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Michael Tolkin is no Player Hater

Otherwise he wouldn’t have brought back Griffin Mill, star of his 1988 novel THE PLAYER, for another go-round in the sequel. And a lot has changed in Hollywood, exemplified by one throwaway line in RETURN OF THE PLAYER: “box office was down, it would never return” that makes executives quake in their books in real life. The NYT’s David Halfbinger talks to Michael Tolkin about his life in the movies, why he’s gone back to Griffin Mill and the seeming death of the heroic structure that supports most “big” movies of late.

“I don’t think America’s had a good movie made since Abu Ghraib,” Tolkin said, before clarifying that he’s talking about big movies, not the minuscule ones that have met the industry’s quotas for unembarrassing award nominees. “I think it showed that a generation that had been raised on those heroic movies was torturing. National myths die, I don’t think they return. And our national myth is finished, except in a kind of belligerent way.”

So how, then, can Hollywood be a “positive force in nature,” as Tolkin attests? “I do think the movies help bring people together,” he said. “If there was an Arabic cinema that was as good as the Asian cinema, there’d be less tension in the world. I believe that. When the movies were good, America was more popular in the world. The movies showed the world something really powerful, and that vision was so powerful that the movies were restricted, totalitarian regimes tried to keep the movies out because they were so powerful. The American myth is the little tailor that could, the yeoman who can grow up to be president, the humble log cabin leads to the emancipation of the slaves. That’s the most threatening idea in the world.”

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