The Player (1992)

R | 123 mins | Drama | 10 April 1992

Director:

Robert Altman

Writer:

Michael Tolkin

Cinematographer:

Jean Lepine

Editor:

Maysie Hoy

Production Designer:

Stephen Altman

Production Companies:

Avenue Pictures, Spelling Entertainment
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HISTORY

       According to studio production notes in AMPAS library files, writer-producer Michael Tolkin did not want his 1988 novel, The Player, to be adapted into a film; he instead wrote the novel with the hope of disconnecting from his movie career. When producer David Brown optioned film rights, he appealed to Tolkin to adapt the novel, himself. Tolkin noted that the resulting script was different from the novel, although the two works shared a common theme. As Brown convinced Tolkin that The Player was a viable enterprise, Tolkin joined the production team that included Brown and his partner, William S. Gilmore. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the men were seeking financing and developing the script, Tolkin wrote and directed his first theatrically-released feature film, The Rapture (1991, see entry), and invited the picture’s producer, Nick Wechsler, to become a member of The Player’s production team.
       The producers reportedly struggled to sell the film, as studio executives were unconvinced that audiences would be interested in the inner-workings of Hollywood filmmaking. Avenue Pictures’ chief executive officer, Cary Brokaw, turned down the script twice in 1989 and 1990, but in 1991, he approached director Robert Altman after seeing Altman’s British film Vincent & Theo (1990) and Altman was eager to take on the project.
       An eight-week schedule of principal photography began mid-Jun 1991 in Los Angeles, CA, at locations including the St. James’s Club, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Le Restaurant, Geoffrey’s Restaurant, the Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, (currently known as Hollywood Forever Cemetery), the Rialto Theatre in South ... More Less

       According to studio production notes in AMPAS library files, writer-producer Michael Tolkin did not want his 1988 novel, The Player, to be adapted into a film; he instead wrote the novel with the hope of disconnecting from his movie career. When producer David Brown optioned film rights, he appealed to Tolkin to adapt the novel, himself. Tolkin noted that the resulting script was different from the novel, although the two works shared a common theme. As Brown convinced Tolkin that The Player was a viable enterprise, Tolkin joined the production team that included Brown and his partner, William S. Gilmore. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the men were seeking financing and developing the script, Tolkin wrote and directed his first theatrically-released feature film, The Rapture (1991, see entry), and invited the picture’s producer, Nick Wechsler, to become a member of The Player’s production team.
       The producers reportedly struggled to sell the film, as studio executives were unconvinced that audiences would be interested in the inner-workings of Hollywood filmmaking. Avenue Pictures’ chief executive officer, Cary Brokaw, turned down the script twice in 1989 and 1990, but in 1991, he approached director Robert Altman after seeing Altman’s British film Vincent & Theo (1990) and Altman was eager to take on the project.
       An eight-week schedule of principal photography began mid-Jun 1991 in Los Angeles, CA, at locations including the St. James’s Club, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Le Restaurant, Geoffrey’s Restaurant, the Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, (currently known as Hollywood Forever Cemetery), the Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena, Two Bunch Palms resort in Desert Hot Springs, and Hollywood Center Studios.
       The eight-minute, uncut tracking shot comprising the first scene of the film was planned with models before production began. The studio lot location was then repaved so that the dolly and crane would move smoothly throughout the scene. Actors and crewmembers rehearsed the scene the day before the shoot. According to production notes, Altman filmed ten takes but narrowed the selection down to five. Altman noted that he asked actor Fred Ward, who played the studio security chief “Walter Stuckel,” to mention “other films with famous tracking shots” in his dialogue to enhance the irony of the scene.
       As stated in an 18 Feb 1992 NYT article, Altman was able to convince the extensive cast of A-list actors to play cameo roles on the merits of his career; the stars agreed to perform without reading the script and donated their union-scale salaries for one day of work to the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital, a community for retired filmmakers.
       Despite the high-caliber of its performers, the picture was completed for approximately $8 to $10 million. A 23 Jan 1992 HR article reported that the film was financed by Avenue Pictures’ “internal funds” as well as “the pre-sale of foreign rights to Spelling International.” Additionally, principal actors accepted a deferred payment of their wages.
       Although The Player was difficult to market before its production, its distribution rights were coveted by nearly every major Hollywood studio before it sold to Fine Line Features for a $5.1 million guarantee, according to a 14 Feb 1992 DV announcement. A 9 Mar 1992 HR article quoted Fine Line Features’ president Ira Deutchman as saying that the picture would be advertised as a comedy to lure audiences who might otherwise be disinterested in watching a film about Hollywood. Release dates were planned to roll out slowly around the 30 Mar 1992 64th Academy Awards to enhance name recognition from the ceremony and build upon word-of-mouth prestige. Deutchman noted that preview screenings in early 1992 were well received and the filmmakers hoped that audiences would be drawn to the picture for its story instead of its celebrity cameos; Altman refused to feature their names in advertisements.
       The Player was hailed by critics, who generally described the picture as Altman’s return to quality filmmaking. The film won a Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical (David Brown), and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical (Tim Robbins), and was nominated for Best Director (Robert Altman) and Best Screenplay - Motion Picture (Michael Tolkin). At the Cannes Film Festival, Robert Altman won the prize for Best Director and Tim Robbins won for Best Actor. The Player won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature, and Michael Tolkin received a Writers Guild of America (WGA) award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film also received the following Academy Award nominations: Directing (Robert Altman); Film Editing (Geraldine Peroni); and Writing - Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published (Michael Tolkin).

      The end credits contain the following “Special Thanks” to: Patrick Murray, Suzanne Goldman, Mimi Rabinowitz, Randy Honaker, Toyoko Nezu, Morgan Entrekin, Luis Estevez, Reebok, Geoworks, Baseline, Mark Eisen, Bally, Gerald Greenbach & Two Bunch Palms, Bob Flick & Entertainment Tonight, Steve Trombatore & All Payments, Range Rover of North America, Marchon Marcolin Eye Wear, Spinneybeck Design America, Harry Winston Jewelers, L.A. Marathon, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Janis Dinwiddie, Julie Johnston, Ron Haver, The Les Hooper Orchestra, The Bicycle Thief, and Richard Feiner & Co., Inc. The end credits also state: “This film recorded digitally in a THX Sound System Theatre.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
14 Feb 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 1992
p. 1, 49.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Mar 1992
p. 1, 56.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 1992
p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
10 Apr 1992
p. 1.
New York Times
18 Feb 1992
Section C, p. 13, 18.
New York Times
10 Apr 1992
Section C, p. 16.
Variety
16 Mar 1992
p. 58.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
As Themselves:
[and]
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A David Brown/Addis-Wechsler production
A Robert Altman film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Co-exec prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
3d asst cam
Gaffer
Best boy elec
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
June's artwork
Art dept coord
Title painting by
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
2d asst ed
Apprentice ed
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Leadman
Prop master
Asst prop master
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Swing gang
Swing gang
Scenic painter
Painter
Const coord
Const foreman
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
COSTUMES
Ward des
Ward supv
Ward asst
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus scoring mixer
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Sd eff ed
Asst sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley mixer
Foley rec
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Cable puller
Re-rec facilities
a division of LucasArts Entertainment Company
This film rec digitally in a
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles & opticals by
Title des
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod exec
Prod exec
Prod supv
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Karaoke videos
Prod coord
Asst coord
Prod secy
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Avenue financial representative
Addl accounting services
Post prod accountant
Asst to Robert Altman
Asst to Cary Brokaw
Asst to Cary Brokaw
Asst to Nick Wechsler
Sandcastle 5 representative
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Scr supv
Animal trainer
Set medic
Transportation coord
Transport capt
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Craft service
Craft service
Extras casting
Loc security
Legal services
Legal services
Financing provided by
Completion bond
Promotions arr
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Player by Michael Tolkin (New York, 1988).
MUSIC
"Entertainment Tonight," theme by Michael Mark, published by Addax Music Co. Inc.
SONGS
"Snake," © Lla-Mann Music, written & performed by Kurt Neumann
"Drums of Kyoto," © Lla-Mann Music, written & performed by Kurt Neumann
"Tema Para Jobim," © Mulligan Publishing Co., Inc., music by Gerry Mulligan, lyrics by Joyce, performed by Joyce, Milton Nascimento, courtesy of Estudio Pointer Ltda. & RCA Electronica Ltda.
+
SONGS
"Snake," © Lla-Mann Music, written & performed by Kurt Neumann
"Drums of Kyoto," © Lla-Mann Music, written & performed by Kurt Neumann
"Tema Para Jobim," © Mulligan Publishing Co., Inc., music by Gerry Mulligan, lyrics by Joyce, performed by Joyce, Milton Nascimento, courtesy of Estudio Pointer Ltda. & RCA Electronica Ltda.
"Precious," written by Les Hooper, © Chesford Music Publications.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
10 April 1992
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 10 April 1992
Production Date:
mid June--mid August 1991 in Los Angeles, CA
Copyright Claimant:
After Dark Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
4 September 1992
Copyright Number:
PA581584
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Ultra-Stereo
Color
Color by Deluxe
Duration(in mins):
123
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31599
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Los Angeles, California, film executive Griffin Mill arrives at his movie studio office to meet hopeful writers, including Buck Henry, who pitches his idea for The Graduate Part II. When Mill receives an anonymous and threatening postcard, he rushes to the office of studio head Joel Levison, who is entertaining the son of a wealthy financier. Disheartened by his boss’s tepid welcome, Mill tells Levison’s secretary, Celia, that he is worried about an up-and-coming rival named Larry Levy and asks if his job is at stake. At lunch, Mill observes Levy seated with Anjelica Huston and John Cusack while the companions at his table inquire about the new executive. Returning to his car, Mill finds another postcard: the unnamed writer is incensed that Mill never responded to his pitch. Mill’s secretary, Jan, suggests that he alert studio security chief Walter Stuckel, but Mill does not want to stir controversy. That night, Mill takes his girl friend, Bonnie Sherow, to a celebrity-filled party at entertainment lawyer Dick Mellen’s home. As Mill tells his host about the postcards, his paranoia is provoked when Levy shows up uninvited. At a breakfast meeting with Levison the next morning, Mill threatens to quit if he has to work with Levy. He then returns to his office to find a book of postcards with the message: “In the name of all writers I’m going to kill you!” After ordering Jan to the mailroom to find out who delivered the cards, Mill goes through her calendar and deduces that ... +


In Los Angeles, California, film executive Griffin Mill arrives at his movie studio office to meet hopeful writers, including Buck Henry, who pitches his idea for The Graduate Part II. When Mill receives an anonymous and threatening postcard, he rushes to the office of studio head Joel Levison, who is entertaining the son of a wealthy financier. Disheartened by his boss’s tepid welcome, Mill tells Levison’s secretary, Celia, that he is worried about an up-and-coming rival named Larry Levy and asks if his job is at stake. At lunch, Mill observes Levy seated with Anjelica Huston and John Cusack while the companions at his table inquire about the new executive. Returning to his car, Mill finds another postcard: the unnamed writer is incensed that Mill never responded to his pitch. Mill’s secretary, Jan, suggests that he alert studio security chief Walter Stuckel, but Mill does not want to stir controversy. That night, Mill takes his girl friend, Bonnie Sherow, to a celebrity-filled party at entertainment lawyer Dick Mellen’s home. As Mill tells his host about the postcards, his paranoia is provoked when Levy shows up uninvited. At a breakfast meeting with Levison the next morning, Mill threatens to quit if he has to work with Levy. He then returns to his office to find a book of postcards with the message: “In the name of all writers I’m going to kill you!” After ordering Jan to the mailroom to find out who delivered the cards, Mill goes through her calendar and deduces that writer David Kahane is the offender. That night, Mill stakes out Kahane’s home and when he phones the writer, Kahane’s lover, June Gudmundsdottir, teases that Kahane refers to Mill as “the dead man.” She directs Mill to the Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena, where Kahane is at a screening of Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. When the movie ends, Kahane accepts Mill’s offer of a drink and takes him to a Japanese karaoke bar. Mill promises to hire Kahane under the condition that he ends the harassment, but Kahane is intoxicated and refuses. Outside, Kahane taunts Mill, claiming that Levy is taking over his job, and he threatens to expose Mill’s incompetence. When Mill asks for a truce, Kahane denies writing the postcards and accidentally pushes Mill over a railing. As Kahane rushes to the executive’s aid, Mill pushes the writer’s head into a puddle of water, yelling, “keep it to yourself.” Realizing that Kahane is dead, Mill steals the writer’s valuables and smashes the car window that holds his handprint. The next morning, Mill arrives late to a meeting, where Levison formally welcomes Levy to the studio and the new executive proposes a systematic elimination of writers to cut costs. As Levy demonstrates his skill at transforming newspaper articles into sexy film plots, Mill sees a notice about Kahane’s murder in the Los Angeles Times. Later, studio security chief Walter Stuckel informs Mill that the he is the primary suspect in the murder. While Mill insists he is innocent, he receives a fax featuring the drawing of a postcard with the message: “Surprise!” Later, Mill meets June Gudmundsdottir in person at Kahane’s funeral and she asks him to take her home as Pasadena Detective Paul DeLongpre watches from afar. At June’s home art studio, Mill says that he had sought out Kahane with a suggestion to improve the script and give it a happy ending, but June claims that Kahane did not include such trivialities in his work. Taking Polaroid photographs of Mill, June expresses interest in using him a model for an Icelandic anti-hero and reflects that villains do not need to be punished for their crimes because they suffer internally from guilt. Mill returns to his office with new confidence and effortlessly counters an interrogation by Pasadena Detective Avery. At a dailies screening, Jan tells Mill that a man named Joe Gillis has requested a meeting with him that evening at the St. James’s Club, and Mill discovers that “Joe Gillis” was the fictional writer in Sunset Boulevard who was murdered by former movie star, Norma Desmond. Unwittingly trailed by Detective DeLongpre, Mill heads to the club, hoping to finally meet his adversary. However, he is instead confronted by a New York colleague, Andy Civella, and his friend, director Tom Oakley, who pitches a story called Habeas Corpus about an innocent woman who dies at the hand of her district attorney lover in a California gas chamber. Mill receives another postcard featuring the photograph of a rattlesnake and leaves the club, but as he drives, he picks up a message in his car fax machine that alerts him to a real rattlesnake in the passenger seat. After fighting back the snake with an umbrella, Mill is shaken and goes to June’s studio. He asks her to make love, but she feels it is too soon after Kahane’s murder. The next day, Mill convinces Levy to option Habeas Corpus, knowing that the project is doomed because it lacks movie stars and a happy ending; Mill hopes that the film will mark Levy’s demise. Later, Mill takes June to a gala event at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where Levison donates classic films to the archive but credits Mill with the idea. After his speech, Mill finds yet another postcard at his table and DeLongpre watches from the sidelines. The following morning, DeLongpre escorts Mill to the Pasadena police station to review mug shots. When Detective Avery asks questions about his relationship with June, Mill becomes incensed and the officers chuckle at his temper. Back at the studio, Bonnie confronts Mill about June, but he is unapologetic and leaves. Although Mill has planned a weekend trip to Mexico with June, he sees DeLongpre at the airport and drives to a resort in Desert Hot Springs instead. That night, the couple makes love for the first time and Mill admits between gasps that he is responsible for Kahane’s death. As the couple soaks silently in mud the next day, Mill gets a phone call from attorney Mellen, who reports that Levison has been fired from the studio and the Pasadena police have found a witness to Kahane’s murder; however, when Mill reports to the station for a line-up, the witness mistakenly selects Detective DeLongpre as the killer. One year later, Habeas Corpus is complete and studio executives attend a screening. Contrary to the film’s original intent, it stars Julia Roberts, who is rescued from the gas chamber at the last minute by her D.A. lover, Bruce Willis. When Bonnie protests the happy ending, Levy fires her and she rushes to Mill’s headquarters in Levison’s former office for support. Mill, the new studio head, refuses to help his former lover and leaves her in tears. As he heads home in his Rolls Royce, Mill receives a call from Levy, who implores his boss to hear an exciting pitch. Mills agrees and the writer introduces himself as a past acquaintance who was once in the “postcard business.” He describes a film called The Player in which a studio executive gets away with murder and lives happily ever after with his victim’s lover. When the writer promises not to change the happy ending, Mill agrees to option the story and pulls up to his estate, where he is greeted by a pregnant June. +

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

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