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From the Publisher
After 20 years of
hibernation, former pool champion "Fast" Eddie Felson is playing exhibition
matches with former rival Minnesota Fats in shopping malls for prizes like cable
television. With one failed marriage and years of running a pool hall, Eddie is
now ready to regain the skills needed to compete in a world of pool that has changed
dramatically since he left it behind. The real challenge comes when Eddie realizes
that in order to compete successfully, he must hone his skills in the game of
nine-ball as opposed to the straight pool that had once won him fame. With a new
generation of competitors, fear and doubt and the daily possibility of failure
arise, giving Fast Eddie a new challenge to overcome. The Color of Money is the
source of the 1986 film starring Paul Newman in the role he had originated in
Oscar-nominated in 1961 for his performance as pool hustler Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler, Paul Newman won that award a quarter century later when he reprised the role in The Color of Money. At the end of The Hustler, Felson was banned for life from playing the game professionally. In the intervening years, he has become what the despicable George C. Scott was in the 1961 film: a front man for younger hustlers, claiming the lion's share of the winnings. His latest "client" is arrogant young Tom Cruise, who is goaded into accepting Felson's patronage by his avaricious girl friend Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Cruise learns not only the refinements of the game, but also the dirty trickery that will help him lure in the suckers. As Cruise becomes successful on these terms, Felson seethes with jealousy, hitting the bottle and carelessly allowing himself to fall victim to another hustler. He tells Cruise to get lost, and vows to make an honest comeback. It is inevitable from this point onward that the younger and the older player will square off in a game for the biggest stakes of all: Fast Eddie Felson's self-respect. While few can fault Paul Newman's Oscar win for The Color of Money (it was certainly about time!), the film itself indulges in the sort of "look ma, no hands" directorial gimcrackery that the earlier, more austere Hustler had strived to avoid: one brief scene is shot from the point of view of the cue ball! Mention should be made of Tom Cruise's performance, which is every bit as accomplished as Newman's. One of these days, Cruise is going to make a picture in which the critical attention will not be concentrated on some attention-getting heavyweight like Newman, Hoffman or Nicholson, and it will be Cruise who walks down the aisle on Oscar night; or, like Paul Newman, perhaps Cruise will also have to wait thirty years before being given his overdue due. Both the original Hustler and The Color of Money were based on novels by Walter Tevis. -- Hal Erickson
CAST & CREW
Martin Scorsese - The most renowned filmmaker of his era, Martin Scorsese virtually defined the state of modern American cinema during the 1970s and '80s. A consummate storyteller and visual stylist who lived and breathed movies, he won fame translating his passion and energy into a brand of filmmaking that crackled with kinetic excitement. Working well outside of the mainstream, Scorsese nevertheless emerged in the 1970s as a towering figure throughout the industry, achieving the kind of fame and universal recognition typically reserved for more commercially successful talents. A tireless supporter of film preservation, Scorsese has worked to bridge the gap between cinema's history and future like no other director. Channeling the lessons of his inspirations -- primarily classic Hollywood, the French New Wave, and the New York underground movement of the early 1960s -- into an extraordinarily personal and singular vision, he has remained perennially positioned at the vanguard of the medium, always pushing the envelope of the film experience with an intensity and courage unmatched by any of his contemporaries.
Scorsese was born on November 17, 1942 in Flushing, New York. The second child of Charles and Catherine Scorsese -- both of whom frequently made cameo appearances in their son's films -- he suffered from severe asthma, and as a result was blocked from participating in sports and other common childhood activities. Consequently, Scorsese sought refuge in area movie houses, quickly becoming obsessed with the cinema, in particular the work of Michael Powell. Raised in a devoutly Catholic environment, he initially studied to become a priest. Ultimately, however, Scorsese opted out of the clergy to enroll in film school at New York University, helming his first student effort What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? -- a nine-minute short subject -- in 1963.
Scorsese mounted his second student picture, the 15-minute It's Not Just You, Murray!, in 1964, the year of his graduation. His next effort was 1967's brief The Big Shave; finally, in 1969 he completed his feature-length debut Who's That Knocking at My Door?, a drama starring actor Harvey Keitel, who went on to appear in many of the director's most successful films. The feature also marked the beginning of Scorsese's long collaboration with editor Thelma Schoonmaker, a pivotal component in the evolution of his distinct visual sensibility.
After a tenure teaching film at NYU (where among his students were aspiring directors Oliver Stone and Jonathan Kaplan), Scorsese released Street Scenes, a documentary account of the May, 1970 student demonstrations opposing the American military invasion of Cambodia. He soon left New York for Hollywood, working as an editor on films ranging from Woodstock to Medicine Ball Caravan to Elvis on Tour and earning himself the nickname "The Butcher." For Roger Corman's American International Pictures, Scorsese also directed his first film to receive any kind of widespread distribution, 1972's low-budget Boxcar Bertha, starring Barbara Hershey and David Carradine. With the same technical crew, he soon returned to New York to begin working on his first acknowledged masterpiece, the 1973 drama Mean Streets. A deeply autobiographical tale exploring the interpersonal and spiritual conflicts facing the same group of characters first glimpsed in Who's That Knocking at My Door?, Mean Streets established many of the thematic stylistic hallmarks of the Scorsese oeuvre -- including his use of outsider anti-heroes, unusual camera and editing techniques, duelling obsessions with religion and gangster life, and the evocative use of popular music. It was this film that launched him to the forefront of a new generation of American cinematic talent. The film also established Scorsese's relationship with actor Robert DeNiro, who quickly emerged as the central on-screen figure throughout the majority of his work.
For his follow-up, Scorsese travelled to Arizona to begin shooting 1974's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, a response to criticism that he couldn't direct a "women's film." The end result brought star Ellen Burstyn a "Best Actress Oscar" at the year's Academy Awards ceremony, as well as a "Best Supporting Actress" nomination for co-star Diane Ladd. Next up was 1974's Italianamerican, a film Scorsese often claimed as his personal favorite among his own work. A documentary look at the experience of Italian immigrants as well as life in New York's Little Italy, it starred the director's parents, and even included Catherine Scorsese's secret tomato sauce recipe.
Upon his return to New York, Scorsese began work on the legendary Taxi Driver in the summer of 1974. Based on a screenplay by Paul Schrader, the film explored the nature of violence in modern American society, and starred DeNiro as Travis Bickle, a cabbie thoroughly alienated from humanity who begins harboring delusions of assassinating a Presidential candidate and saving a young prostitute (Jodie Foster) from the grip of the streets. Lavishly acclaimed upon its initial release, Taxi Driver won the Palme d'Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival. Five years later, it became the subject of intense scrutiny when it was revealed that the movie was the inspiration behind the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley, who had become obsessed with the film as well as Foster herself.
Scorsese's next feature was New York, New York, a lavish 1977 musical starring DeNiro and Liza Minnelli. The first of his major films to receive less-than-glowing critical acclaim, it was widely considered a failure by the Hollywood establishment. Despite doubts about his artistry, Scorsese forged on, and continued work on his documentary of the farewell performance of The Band, shot on Thanksgiving Day of 1976. Complete with guest appearances from luminaries ranging from Muddy Waters to Bob Dylan to Van Morrison, the concert film The Last Waltz bowed in 1978, and won raves on the festival circuit as well as from pop-music fans. American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince, a look at the raconteur who appeared as the gun salesman in Taxi Driver, followed later that same year.
In April 1979, after years of preparation, Scorsese began work on Raging Bull, a film based on the autobiography of boxer Jake LaMotta. Filmed in black-and-white, the feature was his most ambitious work to date, and is widely regarded as the greatest movie of the 1980s. DeNiro won the "Best Actor" Oscar for his portrayal of LaMotta, while newcomer Cathy Moriarty won a "Best Actress" nomination for her work as LaMotta's second wife. (Additionally, Thelma Schoonmaker won an Academy Award for editing). Scorsese and DeNiro again reunited for the follow-up, 1983's The King of Comedy, a bitter satire exploring the nature of celebrity and fame.
Since the age of ten, Scorsese had dreamed of mounting a filmed account of the life of Jesus; finally, in 1983 it appeared that his adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis' novel The Last Temptation of Christ was about to come to fruition. Ultimately, just four weeks before shooting was scheduled to begin, funding for the project fell through. Scorsese was forced to enter a kind of work-for-hire survival period, accepting an offer to direct the 1985 downtown New York comedy After Hours. In the spring of 1986, he began filming The Color of Money, the long-awaited sequel to Robert Rossen's 1961 classic The Hustler. Star Paul Newman, reprising his role as pool shark "Fast" Eddie Felson, won his first Academy Award for his work, while co-star Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio scored a "Best Supporting Actress" nomination.
The Color of Money was Scorsese's first true box-office hit; thanks to its success, he was finally able to film The Last Temptation of Christ. Starring Willem Dafoe in the title role, the feature appeared in 1988 to considerable controversy over what many considered to be a blasphemous portrayal of the life and crucifixion of Christ. Ironically, the protests helped win the film a greater foothold at the box office, while making its director a household name. After contributing (along with Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen) to the 1989 triptych New York Stories, Scorsese teamed with DeNiro for the first time since The King of Comedy and began working on his next masterpiece, 1990's Goodfellas. Based on author Nicholas Pileggi's true-crime account Wiseguy, the film dissected the New York criminal underworld in absorbing detail, helping actor Joe Pesci earn an Oscar for his supporting role as a crazed mob hitman.
As part of the deal with Universal Pictures which allowed him to make Last Temptation, Scorsese had also agreed to direct a more "commercial" film. The result was 1991's Cape Fear, an update of the classic Hollywood thriller. The follow-up, 1993's The Age of Innocence, was a dramatic change of pace; based on the novel by Edith Wharton, the film looked at the New York social mores of the 1870s, and starred Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer. In 1995, Scorsese resurfaced with two new films. The first, Casino, documented the rise and decline of mob rule in the Las Vegas of the 1970s, while A Century of Cinema--A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Cinema examined the evolution of the Hollywood filmmaking process. In 1997, he completed Kundun, a meditation on the formative years of the exiled Dalai Lama. That same year he received the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement honor. In 1998, he participated in the American Film Institute's AFI's 100 Years....100 Movies, once again doing his part to help bridge the films of the past with those of the future.
Scorsese returned to the director's chair in 1999 with Bringing Out the Dead. A medical drama starring Nicolas Cage as an emotionally exhausted paramedic, it marked the director's return to New York's contemporary gritty milieu. -- Jason Ankeny
Paul Newman - In a business where public scandal and bad-boy behavior are the rule rather than the exception, Paul Newman is as much a hero offscreen as on. A blue-eyed matinee idol whose career has successfully spanned five decades, he is also a prominent social activist, a major proponent of actors' creative rights and a noted philanthropist. Born January 26, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio, Newman served in World War II prior to attending Kenyon College on an athletic scholarship; when an injury ended his sports career, he turned to drama, joining a summer stock company in Wisconsin. After relocating to Illinois in 1947, he married actress Jacqueline Witte, and following the death of his father took over the family's sporting-goods store. Newman quickly grew restless, however, and after selling his interest in the store to his brother, he enrolled at the Yale School of Drama. During a break from classes he travelled to New York City where he won a role in the CBS television series The Aldrich Family. A number of other TV performances followed, and in 1952 Newman was accepted by the Actors' Studio, making his Broadway debut a year later in Picnic, where he was spotted by Warner Bros. executives.
Upon Newman's arrival in Hollywood, media buzz tagged him as "the new Brando." However, after making his screen debut in the disastrous epic The Silver Chalice, he became the victim of scathing reviews, although Warners added on another two years to his contract after he returned to Broadway to star in The Desperate Hours. Back in Hollywood, he starred in The Rack. Again reviews were poor, and the picture was quickly pulled from circulation. Newman's third film, the charming Somebody Up There Likes Me, in which he portrayed boxer Rocky Graziano, was both a commercial and critical success, with rave reviews for his performance. His next film of note was 1958's The Long Hot Summer, an acclaimed adaptation of a pair of William Faulkner short stories; among his co-stars was Joanne Woodward, who soon became his second wife. After next appearing as Billy the Kid in Arthur Penn's underrated The Left-Handed Gun, Newman starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, scoring his first true box-office smash as well as his first Academy Award nomination.
After appearing with Joanne Woodward in Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! -- the couple would frequently team onscreen throughout their careers -- Newman travelled back to Broadway to star in Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth. Upon his return to the West Coast, he bought himself out of his Warner Bros. contract before starring in the 1960 smash From the Terrace. Exodus, another major hit, quickly followed. While by now a major star, the true depths of Newman's acting abilities had yet to be fully explored; that all changed with Robert Rossen's 1961 classic The Hustler, in which he essayed one of his most memorable performances as pool shark "Fast" Eddie Felson, gaining a second Oscar nomination. His third nod came for 1963's Hud, which cast him as an amoral Texas rancher. While a handful of creative and financial disappointments followed, including 1964's The Outrage and 1965's Lady L, 1966's Alfred Hitchcock-helmed Torn Curtain marked a return to form, as did the thriller Harper.
For 1967's superb chain-gang drama Cool Hand Luke, Newman scored a fourth Academy Award nomination, but again went home empty-handed. The following year he made his directorial debut with the Joanne Woodward vehicle Rachel Rachel, scoring "Best Director" honors from the New York critics as well as an Oscar nomination for "Best Picture." The couple next appeared onscreen together in 1969's Winning, which cast Newman as a professional auto racer; the motor sport remained a preoccupation in his real life as well, and he was the most prominent of the many celebrities who began racing as a hobby. He then starred with Robert Redford in 1969's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which went on to become the highest-grossing western in movie history. It was followed by 1971's W.U.S.A., a deeply political film reflecting Newman's strong commitment to social activism; in addition to being among Hollywood's most vocal supporters of the civil rights movement, in 1968 he and Woodward made headlines by campaigning full time for Democratic Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy.
After directing and starring in 1971's Sometimes a Great Notion, Newman announced the formation of First Artists, a production company co-founded by Barbra Streisand and Steve McQueen. Modeled after the success of United Artists, it was created to offer performers the opportunity to produce their own projects. Newman's first film for First Artists' was 1972's Pocket Money, followed by another directorial effort, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. After a pair of back-to-back efforts under director John Huston, 1972's The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean and the next year's The Mackintosh Man, Newman reunited with Redford in The Sting, another triumph which won the 1973 "Best Picture" Oscar. He next appeared in the star-studded disaster epic The Towering Inferno, followed by 1975's The Drowning Pool, a sequel to Harper. His next major success was the 1977 sports spoof Slap Shot, which went on to become a cult classic.
A string of disappointments followed, including Robert Altman's self-indulgent 1979 effort Quintet. The 1981 Absence of Malice, however, was a success, and for 1982's courtroom drama The Verdict Newman notched his fifth "Best Actor" nomination. He finally won the Oscar on his sixth attempt, reprising the role of Eddie Felson in 1986's The Color of Money, Martin Scorsese's sequel to The Hustler. After starring in two 1989 films, Blaze and Fat Man and Little Boy, Newman began appearing onscreen less and less. In 1991, he and Joanne Woodward starred as the titular Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, and three years later he earned yet another Academy Award nomination for his superb performance in Robert Benton's slice-of-life tale Nobody's Fool. His films since then have been fairly sparse and of mixed quality, with Joel Coen's and Ethan Coen's The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) being at the higher end of the spectrum and the Kevin Costner vehicle Message in a Bottle (1999) resting near the bottom. Newman again graced screens in 2000 with Where the Money Is, a comedy that cast him as a famous bank robber who fakes a stroke to get out of prison.
Still, despite his movement away from Hollywood, Newman has remained a prominent public figure through his extensive charitable work; he created the Scott Newman Foundation after the drug-related death of his son and later marketed a series of gourmet foodstuffs under the umbrella name Newman's Own, with all profits going to support his Hole-in-the-Wall Gang project for children suffering from cancer. -- Jason Ankeny
Tom Cruise - An actor whose name has become synonymous with All-American, testosterone-driven entertainment, Tom Cruise spent the 1980s as one of Hollywood's brightest-shining Golden Boys. With black hair, blue eyes, and unabashed cockiness, Cruise rode high on such hits as Top Gun and Rain Man. Although his popularity dimmed slightly in the early 1990s, he was able to bounce back with a string of hits that re-established him as both an action hero and, in the case of Jerry Maguire and Magnolia, a talented actor.
Born Thomas Cruise Mapother IV on July 3, 1962 in Syracuse, New York, actor Tom Cruise led a peripatetic existence as a child, moving from town to town with his rootless family. A high-school wrestler, Cruise went into acting after being sidelined by a knee injury. This new activity served a dual purpose: performing satiated Cruise's need for attention, while the memorization aspect of acting helped him come to grips with his dyslexia.
Moving to New York in 1980, Cruise held down odd jobs until getting his first movie break in Endless Love (1981). His first big hit was Risky Business (1982), in which he entered movie-trivia heaven with the scene wherein he celebrates his parents' absence by dancing around the living room in his underwear. The Hollywood press corps began touting Cruise as one of the "Brat Pack," a group of twenty-something young actors who seemed on the verge of taking over the movie industry in the early 1980s. But Cruise chose not to play the sort of teen-angst roles that the other Bratpackers specialized in--a wise decision, in that he has sustained his stardom while many of his contemporaries have fallen by the wayside or retreated into direct-to-video cheapies. Top Gun (1985) established Cruise as an "action" star, but again he refused to be pigeonholed, and followed up Top Gun with a solid characterization of a fledgling pool shark in The Color of Money (1986), the film that earned co-star Paul Newman an Academy Award. In 1988, Cruise took on one of his most challenging assignments as the brother of autistic savant Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. "Old" Hollywood chose to give all the credit for that film's success to Hoffman, but a closer look at Rain Man reveals that Cruise is the true central character in the film, the one who "grows" in humanity and maturity while Hoffman's character, though brilliantly portrayed, remains the same.
In 1989 Cruise was finally given an opportunity to carry a major dramatic film without an older established star in tow. As paraplegic Vietnam vet Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Cruise delivered perhaps his most outstanding performance. Cruise's bankability faltered a bit with the expensive disappointment Far and Away (1990) (though it did give him a chance to co-star with his wife Nicole Kidman), but with A Few Good Men (1992), Cruise was back in form. In 1994 Cruise appeared as the vampire Lestat in the long-delayed film adaptation of the Anne Rice novel Interview with the Vampire. Although she was violently opposed to Cruise's casting, Rice reversed her decision upon seeing the actor's performance.
In 1996, Cruise scored financial success with the big-budget actioner Mission Impossible, but it was with his multilayered, Oscar-nominated performance in Jerry Maguire (also 1996) that Cruise proved once again why he is considered a major Hollywood player. 1999 saw Cruise reunited onscreen with Kidman in a project of a very different sort, Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. The film, which was the director's last, had been the subject of controversy, rumor, and speculation since it began filming. It opened to curious critics and audiences alike across the nation, and was met with a violently mixed response. However, it allowed Cruise to once again take part in film history, further solidifying his position as one of Hollywood's most well-placed movers and shakers.
Cruise's enviable position was again solidified later in 1999, when he earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as a loathsome "sexual prowess" guru in Paul Thomas Anderson's, Magnolia. In 2000 he scored again when he reprised his role as international agent Ethan Hunt in John Woo's Mission: Impossible II, which proved to be one of the summer's first big moneymakers. His status as a full-blown star of impressive dramatic range now cemented in the eyes of both longtime fans and detractors, the popular actor next set his sights on re-teaming with Jerry Maguire director Cameron Crowe for a remake of Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar's (The Others) Abre Los Ojos titled Vanilla Sky. -- Hal Erickson
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio - The daughter of first generation Italian Americans, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was born in Oak Park, Illinois. Oak Park was also the home town of Ernest Hemingway; some of his "don't mess with me" spirit seems to have been passed on by osmosis to Mastrantonio, who has made her career playing a number of feisty, strong-willed women. Trained for an operatic career, she studied voice at the University of Illinois, Champagne, and had one of her first gigs in an Opryland production of Showboat. Once in New York, Mastrantonio was hired for the 1981 revival of West Side Story, and was lauded in the press for her peppery portrayal of Viola in a New York Shakespeare Festival staging of Twelfth Night.
Mastrantonio's first film was Scarface (1983), in which she played Al Pacino's sister (the incestuous subtext was just as pronounced here as in the original 1931 version). She then essayed the role of Benito Mussolini's embittered daughter Edda in the TV miniseries Mussolini: The Untold Story, which starred George C. Scott in the title role. In both of these productions, Mastrantonio tended to be overshadowed by her male co-stars, but she more than held her own opposite such heady company as Paul Newman and Tom Cruise in The Color of Money (1986), an assignment which won her both a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe nomination.
After appearing in a few more films--most notably The Abyss, in which she played Ed Harris' estranged engineer wife--she starred as Maid Marian in Kevin Costner's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in 1991. As a mark of the impression the actress had made in strong, self-reliant roles, her transformation into a damsel in distress during the film's final scenes were greeted with audible audience groans. Unfortunately, following the huge commercial--if not critical--success of the film, Mastrantonio's visibility receded; over the next few years she could be seen in a number of relatively obscure films, perhaps the most notable of which was Two Bits (1995) with Al Pacino. However, in 1999 Mastrantonio reemerged in the public--or at least arthouse--consciousness, thanks to lead roles in My Life So Far, in which she played Colin Firth's wife, and John Sayles' Limbo, in which she portrayed another strong-willed woman, an itinerant lounge singer who meets an uncertain fate in deepest, darkest Alaska. -- Hal Erickson
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