The Stunt Man (1980) Poster

The Stunt Man (1980)

  • Rate: 7.2/10 total 5,721 votes 
  • Genre: Action | Comedy | Drama | Romance | Thriller
  • Release Date: 25 February 1981 (France)
  • Runtime: 131 min
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The Stunt Man (1980)


The Stunt Man 1980tt0081568.jpg poster

  • IMDb page: The Stunt Man (1980)
  • Rate: 7.2/10 total 5,721 votes 
  • Genre: Action | Comedy | Drama | Romance | Thriller
  • Release Date: 25 February 1981 (France)
  • Runtime: 131 min
  • Filming Location: Flynn Springs, California, USA
  • Budget: $3,500,000 (estimated)
  • Gross: SEK 1,815,060 (Sweden)
  • Director: Richard Rush
  • Stars: Peter O’Toole, Steve Railsback, Barbara Hershey | See full cast and crew »
  • Original Music By: Dominic Frontiere   
  • Soundtrack: Bits & Pieces
  • Sound Mix: Mono
  • Plot Keyword: Stunt | On The Run | Police | Actress | Vietnam War

Writing Credits By:

  • Lawrence B. Marcus (screenplay)
  • Richard Rush (adaptation)
  • Paul Brodeur (novel)

Known Trivia

  • The film was a dream project for director Richard Rush. The film has frequently being publicized as taking nine years to get to the screen. However, Rush has said on the website for The Sinister Saga of Making ‘The Stunt Man’, that the picture took ten years to make from inception to release, seven years to finance it and then three years to release it. The script was first written in 1970 when the rights were first sold. The film was shot in 1978 with post-production conducted in 1979. The picture had trouble getting distributed until 20th Century Fox picked it up and released it in 1980. 1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? YesNo |
  • The name of the movie within a movie being filmed is never mentioned during the film. It’s title though is “Devil’s Squadron” as its name can be seen on the production t-shirts being worn by the crew. 1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? YesNo |
  • On the film’s DVD audio-commentary, the picture’s star Peter O’Toole said of the movie’s distribution: “The film wasn’t released, it escaped”. 1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? YesNo |
  • The film is considered a cult movie and is listed in Danny Peary’s “Cult Movies 3” book as such. 1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? YesNo |
  • The movie was part of a 1970s cycle of works which were about stunt-work and the stunt profession in movie-making. In his book “Cult Movies 3”, Danny Peary says in his piece on The Stunt Man that “there had been a proliferation of theatrical and television films about stuntmen”. The films include Hooper, L’animal, Evel Knievel (1971), Stunt Rock, Evel Knievel (1974), Dare Devils, Deathcheaters, Stunts, Viva Knievel!, Superstunt, Death Riders and The Stunt Man. 1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? YesNo |
  • Director Richard Rush has said of this movie in a 2001 interview with Paul Hupfield: “I was lecturing at a university film school to a bunch of potential film students and asked them if any of them had seen my films. I started with Color of Night, and I’d say about 80 hands went up out of a room of about 200 kids. Then I asked if anyone had seen The Stunt Man, the film I actually wanted to talk to them about, and only two hands went up. Two hands in a room of 200! I thought, ‘Oh boy, my film is totally lost on this generation…’.” 1 of 1 found this interesting Interesting? YesNo |
  • Peter O’Toole based his performance and characterization of film director Eli Cross on director David Lean who he had worked with on Lawrence of Arabia. Is this interesting? Interesting? YesNo |
  • François Truffaut was an early contender to direct the film version of Paul Brodeur’s novel. Truffaut borrowed elements from the story for Day for Night and Arthur Penn did the same for Night Moves. Is this interesting? Interesting? YesNo |
  • Ryan O’Neal originally was slated to play the lead, but dropped out and was eventually replaced by Steve Railsback. Is this interesting? Interesting? YesNo |
  • While Eli Cross and others ride in a boom Crane Basket and Eli Cross talks about movie illusion, they entered the basket at the beach in La Jolla CA, and exit the basket 15 miles away at the Hotel del Coronado. Is this interesting? Interesting? YesNo |

Goofs: Factual errors: The car used in the main "driving off the bridge" scene is consistently described as a Duesenberg, but it has the well known Mercedes-Benz hood ornament.

Plot: A fugitive stumbles on a movie set just when they need a new stunt man, takes the job as a way to hide out, and falls for the leading lady. Full summary »  »

Story: While on the run from the police, Steve Railsback hides in a group of moviemakers where he pretends to be a stunt man. Both aided and endangered by the director (Peter O’Toole) he avoids both the police and sudden death as a stuntman. The mixture of real danger and fantasy of the movie is an interesting twist for the viewer as the two blend in individual scenes. Written byJohn Vogel <>


Synopsis: Cameron (Steve Railsback), a Vietnam vet who’s wanted for attempted murder, is caught by the police but escapes. Crossing a bridge, he dodges an antique car that seems to be trying to run him down; when he turns around, the car has disappeared. Later, he’s attracted to a movie shoot — a World War I battle scene — on the beach. After the scene, he notices an old woman who walks through the set greeting the actors, then falls in the water. Cameron dives in to rescue her and is horrified when she pulls off her face — a mask. She’s not an old woman, but the movie’s leading lady, Nina Franklin (Barbara Hershey), testing the costume and make-up for the scenes set late in her character’s life.

The director, Eli Cross (Peter O'Toole), descends from the sky on his camera crane to offer Cameron a job, explaining that their last stunt man disappeared when his car ran off a bridge. They haven’t found the body, and Eli can’t afford the production delays that will result if the police get involved. Cameron’s job is to pretend to be Burt and do his stunts — a role within a role that allows both Eli and Cameron to avoid entanglements with the police.

Cameron, rechristened "Lucky," learns stunt work under the tutelage of Chuck (Charles Bail), the film’s stunt coordinator; there’s some cool detail about how stunts are pulled off. (To film the wing-walking scene, they tether the plane to the ground and fly in circles at an altitude of about 6 feet.) At the same time, Lucky-Cameron’s getting involved with Nina — who, it turns out, once had a romance with Eli and still admires him tremendously. Eli admits to her that he’s jealous of Lucky.

The last shoot of the film-within-the-film involves Lucky’s most difficult stunt, driving a Dusenberg off a bridge and escaping under water — the same scene Burt was shooting when he died. Lucky believes Eli is trying to kill him, and will use the stunt to make it look like an accident. It’s plausible; killing Lucky would get him out of Nina’s life and remove the most unreliable witness to the cover-up of Burt’s death. In the wee hours of the morning before the shoot, Lucky and Nina plan to escape: Nina hides in the trunk of the stunt car, which Cameron will drive away instead of driving off the bridge.

Unbeknownst to Lucky, Chuck has planted an explosive in one of the Dusenberg’s front tires to make the car’s tumble off the bridge look more realistic. The car goes into the water, where a panicked Lucky scrambles to reach Nina in the trunk — until he happens to look up out of the floating car’s rear window to see Nina with Eli on the bridge. Lucky emerges, gasping, from the river and notices that there were divers in the water with him all the time. Nina tells him that she was found in the trunk hours before the shoot, and Eli told her that Lucky had changed his mind and decided to do the stunt. Lucky, of course, had done no such thing, but Nina’s so pleased that he and Eli have made up that he doesn’t tell her. Eli, descending as usual from heaven on his crane, explains that he wouldn’t let Lucky run off thinking that Eli was trying to kill him (and not incidentally leaving the film incomplete). The best way to convince Lucky of Eli’s good will, Eli felt, was to make sure Lucky got through the stunt in one piece. Lucky, though furious — not for the first time — at Eli’s high-handed manipulativeness, is amused in spite of himself and giddy with relief at surviving. As the movie ends, Cameron and Eli are bickering over Cameron’s pay for the stunt and planning to catch a plane to the production’s next location.


FullCast & Crew

Produced By:

  • Paul Lewis known as associate producer
  • Richard Rush known as producer
  • Melvin Simon known as executive producer

FullCast & Crew:

  • Peter O'Toole known as Eli Cross
  • Steve Railsback known as Cameron
  • Barbara Hershey known as Nina Franklin
  • Allen Garfield known as Sam (as Allen Goorwitz)
  • Alex Rocco known as Police Chief Jake
  • Sharon Farrell known as Denise
  • Adam Roarke known as Raymond Bailey
  • Philip Bruns known as Ace
  • Charles Bail known as Chuck Barton
  • John Garwood known as Gabe
  • Jim Hess known as Henry
  • John Pearce known as Garage Guard
  • Michael Railsback known as Burt
  • George Wallace known as Nina's Father
  • Dee Carroll known as Nina's Mother
  • Leslie Winograde known as Nina's Sister
  • Don Kennedy known as Lineman
  • Whitey Hughes known as Eli's Assistant Director
  • Walter Robles known as Eli's Assistant Director
  • A.J. Bakunas known as Eli's Script Clerk
  • Roberto Caruso known as Cop #1
  • Frank Avila known as Cop #2
  • Stafford Morgan known as FBI Agent Thompson
  • John Alderman known as Carlbinarri
  • Jack Palinkas known as Technician
  • James Garrett known as Technician #2 (as Cecil Brittain)
  • Garrett McPherson known as Tourist
  • Nelson Tyler known as Elk's Crane Cameraman
  • Louis Gartner known as Brothel Man #1
  • William Joseph Arno known as (uncredited)
  • James Avery known as (uncredited)
  • Frank Beetson known as (uncredited)
  • Gregg Berger known as (uncredited)
  • Chance Boyer known as Kid in Cemetery (uncredited)
  • Deanna Dae Coleman known as Stunt Crew (uncredited)
  • Larry Dunn known as Stunt Crew (uncredited)
  • Don Hayden known as WWI German Soldier (uncredited)
  • Patricia McPherson known as Pretty Woman (uncredited)
  • Ross Reynolds known as Helicopter Pilot (uncredited)
  • Gordon Ross known as (uncredited)
  • Marion Wayne known as (uncredited)
  • Leigh Webb known as (uncredited)



Supporting Department

Makeup Department:

  • Ken Chase known as makeup designer
  • Tom Lucas known as makeup artist
  • Marina Pedraza known as hair stylist
  • Richard Blair known as makeup artist (uncredited)

Art Department:

  • Gary Fettis known as assistant property master
  • Douglas E. Madison known as property master




Production Companies:

  • Simon Productions
  • Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Other Companies:

  • Digital Post Services  digital laboratory
  • Digital Post Services  quality control and deliverables
  • Intrada  score album released by (limited edition)
  • Tyler Camera Systems  helicopter and camera crane mounts


  • Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (1979) (USA) (theatrical)
  • Magnetic Video (1980) (USA) (VHS)
  • Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (1980) (USA) (VHS)
  • 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (1993) (USA) (VHS)
  • Anchor Bay Entertainment (2001) (USA) (DVD)
  • CBS / Fox Video (1989) (Greece) (VHS)
  • CBS / Fox Video (198?) (Netherlands) (VHS)
  • Severin Films (2011) (USA) (DVD) (Blu-Ray)



Filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database

The Stunt Man (1980) Related Movie & DVD Releases

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Posted on November 17, 2013 by Movies DVD New Releases Blu-ray in Movies | Tags: , .


  1. Pinback-4 from Stockton, California
    17 Nov 2013, 8:24 pm

    This is a very funny and entertaining movie that doesn’t fit into any onecategory. It’s about a slightly crazed movie director who is making a WW1movie in Southern California who hires a fugitive to replace his topstuntman. Peter O’Toole gives perhaps his best performance ever as theegomaniacal filmmaker who will do anything, perhaps even murder someone,inorder to protect his artistic vision. The underrated Steve Railsback isgood also as the paranoid Vietnam vet turned fugitive from the law. Theaction scenes are very funny and well-done, especially the rooftop chase.The music score is appropriately clever and matches what’s happening onscreen. Real-life stunt man Chuck Bail has a good part as a stuntcoordinator who shows Railsback the ropes. The editing techniques helpblurthe line between reality and make-believe. The film is a bit too long,though, and some key scenes go on longer than necessary. These are minorcomplaints, however, because a film like this doesn’t get made very oftenanymore.

  2. Space Oddity_2001
    17 Nov 2013, 8:24 pm

    Revered as one of the greatest "cult" films of all time I recently saw itand most of my expectations were met. Steven Railsback plays a characternamed Cameron. A former Vietnam veteran and fugitive on the lam. At thebegining of the film we see him being pursued by the police after he isspotted in a restaurant. Cameron while being chased accidentally stumblesonto a movie set where a World War I epic is being shot. After almost beingkilled by a stunt man on a bridge by a car Cameron picks up an object andthrows it at the windshield of the vehicle causing it to swerve off thebridge and fall into a nearby river. A helicopter suddenly descends in frontof Cameron. Inside it are the filmcrew documenting the bridge scene withit’s director Eli Cross ( Peter O’Toole) starring at Cameron and what hashappened. Cameron flees from the scene as the helicopter soars away.Eventually Eli Cross meets up with Cameron and convinces him to replace thestunt man or Cross will turn him into the police. Cameron has little choice.Thus begins the main characters harrowing journey.

    The Stunt Man is a complex and multilayered film. It requires multipleviewings in order to catch all of the subtleties and nuances. As the filmprogresses we see Cameron placed into various stunt scenes, each one moredangerous than the last. Is Eli Cross trying to kill him? The film is afascinating battle of psychological mind games. Cameron’s perception ofreality becomes skewed with the fantasy world of filmmaking as he becomesless able to distinguish until the final frame. We the viewer are alsoconstantly confused as the film makes many unpredictable twists and turnswith it’s convoluted plot. Peter O’Toole is perfect as the flamboyant,megalomanical filmmaker. No one else could to the role justice and bringthat much class to the part. Barbara Hershey is also good as the leadactress of Eli Cross’ film who becomes romantically involved with Cameron. Ihave many favorite scenes from the movie. Especially the crash course instunt work Cameron is given by the lead stunt man played by Chuck Bail, areal life former stunt man. Director Rush has seamlessly balanced pathoswith humor to create a unique film of epic proportions. It is a film thatthe viewer must discipline oneself in order to watch…..but what apayoff.

  3. Shawn Watson ( from The Underverse
    17 Nov 2013, 8:24 pm

    It's called 'subjective reality', children. The fact that the truthdepends on the angle you happen to be watching from gives us all ourunique, if skewed and unfair, perception on life. We're all puppets insomeone else's dastardly play and we never know when that person, thatentity, that divine being will cut our strings.

    This was director Richard Rush's dream project and it took him nineyears to get it on the screen. And, of course, it would! It'smulti-layered, original, funny and packed full of story andcircumstance that makes you think. Why would any studio want to touchit? Fox even sat on it for two years before giving it a limitedrelease. Even on its umpteenth viewing it delivers again and again,offering new angles and subtle clues.

    The viewpoint of this metafictional masterpiece is Cameron (SteveRailsback), a Vietnam vet on the run from the law. He stumbles onto theset of a WWI movie and accidentally kills a stunt driver. The directorof the movie is the eccentric and megalomaniacal Eli Cross (PeterO'Toole, in one of his best ever performances), who takes Cameron underhis wing and protects him from John Law, as long as he keeps his mouthshut about the accident.

    Cameron practices to be a stunt man and takes the place of the man hekilled. But as the movie shoot becomes more elaborate and dangerous, hefalls in love with the leading lady (Barbara Hershey) and starts tosuspect that Eli is trying to capture his death on film.

    Although it seems nasty, the movie is wonderfully light-hearted and theoutrageous stunt scenes are backed up by an awesome score by DominicFrontiere. I've been humming that theme since I was 12-years-old when Itaped it off Channel 4 in December 1992. I didn't quite get it backthen, but I nearly wore out that VHS watching it over and over. A longscene with Cameron running over a rooftop, as biplanes attack and enemysoldiers give chase, is pure joy. There is a great comic sense of humorin watching them trip over each other, fall off, and get blown up.

    John Law do not back down on their suspicion of Eli and, throughhalf-heard conversations and eavesdropping, Cameron's paranoia becomesincreasingly justified. Because the movie is seen through his eyes wenever quite know what is going on with Eli. Is he a madman, or just acrafty director? Would you believe that Peter O'Toole based hisperformance on his experiences with David Lean? Why he never won anOscar (it went to Robert DeNiro for Raging Bull)- is beyond me. Hetruly gives the performance of his career, far exceeding even Laurenceof Arabia. It also sucks that Rush never won for Director, or AdaptedScreenplay. Had he been awarded the golden statuette, maybe he wouldhave received more recognition. He's clearly a better filmmaker thanmost of today's hack artists.

    You simply have to see The Stunt Man. It's an overlooked gem and,despite the wide praise it received, it has never really reached alarge audience. Now is definitely the time to rediscover this forgottenclassic.

  4. captnemo from Skull Island
    17 Nov 2013, 8:24 pm

    I was prepared to dislike this film when I heard that it was going toreplace the incredible "Empire Strikes Back." What I got was shock. Herewassomething different, something innovative in style and technique, somethingamazing. Vader and his gang were soon forgotten as I got caught up in thesuspense (Will Cameron survive?), the comedy, the incredible dialogue, andone of the best soundtracks ever put on film. I fell in love with BarbaraHershey all over again after too long an absence. O’Toole was Oscar-worthy,and robbed of one. Richard Rush pulled a one-of-a-kind out of his hat, ala"Citizen Kane." He has never been near this level before or since. Thismustbe watched several times in order to see and hear everything. There are somany subtle touches that are brilliant that I still find them 20 years and30+ viewings later. A must for anyone who wants to know good film great. Nodoubt about this one. A "10" out of "10." No film was better(or as good) inthe 1980’s (or 90’s for that matter.)

  5. youremythrill from Ohio USA
    17 Nov 2013, 8:24 pm

    One of my favorite movies of all time. Must admit that I’m a bit biasedsince Peter O’Toole’s one of my favorite actors of all time. This movie hasNEVER gotten the attention that it deserves. Maybe that’s, in part, due tothe difficulties involved in categorizing it. I don’t even know in whichsection of the video store I’d start looking.

    Peter O’Toole is so swell in it. I love that enigmatic character, moviedirector Eli Cross! Like the movie (and O’Toole, for that matter), he’s sohard to cubbyhole. You like him, but you don’t trust him. LikeCameron/Lucky(Steve Railsback’s escaped convict character) does, you NEED to knowexactlywhere his motives lie … all in good time. You know Cross’ll do whatever’snecessary to get "the shot", but he’s still got a conscience … right?Would Cameron have been better off (read safer) just staying in jail …hmmm?

    All the action in the film circles around this question and while theviewer(and Cameron) decide what to make of Eli, it’s a fun trip through the worldof filmmaking (how realistic a trip, I’ve no idea). Great performances byO’Toole and Railsback, along with Barbara Hershey, Allen Garfield, AlexRocco and Sharon Ferrell add so much to the suspense.

    See this movie. You can feel how much fun it was for the cast to make. Lookat Eli’s devilish grin as he tries to soothe Lucky’s worries. Try toimaginehow many other movies have you sympathizing for an escaped convict. Anddon’t worry if you don’t know what to make of mad genius filmmaker EliCrossbecause nobody else does either, and if they do, they ain’t talkin’ …thatmight spoil the movie!

  6. Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
    17 Nov 2013, 8:24 pm

    I won't carry on about the plot of this marvelous flick since it'salready been adequately limned, but do let me emphasize a few pointsthat have been kind of grayed out in other comments. The score byFrontiere is outstanding, from the up-tempo opening blast to the finalcredits. It's not only unnerving but vertigo inducing, so itsupplements the plot perfectly. The photography is outstanding as well,the colors appallingly vivid, as in an MGM cartoon, which in thiscontext is most apt. (It is a mystery/comedy/thriller/philosophicaldisquisition, after all.) The Hotel Coronado in San Diego has neverlooked quite so palatial, not even in "Some Like it Hot."

    Rush's direction boggles the mind, to coin a phrase. The film beginswith a helicopter. A hand pops out of the helicopter and drops ahalf-eaten apple. The apple bounces on the hood of a parked car. Wefollow without comment the apple, the line of events, and it turns outto be what gets the story moving.

    There are multiple very strange touches throughout. As a movie starmyself, having been a faceless extra in half a dozen films, I have toadd that movies are simply not shot this way. An expensive anddangerous (and ultimately lethal) stunt is performed as we enter theactual narrative and there is only one camera rolling — and that in ahelicopter so far away that its engine can't be heard? But it doesn'treally matter. The movie plays tricks all along with the differencebetween "reality" and "illusion," an old game into which it's difficultto inject more life, as this movie manages to do.

    At one point, Railsback is told to perform a short if dangerous stunt,leaping from one roof to another. He does so, but the stunt escalates.Not only escalates but goes on and on, with Railsback unexpectedlycrashing through ceilings and floors in a shower of glass beforewinding up in the midst of drunken, partying enemies who shout at himand laughingly lift his body above their heads and pass him around theroom. It will shock you almost as much as it shocked him. O'Toole askshim after this long gag what it is he wants. Says Railsback: "Not tothink I'm going crazy."

    The smallest parts are done well. A very authentic-looking Germansoldier with a cheery old face and big white mustache is loading hisrifle for a scene in which he and his comrades are going to fire atRailsback. "I hope those are blanks," Railsback tells him. "It doesn'tsay so on the box," replies the soldier with a friendly tone and a bigsmile.

    Let me mention Eli Cross, the director, played by O'Toole. At one levelthis movie is made, through his character, into an examination of God,and his whimsical sense of responsibility towards the human beingswhose lives he controls. "Eli Cross"? I mean — okay — Elihu, thecrucifixion — the whole JudeoChristian tradition is embodied in thatcognomen. Cross has a habit of riding around the sky in a giant cranewhose seat drops unexpectedly out of space and into the middle ofpeoples' conversations. Before the shooting of the final stunt, Crossraises his hand, looking at the horizon, and says something like, "Ihereby decree that no cloud shall pass before that sun." And whileshooting another scene, the cameraman calls "Cut." Cross pauses, thenasks, "WHO called cut?" The cameraman explains that there were only afew seconds of film left on the reel so they had to cut at that point.Cross, like the angry God of the Old Testament, shouts that, "NOBODYcuts a scene except ME!" After chewing the cameraman out thoroughly, hefires him on the spot. You see, if a movie is supposed to resemblelife, then ending a scene suddenly ends the filmic exposure of the twohuman conversants and only — well, you get the picture. A lot of thisrather obvious theological stuff seems to have gotten by unrecognizedor at any rate uncommented upon. It doesn't need to be dwelt on.

    There are already so many layers to this film that the viewer canafford to be only half aware of any one of them at a given moment. Itstands by itself as a kind of very strange comedy. I didn't findRailsback's background as a Vietnam vet put on very thickly, by theway. It would be nice if God really were as accessible as Peter O'Tooleis in this movie. All you would have to do to find salvation is jumpthrough some well-defined hoops. As it is, though, I for one findmyself muddling through from one day to the next simply hoping not tostep on too many toes. Gimme a fiery hoop or a dive off a bridge anyday. Just as long as my scene isn't cut too quickly.

  7. Camera Obscura from The Dutch Mountains
    17 Nov 2013, 8:24 pm

    When I first saw THE STUNT MAN, I was very enthusiastic about the filmand raved about it to anyone who might be interested. I've watched ittwice with some friends since, but they weren't very enthusiastic aboutit, so I can imagine that for many people it won't pay off. It's aningeniously constructed film that takes some patience and attention towatch. Made by the erratic Richard Rush, this was his pet project fornine years. Although the direction is fine, it's mostly a virtuosopiece of scripting (credited to Rush and Lawrence B. Marcus, based onPaul Brodeur's novel) that makes this such a special film.

    A short plot outline: Fugitive Cameron (Railsback) stumbles onto amovie set where megalomaniac director Eli Cross (O'Toole) promises tohide from the police if he replaces his ace stunt man, who got killedearlier on the set in a freak accident while filming a scene. Is Elitrying to capture Cameron's death on film while he is performing astunt? Reality and imagination soon blur when Cameron growsincreasingly paranoid because Eli Cross doesn't let anything or anybodyget in the way of shooting his masterpiece the way he wants. He doesn'tseem to care about human life, as long as his movie is shot in the wayhe wants it.

    Railsback is an odd choice for the main role but apparently the makerswanted a "low-key" actor for the main part. Barbara Hershey gives agreat performance but without Peter O'Toole's tour-de-forceperformance, I doubt if the film would have worked as well as it did,especially with such a challenging and multi-layered script. Hedelivers his lines with such vigor that you cannot look away, a grandperformance by perhaps my favorite actor off all time. Such a pity thathis (later) career mainly consisted of mediocre films at best and somedisastrous ones, sadly… I cannot imagine this kind of film being madein Hollywood today and even back then it might be called a smallmiracle it got made in the first place, let alone released (in fact, itsat on the shelf for two years before release). Perhaps it's all alittle too ambitious at times but with a cast like this and such adazzling script, it's definitely worth the effort.

    The DVD-release by Anchor Bay comes with an extra disc loaded withextra's. Lots of interviews, including one with O'Toole and a verypeculiar – almost two-hour (!) – documentary about the making of thefilm, presented by Rush himself, almost worth seeing in itself.

    Camera Obscura – 8/10

  8. hbs from United States
    17 Nov 2013, 8:24 pm

    This movie is a slightly surreal comedy about moviemaking. It’s told withthe perspective (if not always from the point of view) of a young fugitivewho wanders onto the set and gets hired due to various complications. Themovie people all seem larger than life to the fugitive, and since he’s alittle paranoid anyway, their motives seem complex and suspect. PeterO’Toole gives his usual performance, and he’s perfect here as the flamboyantdirector (he must have had a great time sending up some blowhards of hispast with this role). Steven Railsback does his usual disoriented guy on theedge, and he does it with a rather touchingly naive quality this time.Barbara Hershey is the leading lady love interest, delivers an intelligentand understated performance, and is appropriately bewitchinglybeautiful.

    Roger Ebert didn’t like this movie, but he got confused into thinking thatit was something deeper than a comedy. It’s about as deep as "Get Shorty",but with a completely different feel.

    The movie holds up pretty well, although the special effects look a littleclunky sometimes, and I remember thinking they were pretty good when I sawthe movie in its initial release. But the clunkiness isn’t reallydistracting, and since the movie’s attempts to "deceive" are all firmlytongue-in-cheek, it doesn’t hurt.

  9. Paul Weddell from UK
    17 Nov 2013, 8:24 pm

    Peter O’Toole gives a marvellous performance as a film director in thisfilmwhich looks (to an extent) behind the scenes of movie making. I originallysaw this one Sunday afternoon at the cinema and I remember how enthralledIwas. There were a few surprises when something turned out to be somethingelse like a model maybe. But it wasn’t until I got the DVD that I realisedthere were many layers to the film.

    The director had great difficulty with the studios in various stages ofmaking the movie and although it was originally intended as ananti-Vietnamfilm, that had to be changed as production got further away from the waryears. So although it may have lost something along the way it gainedotherthings in the process. To my mind this makes it a stronger and moreintriguing film.

    If you watch the documentary that accompanies the DVD a lot is explainedwhich you don’t actually realise whilst watching the movie. Watch the filmagain and you will probably have a renewed interest. You will probably seeit a little differently. It’s not an Academy Award winner (and I don’tthinkit should have been). But it’s a drama, a romance, a comedy and a lot morebesides. It has its fans and friends as well as detractors. I liked it andstill see it as good fun.

  10. Travis Yoder from Los Angeles
    17 Nov 2013, 8:24 pm


    Though I saw this film–which I highly recommend–projected with its’Making of…’ documentary and enjoyed an in-person Q&A with directorRichard Rush (at San Diego’s marvelous Museum of Photographic Arts inBalboa Park) a year or so ago, it didn’t occur to me till last nightthat this brilliant entertainment bears striking resemblance to WilliamShakespeare’s last great play, ‘The Tempest’. Consider:

    Eli Cross (Peter O’Toole in a masterly memorable performance) isProspero, the victimized yet himself rather cruel sorcerer who commandsthe spirits, fairies and pixies of a remote island, updated as aflamboyant, eccentric, royal-mannered movie director in charge of manycast and crew members, craftspeople, stuntmen, etc. as they shoot afilm on and near Coronado Island. Whereas Prospero was embittered bybetrayal and losing his Dukedom, Eli is embattled by studio investorswho would squelch his artistic vision. Both Prospero and Eli can betender or sadistic, by turns. Both can seem to appear from nowhere,Prospero using his magic to become invisible at will and Eli popping inand out on his ubiquitous crane chair (director Richard Rush’s mostfabulous contrivance).

    Nina Franklin (gorgeous Barbara Hershey in perhaps her best role) isMiranda, Prospero’s innocent, wide-eyed daughter, updated as anup-and-coming movie actress who is Eli’s protégé and former lover. LikeMiranda to Prospero, Nina is torn in her relationship to the mercurialdirector as he vacillates between the behavior of a loving father andthat of a treacherous tyrant.

    Cameron, the titular stunt man (Steve Railsback, whose performance onecan’t quite decide is canny underplaying or merely vacuous and weird),is Ferdinand to Nina’s Miranda, the handsome mystery man who captivatesher imagination, and Caliban to Eli’s Prospero, the subhuman slave whois grateful for his master’s protection and resentful of his abuse.Like Caliban, Cameron’s past is haunted; but we later discover thathe’s actually much more an innocent like Ferdinand. As Caliban escapeda painful life to arrive at a less painful but more confusing scenario,so does the army deserter Cameron escape the authorities and probableimprisonment only to find himself in Eli’s kaleidoscopic clutches.

    Chuck Barton, the stunt coordinator (Chuck Bail, an actual stuntcoordinator), would seem to be Ariel, the foreperson of spirits andProspero’s right hand, updated as the ‘go-to guy’ who can arrange forEli’s every whim. As Ariel will be set free of service at the end ofProspero’s scheme, Chuck will further his career elsewhere when thisproduction wraps.

    Sam, the screenwriter (Allen Garfield as one of his signature sensitive’everyman’ roles) could, I suppose, be seen as Stephano, thecomic-relief character who befriended Caliban in hopes of exploitinghim, updated as an insecure fellow who knows his contribution isconsidered to be bottom-of-the-totem-pole by Hollywood tradition andyearns for greater income and respect. Yet, as a salient observer ofhuman nature, he can be Gonzalo also, the wise and well intentioned butponderous and powerless adviser.

    Jake, the smiling studio representative (Alex Rocco in another smallpart requiring someone with a memorable look to make some impression)is, I think, the castaway King of Naples, a figure of power who is outof his realm and consequently clueless.

    Just as ‘The Tempest’ began with an ostensibly ship-wrecking stormcalled forth by Prospero to deposit the balance of the dramatispersonae on his island, ‘The Stunt Man’ begins with a harrowing wartimeconflagration on a rocky shore except that it’s really a movie scenecreated by Eli and observed by Cameron. But, ironically, as Prosperocalled forth more wind, rain, thunder and lighting later on, Eli mountsa bridge to brashly proclaim that the elements shall not dare tointerfere with their day’s shooting schedule.

    Just as Shakespeare’s play cluttered the stage with colorful pixiesflitting about, Rush’s compositions are filled with visual invention,like the gloriously tumbling roof-top stunt sequence, his famous ‘rackfocus’, and Hershey’s beauty framed in an ornate glass window (whichRush had installed for that purpose and is still at the Hotel DelCoronado today).

    Both Shakespeare and Rush are concerned with a preoccupying question:What is real? And, therefore, what can one trust? Miranda is unsure ifFerdinand is a man, Stephano and Trinculo suspect Caliban is a fish,and on this mysterious island, a mystical being may be a tree onemoment and quasi-human the next. Eli likes to keep his actors and newstunt man guessing so as to goose their performances (and probably tosavor his manipulative power), creating an atmosphere wherein Nina mustquestion her loyalty and Cameron his own sanity.

    Some may say I’m being deterministic in my analysis, but certaindramatic templates are indeed endlessly recycled and reconfigured. Weknow that ‘Forbidden Planet’ is a direct lift of ‘The Tempest’, but wecan see the prototypical eccentric, exiled, visionary in Jules Verne’sCaptain Nemo and H.G. Wells’ Dr. Moreau as well. Television’s original’Dr. Who’, as portrayed by William Hartnell (1963-1966), was somewhatProspero-like himself: brilliant and powerful but self-interested anddismissive (not the bold hero of later incarnations). His time machinewas a treasure trove of sci-fi wonders, and he even had a sweetgranddaughter in his charge.

    Interestingly, whereas the harsh and oppressive Prospero restoreshimself to the nobility, ending Shakespeare’s tale ‘happily’ for anearly 17th-century audience devoted to a social hierarchy and theChristian injunction that they subjugate all things of nature (oneimagines), most of his ‘mad scientist’ progeny must meet bad ends. Itoffends our modern egalitarian sense that such a martinet shouldachieve rewards while his slave Caliban suffered so. So Dr. Morbiusperishes while his slave, Robby the Robot, lands a new gig on theEarth-bound spaceship. In progressive times, the aristocrat may stillbe offended, but the commonweal is soothed. But where does Eli Crossfit into this spectrum of just/unjust desserts? The darkly comic ‘StuntMan’ ends with the movie director–indeed a Duke-like figure ofartistic, social and financial reverence in our day–flying high aboveworldly concerns in a helicopter as his star stunt man–a literalunderling in that shot–shouts epithets to the sky. Rush’s complex,layered exploration of reality doesn’t cop out-and in contrast perhapsShakespeare’s play does. Cameron, like Caliban, survives and mayadvance. But Eli, unlike Prospero (‘this rough magic I here abjure’),will likely carry on creating emotional chaos throughout his sphere ofinfluence. Simply stated, 20th-century reality hadn’t fully changed:fairness is still fleeting and s*** continues to roll downhill. Themodern twist is that it’s harder to know when you’re getting screwed.

    Well, I wished I’d thought of this when I had Rush in front of me.Anyone know how to contact the guy so I can ask him if my take is atall warm?

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