins his first tournament at the Caesars Palace Indoor Championship. With the prize earnings, he repays Nicole by mailing her a check, along with a newspaper clipping of his victory. As Chris competes in tournaments and hones his skills, he continues to miss Nicole. On her birthday, he surprises her with a telephone call. Hiding her feelings, she reminds him that their affair is over and hangs up. During a practice session, Chris has trouble concentrating and admits to Pancho that Nicole is a distraction. While on tour, Chris returns to his hotel room one night and is surprised to find Nicole waiting for him. As the couple resumes their affair, Chris receives good news that he has qualified for Wimbledon, the most prestigious championship in tennis. Along with Rusty and Pancho, Nicole accompanies Chris to the event and cheers his unexpected progress through the earlier rounds against seasoned opponents Denis Ralston, Vijay Amritraj, and John Lloyd. By the time Chris reaches the semifinals against champion, Ilie Nastase, he has become the sensation of the tournament and the sports pages. During the match, Nastase injures his leg, and Chris advances to the finals by default. Relaxing at the hotel before the championship match, Nicole asks Chris to take her on the Ferris wheel near the Wimbledon village after he wins. When Nicole receives a telegram from Marco, requesting her presence on the yacht that weekend, she replies that she is unable to leave until Monday. However, Marco insists by sending one of his chauffeurs to retrieve her. Once again, Chris is unable to prevent Nicole from giving up her dependence on Marco’s patronage. Arriving on the yacht, Nicole tries to tell Marco she cannot stay, but he complains about the paparazzi photographs of her and the “tennis boy.” Realizing that Nicole has fallen in love with someone else, Marco reveals that he sent his assistant, Gino, to inform Chris about her less glamorous background. She was an unsophisticated girl named Shirley when Marco rescued her. Gino told Marco that Chris reacted to the news by saying, “and she called me a hustler.” Nicole is devastated. Meanwhile, at the Wimbledon finals, Chris struggles in the beginning against the heavily favored Argentinean, Guillermo Vilas, but gradually improves his form, and the dramatic match goes to a fifth and final set. Before a decisive game, Chris looks up from a timeout and sees Nicole finally arrive in the stands. Returning to court, Chris must defend his serve and makes a valiant effort, but he loses the game and the championship. As Pancho consoles his protégé on the court, Nicole watches from afar, then leaves the arena. Later that evening, she walks toward the Ferris wheel near the village. Turning around, she sees Chris running toward her. Her anxiety is assuaged when Chris smiles and takes her hand.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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