The Stunt Man
is a critically acclaimed 1980 American film
directed by Richard Rush
, starring Peter O'Toole
, Steve Railsback
and Barbara Hershey
. The movie was adapted by Lawrence B. Marcus
and Rush from the novel by Paul Brodeur
. It tells the story of a young fugitive
who hides as a stunt double
on the set of an anti-war movie
whose charismatic director will do seemingly anything for the sake of his art.
It was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Peter O'Toole), Best Director (Richard Rush), and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. However, due to its limited release, it never earned much attention from American audiences at large . As O'Toole remarked in a DVD audio commentary, "The film wasn't released, it escaped.
Cameron (Steve Railsback) is a young veteran running from the police. He stumbles onto the set of a World War I
movie and accidentally causes the death of one of the film's stunt men. The eccentric and autocratic director, Eli Cross (Peter O'Toole), agrees to hide Cameron from the police if he will take the dead man's place. Cameron soon begins to suspect that Cross is putting him in excessive danger. The boundaries between reality and fiction become increasingly blurred as Cross exercises godlike control over the production.
Production of the film took place in 1978. Many scenes were filmed in and around the historic Hotel del Coronado
near San Diego, California
Of The Stunt Man
, Roger Ebert
wrote "there was a great deal in it that I admired... [but] there were times when I felt cheated." He gave the film only two stars, but nonetheless said it "comes highly recommended." In an October 17 1980
review in The New York Times
, Janet Maslin
noted "the film's cleverness is aggressive and cool," but concluded that although "the gamesmanship of The Stunt Man
is fast and furious... gamesmanship is almost all it manages to be. However, influential critic Pauline Kael
considered it "a virtuoso piece of kinetic moviemaking" and rated it one of year's best films. She called O'Toole's comic performance "peerless."
The film plays with the audience's perceptions by constantly switching between events occurring in the "real world" and those happening in Cross's movie, usually with no clear transition. Thus it is often cited as a key example of metafiction
Peter O'Toole mentions in his DVD commentary that he based his character on David Lean, who had directed him in Lawrence of Arabia.
The Stunt Man
was released on DVD on November 20
in two versions by Anchor Bay Entertainment
. The first version is a standard release featuring two deleted scenes and a commentary by director Richard Rush and stars Peter O'Toole, Steve Railsback, Barbara Hershey, Alex Rocco, Sharon Farrell and Chuck Bail. The second version is a limited edition (100,000 copies) containing everything from the standard release as well as including the 2001 documentary The Sinister Saga of Making "The Stunt Man"