The Color of Money

The Color of Money is a 1986 American drama 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 in supporting roles. It features an original score by Robbie Robertson.

The Color of Money
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMartin Scorsese
Produced byIrving Axelrad
Barbara De Fina
Screenplay byRichard Price
Based onThe Color of Money
by Walter Tevis
Music byRobbie Robertson
CinematographyMichael Ballhaus
Edited byThelma Schoonmaker
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • October 17, 1986 (1986-10-17)
Running time
120 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$13.8 million
Box office$52.3 million

Newman won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, his first Oscar win after eight nominations, seven of them for Best Actor.

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 the 1961 film adaptation. It begins more than 25 years after the events of the previous film, with Eddie retired from the pool circuit. Although Tevis did author a screenplay, adapting the storyline from his novel, the filmmakers decided not to use it, instead crafting an entirely different story under Tevis' title.[1][2]

The Color of Money was released by Touchstone Pictures.


“Fast” Eddie Felson is a former pool hustler turned successful liquor salesman in Chicago. He still stakes bets for players, including fellow hustler Julian, who is outmatched at nine-ball by the young and charismatic Vincent Lauria. Recognizing Vincent’s skill, and his girlfriend Carmen’s inexperience at luring players to lose money, Eddie tells the couple of their excellent potential for hustling.

Carmen visits Eddie alone to inquire about his interest in Vincent. Finding him working at Child World, Eddie invites Vincent to leave the next day for six weeks of hustling on the road, culminating in a nine-ball tournament in Atlantic City. Manipulating Vincent’s insecurities about Carmen and giving him a valuable Balabushka cue stick, Eddie persuades him to accept his offer. Eddie’s abrupt departure upsets Julian, as well as Eddie’s girlfriend Janelle.

Vincent and Carmen hit the road with Eddie in his Cadillac, visiting a series of pool halls. Serving as Vincent’s stakehorse, Eddie attempts to teach him the art of hustling, but Vincent chafes at having to play below his ability. At a pool hall run by his old acquaintance Orvis, Eddie becomes fed up with Vincent’s arrogance and leaves him. Rebuking Carmen for her advances toward him, Eddie reminds her they are partners with a mutual business interest in Vincent. Eddie returns to find Vincent grandstanding to “Werewolves of London”, beating the pool hall’s best player but scaring off a wealthier mark. Eddie and Vincent talk frankly, agreeing Vincent must curb his ego if they are to succeed.

Eddie and Carmen struggle to rein in Vincent’s showboating, and his jealousy when they pose as lovers during a scam. After a string of successful games, Vincent plays the famed Grady Seasons, but is directed by Eddie to dump the game, to inflate the odds against Vincent in Atlantic City. Goaded by Grady, Vincent almost fails to throw the game, and Eddie is inspired to play again. After some success, Eddie is taken in by a pool shark named Amos. Humiliated, Eddie leaves Vincent and Carmen with enough money to make it to Atlantic City, taking the Balabushka.

Eddie refines his skills at Orvis’ pool hall, and gets a pair of corrective lens sunglasses. On a winning streak, he enters the Atlantic City tournament and runs into Vincent and Carmen, overhearing them arrange a bet with another player. Eddie, winning against Julian, and Vincent, beating Grady, are set to face each other. Janelle arrives to support Eddie, who triumphs against Vincent. As Eddie and Janelle celebrate, Vincent and Carmen surprise Eddie with $8,000 – his “cut” of Vincent’s winnings from intentionally losing their match.

In his semifinal match, Eddie sees his reflection in the two-ball; disgruntled, he forfeits the game and returns Vincent’s money. With plans to live with Janelle, and determined to win legitimately, Eddie faces Vincent in a private match, declaring "I'm back!"



Scorsese has cited the influence of techniques and lighting in the 1947 Powell-Pressburger classic Black Narcissus in making the film. In particular he states that the extreme close ups of Tom Cruise around the pool table were inspired by those of the nuns in that film.[3] 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. Cruise mentioned, to prepare for the role, he bought a pool table for his apartment and practiced for hours on end. Standing in for the extremely valuable "Balabushka" cue in the movie was actually a Joss J-18 (which later became the Joss 10-N7), made to resemble a classic Balabushka.[4]

Mike Sigel was technical director, and he and Ewa Mataya Laurance served as technical consultants and shot-performers on the film.

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 not essential 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][5]

Opening voice-over

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.


The soundtrack to the motion picture was released by MCA Records in 1986.[6]


The Color of Money held its world premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City, NY, on October 8, 1986. The film was commercially released in the United States on October 17, 1986, and in the Philippines on March 25, 1987.[7] The American release was limited to only select theaters throughout the country, with the film opening in more theaters during the next four weeks of its initial release. After its run, the film grossed $52,293,982 domestically.[8]

Critical reaction

The film received positive critical response upon its release, though some critics thought that the film was an inferior followup to The Hustler. Based on 46 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an 89% approval rating from critics, with an average score of 7.2/10.[9] Siskel and Ebert gave the film "two thumbs down", Scorsese's only film to receive such a review from the team.[10]


Academy Awards


Golden Globe Awards



Newman received the award for Best Actor in 1986 from the U.S. National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.[13]

Home video

The Color of Money was first released on DVD on June 4, 2002. The film was later released on Blu-ray on June 5, 2012.[14] Neither of the releases contain any special features pertaining to the film itself.[15]


The 1996 nine-ball challenge match between Efren Reyes and Earl Strickland was named in honor of the film.[16]


  1. LoBrutto, Vincent (November 30, 2007). Martin Scorsese: A Biography. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers. ISBN 978-0-275-98705-3.
  2. Forsberg, Myra (October 19, 1986). "'The Color of Money': Three Men and a Sequel". The New York Times.
  3. "Black Narcissus (The Criterion Collection) (2001) DVD commentary". Criterion. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
  4. Commercial information about the Joss 10-N7 model pool cue Archived 2015-07-06 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Levy, Shawn (May 5, 2009). Paul Newman: A Life. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 978-0-307-35375-7.
  6. The catalogue number for the original CD release was DMCG 6023. The soundtrack information was taken from the CD booklet.
  7. "Opens Today". The Manila Standard. March 25, 1987. p. 15.
  8. "The Color of Money (1986)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 13, 2012.
  9. "The Color of Money". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  10. Ebert and Roeper at the movies
  11. "The 59th Academy Awards (1987) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  12. "Color of Money, The". Golden Globe Award. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  13. "1986 Award Winners". National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. 2016. Retrieved October 31, 2016.
  14. "'The Color of Money' Announced for Blu-ray". Retrieved 2012-06-11.
  15. Reuben, Michael (June 6, 2012). "The Color of Money Blu-ray Review: We've Been Hustled". Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  16. "'Bata' Reyes, Strickland in $100,000 duel". Manila Standard Today. November 27, 1996. p. 15.
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