The Color of Money

The Color of Money
The Color of Money

Theatrical poster
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Produced by Irving Axelrad
Barbara De Fina
Dodie Foster
Screenplay by Richard Price
Based on The Color of Money by
Walter Tevis
Starring Paul Newman
Tom Cruise
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Helen Shaver
Music by Robbie Robertson
Cinematography Michael Ballhaus
Editing by Thelma Schoonmaker
Distributed by Touchstone Pictures
Release date(s) October 17, 1986 (1986-10-17)
Running time 120 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $13,800,000
Box office $76,728,982 (box office and rentals)

The Color of Money is a 1986 film directed by Martin Scorsese from a screenplay by Richard Price, based on the 1984 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis.

The film stars Paul Newman and Tom Cruise, with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Helen Shaver, and John Turturro. Newman won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance. The film featured an original score by Robbie Robertson.

The film continues the story of pool hustler and stakehorse Edward "Fast Eddie" Felson from Tevis' first novel, The Hustler (1959), with Newman reprising his role from its film adaptation (1961). The film begins at a point more than 20 years after the events of the previous film, with Eddie retired from the pool circuit. Although Tevis did author a screenplay for the film, the film-makers decided not to use it; instead crafting a new one.[1][2]



Eddie Felson is a liquor salesman and former pool hustler. He misses the action of pool and goes back on the road as a stakehorse for a skilled but unfocused protégé, Vincent, travelling with the latter's manipulative girlfriend/manager, Carmen. Eddie teaches them how to hustle significant amounts of money. But he also becomes increasingly frustrated with them and with himself, until an explosive falling-out results in a parting of the ways.

Eddie resumes competitive play himself, first hustling on "the road" and later in the professional tournament circuit, eventually coming head-to-head across the table with the now-successful (and far more treacherous) Vincent. Eddie wins their match, only to find out that Vincent lost deliberately, having had money riding against himself. Vincent gives Eddie $8,000 as a cut from the bet. Eddie proceeds to forfeit his next match and give the money back to Vincent. He requests a private rematch, but states that if he doesn't beat Vincent now, he will in the future because, after all, "I'm back."

Subplots involve antagonism with a cocaine-abusing pool hustler named Julian; an up-and-down romance Eddie is having with a bar owner, Janelle, and sexual tension between Carmen and Eddie. Only minor references are made to the original movie (a returned character, Eddie's nickname, his formerly being shut out of the pool-hustling sphere, his preferred brand of whiskey, J.T.S. Brown, etc.), and Fats is not mentioned in the story.


Many top American pool players of the 1980s had speaking roles, including Steve Mizerak, Grady Mathews, and Keith McCready, and there were many cameo appearances, including Jimmy Mataya, Howard Vickery, Mark Jarvis and Louie Roberts. Mike Sigel was technical director, and he and Ewa Mataya Laurance served as technical consultants and shot-performers on the film. A young Forest Whitaker makes an extended appearance as a pool hustler as well.

Director Scorsese has a cameo walking his dog, and another playing pool. Another notable cameo is that of Iggy Pop, who plays one of the many contenders on the road.

Film production notes

Newman said that the best advice he was given by Scorsese was to "try not to be funny". Cruise performed most of his own shots. An exception was a jump shot over two balls to sink another. Scorsese believed Cruise could learn the shot, but that it would take too long, so the shot was performed for him by Mike Sigel. The "Balabushka" cue in the movie was actually a Joss J-18, which later became the Joss N-07[3] (not a Meucci as many believe), made to resemble a classic Balabushka.

Absent from the film is the character Minnesota Fats, played by Jackie Gleason in The Hustler. Newman later said that he had wanted the character to appear, but that none of the attempts to include him fit well into the story that was being written. According to Scorsese, Gleason apparently agreed with Newman's opinion that Minnesota Fats was adventitious to the film's story. Scorsese said that Gleason was presented a draft of the script that had Fats worked into the narrative, but that upon reading it, Gleason declined to reprise the role because he felt that the character seemed to have been added as "an afterthought".[2][4]

Film opening

Reflecting the general theme of the film, director Martin Scorsese delivers an opening uncredited voiceover, describing the game of nine-ball, over a scene of cigarette smoke and a piece of cue chalk:

Nine-Ball is rotation pool, the balls are pocketed in numbered order. The only ball that means anything, that wins it, is the 9. Now, the player can shoot eight trick shots in a row, blow the 9, and lose. On the other hand, the player can get the 9 in on the break, if the balls spread right, and win. Which is to say, that luck plays a part in nine-ball. But for some players, luck itself is an art.

Awards and critical reception

Paul Newman won Academy Award for Best Actor as well as National Board of Review Award for Best Actor, and received Golden Globe nomination for his role. 25 years prior to this, Newman was also nominated for Academy Award for Best Actor and Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Drama for the same role, but won only BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was nominated for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture. The film was nominated for Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Boris Leven and Karen O'Hara) and Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.[5]

The movie positively influenced the popularity of pool.[6] It currently holds a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes,[7] based on 35 reviews, though many critics noted that the film was an inferior followup to The Hustler. Siskel and Ebert gave the film "two thumbs down," Scorsese's only film to receive such a review from the team.[8]


The soundtrack to the motion picture was released by MCA Records in 1986. It was produced by Robbie Robertson.[9]

Track listing

  1. "Who Owns This Place?" - Don Henley
  2. "It's In The Way That You Use It" - Eric Clapton, Robbie Robertson
  3. "Let Yourself In For It" - Robert Palmer
  4. "Don't Tell Me Nothin'" - Willie Dixon
  5. "Two Brothers And A Stranger" - Mark Knopfler
  6. "Standing On The Edge Of Love" - B.B. King
  7. "Modern Blues" - Robbie Robertson
  8. "Werewolves Of London" - Warren Zevon
  9. "My Baby's In Love With Another Guy" - Robert Palmer
  10. "The Main Title" - Robbie Robertson


In the novel, Felson is no longer a professional pool player, but now owns a pool hall. He takes up a cue again to go on tour versus Minnesota Fats – the original fictional character from The Hustler, not the real-life Rudolf "Minnesota Fats" Wanderone – for a cable TV sports show. Eddie finds he must cope with becoming skilled at the now-prevalent game of nine-ball, as opposed to straight pool, which he had mastered decades earlier. While losing to Fats, he regains some of his lost competitiveness and pride.


  1. ^ LoBrutto, Vincent. Martin Scorsese: A Biography (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, November 30, 2007) ISBN 978-0275987053
  2. ^ a b Forsberg, Myra. (1986, October 19). "'The Color of Money': Three Men and a Sequel", The New York Times
  3. ^ Commercial information about the Joss N7 model pool cue, which stood in for a Balabushka in the film
  4. ^ Levy, Shawn. Paul Newman: A Life, (New York: Harmony Books, May 5, 2009) ISBN 978-0307353757
  5. ^ "The 59th Academy Awards (1987) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-07-31. 
  6. ^ "Most Significant Event: The Color of Money (1986)", Billiards Digest, October 2003, page 72
  7. ^
  8. ^ Ebert and Roeper at the movies
  9. ^

External links

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