The Player: Narrative Segmentation

Hollywood studio exec Griffin Dunne (Tim Robbins) falls into a plot of his own making in The Player

In Robert Altman’s 1992 Hollywood satire The Player, Tim Robbins plays Griffin Mill, a Hollywood studio executive receiving death threats from a bitter screenwriter. After narrowing the list of suspects down, Griffin meets with the culprit (Vincent D’Onofrio). After some initial diplomacy, things turn violent and Griffin ends up killing the writer. As news of the murder reaches the industry, Griffin finds himself falling for and dating the dead man’s girlfriend (Greta Scacchi).

Act 1

Hollywood exec Griffin Dunne has been receiving death threats.

1a. Opening sequence. Griffin arrives to work and takes pitches. Meanwhile, various characters interact in the studio car park. (The whole sequence lasts 7 and a 1/2 minutes)

1b. Griffin receives a threatening postcard. He leaves to see the studio head.

1c. Griffin interrupts the meeting in studio head Joe Levinson’s office.

1d. Lunch at restaurant. Various stars and filmmakers are present. Speculation about Larry Levy coming in as a new producer. Larry is at another table lunching with Anjelica Huston and John Cusack.

1e. Griffin finds another postcard on his car window when he leaves.

1f. Back at Griffin’s office. Secretary suggests he should let someone know about the postcards.

1g. House party. Griffin talks to lawyer about the postcards. Griffin sees that Larry Levy is also at the party.

1h. Home in spa with Bonnie (Griffin’s girlfriend). Griffin is ruminating on Larry Levy. He alludes to the postcard threat.

1i. Lunch. Meets with Levinson. Griffin says he won’t work for Levy and will quit if he has to.

1j. Office. Another postcard is on the desk. Griffin sends staff to investigate how it got in mail.

1k. Griffin uses the opportunity to search up the screenwriter he believes is terrorising him (David Kahane).

Act 2

Griffin’s investigation leads him to embittered writer David Kahane. When things turn nasty, Griffin kills him.

2a. Night. Outside Kahane’s house. Griffin calls but he is not in. He talks to his girlfriend, June, on the phone and watches through the window. They quickly strike up a connection.

2b. Cinema. Griffin waits for Kahane who is in a screening of Bicycle Thieves. Griffin catches him after the movie and hooks him with the bait of writing a remake. Offers to buy him a drink.

2c. Japanese bar. Kahane feels aggrieved over not having received a reply for his pitch. Griffin wants to make peace. Kahane remains bitter and refuses friendship. He leaves.

2d. Street. Griffin makes one last try. Kahane drops that everyone knows that Larry Levy will be replacing him at the studio and he will dish the dirt on Griffin. Griffin pleads for Kahane to end his vendetta. Fight begins. Griffin kills him and sets it up to look like a robbery. (37 mins into film).

Act 3

The guilt-ridden Griffin befriends the late Kahane’s girlfriend June.

3a. Studio Meeting. Griffin hasn’t arrived. Larry Levy is present — his first day. Griffin arrives late. Larry encourages the team to find stories from the newspapers. Griffin becomes tense and sees an article about the murder in the paper. It’s not seen by the others.

3b. Griffin’s office. Walter tells Griffin about Kahane’s murder. He pitches the story to Griffin as a movie idea; exactly how it happened. Walter reveals that he knows Griffin was the last person to see him. Despite Griffin’s denial, Walter knows he’s responsible. Griffin continues to deny that he’s a murderer. He receives a fax — it’s another threat! (Mid-Point of story?)

3c. Kahane’s funeral. Griffin arrives and watches from the distance. He meets June. Griffin admits that he was probably the last person to see him alive. Wanting to avoid the mourners, Griffin is the only person June striking a chord with and they leave together.

3d. June’s place. The pair develop a friendship. June shares how the police have been asking about him. They talk about Kahane’s script and about Griffin rejecting his idea.

3e. Production office. Detectives question Griffin. Walter notices cops outside. They are suspicious of Griffin.

3f. Screening office. Griffin is asked if he knew Kahane. He receives a message from “Joe Gillis” to meet him. Griffin is reminded that Joe Gillis is a character from Sunset Boulevard — it must be the stalker!

3g. Griffin arrives at club. Cop is following him. Writers Tom and Andy offer to buy him a drink.

3h. Griffin sits outside by pool, waiting for the stalker to approach him. Andy sits with him. At first, Griffin thinks it's him but realizes otherwise when Tom joins him. They pitch their story idea to him. He receives another postcard — “I said come alone!”. Griffin leaves.

3i. Driving home. Receives a fax message — “look under raincoat”. It’s a snake! Griffin kills it.

3j. June’s place. Griffin’s shaken. He wants to tell June that he is the killer. Reveals his feelings for her. It’s too soon for June. June says to call her tomorrow for a proper date.

3k. Griffin’s office. Tom and Andy are there. Griffin puts them through to Larry. They pitch their idea to Larry over the phone. Larry likes it. Griffin is confident that it’s going to be a failure and will ruin Larry. Cop is outside.

3l. Studio head office. Larry pitches the story. Reluctance from others due to lack of stars and down-ending. It’s greenlit — the project is offered to Griffin but he lets Larry have it.

3m. Outside. Bonnie is confused that Griffin let Larry have the movie. She’s also suspicious about how he’s been acting and that he wants her to go and take on another job. She suspects there’s someone else. He denies it.

3n. Gala Night. Celebrities arrive at ballroom. Griffin gives speech. It goes down well. Back at the table, he receives a postcard. He notices the cop watching him. Griffin and June dance.

3o. Griffin and June arrive home. They kiss outside her place.

3p. The next day. Griffin is stopped by the cop. He asks Griffin to come to the station to look at some pictures.

3q. Police station. Whoopi Goldberg’s detective plays Columbo and talks about Freaks and tampons. Griffin is asked more questions. He’s very jumpy. They’re onto him. He tries to defend himself but they laugh at him.

3r. Production office. Walter is present. Tom and Andy arrive. Griffin says he’s going to leave the country. Bonnie arrives and confronts Andy about June.

3s. Airport. Preparing to leave with June. Griffin sees cops. He changes plans and persuades her to go to a desert hideaway.

Act 4

Despite having fled to a holiday retreat with June, Griffin is now prime suspect.

4a. Griffin and June at the desert retreat. Romantic dinner and dance. Griffin talks about his job.

4b. Love scene. Griffin tries to tell her again and mentions that he was responsible.

4c. The pair in mud-baths. June now has an idea what he was trying to say. Griffin receives a call from lawyer. There’s a witness.

4d. Police station. Griffin brought in for line-up. Lawyer briefs him.

4e. Line-up. The witness picks out the cop. Griffin is free. Cops watch him go.

Act 5

A picturesque ending for Griffin at the end of the story

One Year Later

5a. Screening — it’s Andy and Tom’s film. We notice obvious changes from the initial concept. Stars are in the film, the prisoner is a different character and there’s a happy ending where a last-minute call (and Bruce Willis) saves her from execution. The End. Everyone loves it, apart from Bonnie. Larry fires her.

5b. Bonnie goes to see Griffin (now studio head). She wants to see Griffin but he won’t see her. He virtually ignores her and doesn’t help.

5c. Griffin driving home. He calls Larry. Larry puts him onto someone. It’s the stalker. He pitches the whole story of the film to Griffin. Griffins arrives to an idyllic home to a pregnant June.

The Screenwriter

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Screenwriting and storytelling enthusiast. Here to educate, entertain and enrich those curious about the world of story.

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The Screenwriter

The Screenwriter

Screenwriting and storytelling enthusiast. Here to educate, entertain and enrich those curious about the world of story.

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