A studio executive is being blackmailed by a writer whose script he rejected but which one? Loaded with Hollywood insider jokes.
Release Year: 1992
Rating: 7.7/10 (27,766 voted)
Critic's Score: 86/100
Stars: Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward
A studio script screener gets on the bad side of a writer by not accepting his script. The writer is sending him threatening postcards. The screener tries to identify the writer in order to pay him off so he'll be left alone, and then in a case of mistaken identity gone awry, he accidentally gives the writer solid ammunition for blackmail. This plot is written on a backdrop of sleazy Hollywood deals and several subplots involving the politics of the industry.
Writers: Michael Tolkin, Michael Tolkin
Richard E. Grant
Everything you've heard is true!
Release Date: 10 April 1992
Filming Locations: Argyle Hotel – 8358 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, California, USA
Opening Weekend: $302,216
(10 April 1992)
Did You Know?
The house used as Griffin and June's home in the final scene belonged to Robert Altman.
After the funeral, when Griffin and June have a conversation in the cemetery, the limo driver behind them disappears between shots.
Quiet on the set.
OK, everybody, quiet on the set.
Scene 1, take 10. Marker.
And – action!
The Truth About The Hollywood Dream Machine
Come next year, when I am trying to devise a list of the best films of the
90's, Robert Altman's "The Player" will be near the top of my list. This
film skillfully creates a central plot around Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins)
(who hears about 125 movie pitches per day), a studio executive who is being
threatened by a writer whose script or idea he likely brushed off. But what
is even more brilliant about "The Player" is everything going on
peripherally to the main plot; all the references to studio techniques of
film-making, foreign film movements, homages and Old Hollywood vs. New
Hollywood. The film is multi-layered, yet everything that we view falls
neatly into the formula which Hollywood film-making survives by. What we see
in the duration of "The Player" would potentially make a perfect pitch for a
movie. This may sound confusing, but watch the entire film, and you will
immediately know what I mean.
The film begins with a stunning homage to Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope", an
approximately eight minute long take where the camera moves freely around a
studio encountering many people in the midst of their everyday routines. For
example, we come across a couple discussing how Hollywood film is now much
like MTV "cut, cut, cut". One of the characters even uses the example of
"Rope" to illustrate his point. "Rope" is approximately a ninety minute film
that appears to have been shot all in one take. Of course, it wasn't done in
one take, as reels of film at that time were only ten minutes long. If one
watches the film very closely, it can be determined where the cuts are
In the duration of the same take, we encounter Griffin Mill conducting
business in his office. People walk into his office pitching movie ideas. It
is here that we begin to learn about populist Hollywood film-making. Ideas,
not stories or scripts are pitched to executives "in 25 words or less".
Almost always, the ideas thrown out are based on previous films (e.g.
"someone always gets killed at the end of a political thriller") and even
combinations of previous films (e.g. "It's Pretty Woman meets Out of
Africa"). When we see the usual films that are released into theaters each
week, it is not difficult to believe that this is the way in which they are
conceived. The usual Hollywood formula entails sex, violence, familiarity
and most important of all "happy endings, a movie always has to have a happy
"The Player" is filled with loads of Hollywood stars, most of them playing
themselves. Jeff Goldblum, Malcolm McDowell, John Cusack, Angelica Huston,
and Burt Reynolds to name a few. Many of them are encountered at restaurants
during lunch and at night time Hollywood gatherings, where the topic of
conversation is always movies. Near the beginning of the film, Griffin
suggests that he and his lunch guests talk about something else. "We're all
educated adults". Of course no one says anything. Their lives are so
indoctrinated by Hollywood, they do not know what else to talk
Right from the beginning Griffin receives numerous postcards threatening his
life. He begins to suspect a certain writer and goes to his house one night
to confront him. The man turns out not to be home, but there is an
incredible scene where Griffin talks with the man's girlfriend on the phone
while voyeuristically watching her through the window. This is an
extraordinary symbolization of the voyeuristic essence that goes along with
watching a film, or the notion of scopophilia to be precise. The idea behind
the concept of scopophilia is that the cinema constructs the spectator as a
subject; the beholder of the gaze, who has an intense desire to look. The
cinema places viewers in a voyeuristic position in that the viewer watches
the film unseen in a dark room. While Griffin is watching the girl as he
speaks with her, it is night time and he remains unseen to her. This
scenario metaphorically represents the theater and the
In the duration of Griffin's conversation on the phone, he finds out that
the man he is looking for is watching "The Bicycle Thief" in an art-house
theater in Pasadena. This film in itself represents the first contrast to
Hollywood that we see in "The Player". Vittorio DeSica's "The Bicycle Thief"
was part of a movement that lasted from 1942 to 1952 called Italian
Neo-Realism", whose other main exponents were Rossellini and Visconti.
Rossellini called neo-realism both a moral and an aesthetic cinema.
Neo-realism, to a great extent owes much of its existence to film-makers'
displeasure at the restrictions placed on freedom of expression. This film
movement is quite different from the modern Hollywood formula of
film-making. When Griffin first meets the man he suspects is sending the
postcards, he suggests that perhaps they could do a remake of "The Bicycle
Thief". The man responds with "yeah sure, you'd probably want to give it a
Also interesting in "The Player" is one of the studio executives suggestions
to newspapers as a source for script ideas. This serves to contrast Old
Hollywood versus New Hollywood. In the older days of studio film, Warner
Brothers (one of the studio's of middle-class America) would produce films
with ideas seemingly drawn from real life or from the headlines of major
newspapers. This gives us the sense that often Hollywood is stuck for
original ideas, so ideas from the past re-circulate themselves.
I have touched on only a few of the many interesting references that run
peripherally to the main plot of "The Player". The great thing is that even
if you do not catch all the film references that I have been discussing, it
is still enjoyable. When I first saw the film, I was really young and did
not know much about movies, but yet I enjoyed it thoroughly. Now, it is one
of my favorites. I definitely recommend it to anyone who has a keen interest
**** out of ****