Robert Altman was one of cinema’s great writers, having been the filmmaker behind such classics as ‘M*A*S*H’, ‘The Long Goodbye’, ‘Nashville’ and his scathing 1992 satire on Hollywood, ‘ The Player,” which stars Tim Robbins as Griffin Mill, a studio executive who finds himself in a precarious position after murdering a screenwriter and then dating his girlfriend (Greta Scacchi).
A hallmark of Altman’s work was his use of large ensemble casts, and “The Player” is no exception. Among the vast cast and many cameos, Bruce Willis plays a small but important role in the film essentially as himself. It’s a running gag in the script that Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts are perfect for every role except the movie Mill plans to do. The joke at the end of “The Player” is that the movie (within a movie) “Habeus Corpus” premieres, and it ends up starring guess who – Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts.
The nature of Bruce Willis’ role in “The Player” speaks to the power of his stardom at the time. Of all the Hollywood stars, it was Willis (and Roberts) whose gravitational pull revolved around the rest. As for “The Player” being #5 best Bruce Willis movie, we’ll buy it, but let’s be honest, the spot might as well have gone to the next movie on the list, “12 Monkeys.”