The Stunt Man

The Stunt Man is a 1980 American action comedy film directed by Richard Rush, starring Peter O'Toole, Steve Railsback, and Barbara Hershey.[2] The film was adapted by Lawrence B. Marcus and Rush from the 1970 novel of the same name by Paul Brodeur. It tells the story of a young fugitive who hides as a stunt double on the set of an World War I movie whose charismatic director will do seemingly anything for the sake of his art.

The Stunt Man
Theatrical poster
Directed byRichard Rush
Produced byRichard Rush
Screenplay byLawrence B. Marcus
Richard Rush
Based onThe Stunt Man
by Paul Brodeur
StarringPeter O'Toole
Steve Railsback
Barbara Hershey
Music byDominic Frontiere
CinematographyMario Tosi
Edited byCaroline Biggerstaff
Jack Hofstra
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • June 27, 1980 (1980-06-27)
Running time
131 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.5 million
Box office$7,068,886[1]

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 audiences at large.[3] As O'Toole remarked in a DVD audio commentary, "The film wasn't released. It escaped."[4]


Cameron is a young veteran running from the police. He stumbles onto the set of a World War I movie, where eccentric and autocratic director, Eli Cross, agrees to hide him from the police. Cameron falls in love with Nina Franklin, the film's star, while the production, and the film, blur the lines between reality and make-believe.



During the early 1970s, Columbia Pictures owned film rights to the novel, with Arthur Penn and François Truffaut considered for directing it. Columbia offered the film to Richard Rush on the strength of the success of his previous film, Getting Straight.[5] Rush initially rejected, then ultimately accepted directing The Stunt Man.

In July 1971 Columbia announced that Rush would direct the film with William Castle executive producer.[6]

Rush then penned a 150-page treatment different from the book; in the novel, the characters were all crazy, and in the screenplay, they were instead "sane in a world gone mad."[3] Columbia executives then rejected the script, saying it was difficult to find a genre to place it in. Said Rush: "They couldn't figure out if it was a comedy, a drama, if it was a social satire, if it was an action adventure...and, of course, the answer was, 'Yes, it's all those things.' But that isn't a satisfactory answer to a studio executive." Rush then bought the film rights from Columbia and shopped the film to other studios, to no avail. Funding for the picture finally came from Melvin Simon who had made a fortune in real estate.[3]

Production took place in 1978. Opening scenes were filmed at Mary Etta's Cafe, Flinn Springs, California. Many scenes were filmed in and around the historic Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California.

Peter O'Toole mentions in his DVD commentary that he based his character on David Lean who directed him in Lawrence of Arabia.


As of January 2019, the comedy drama film[7] held an 89% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 38 reviews. The critics consensus states, "The Stunt Man is a preposterously entertaining thriller with a clever narrative and Oscar-worthy (nomination, at least!) Peter O'Toole performance."[8]

Roger Ebert wrote "there was a great deal in it that I admired... [but] there were times when I felt cheated".[9] He gave the film two stars but noted that others had "highly recommended" it. 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".[10] Jay Scott called it "[t]he best movie about making a movie ever made, but the achievement merely begins there. ... Imagine a picture an eight-year-old and Wittgenstein could enjoy with equal fervor."[11] Critic Pauline Kael considered it "a virtuoso piece of kinetic moviemaking" and rated it one of year's best films.[12] She called O'Toole's comic performance "peerless".



The Stunt Man received three Oscar nominations:

Home mediaEdit

The Stunt Man was released on DVD on November 20, 2001 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. The second version is a limited edition (100,000 copies) containing everything from the standard release as well as the 2000 documentary The Sinister Saga of Making "The Stunt Man".

The film's theme song "Bits & Pieces" is sung by Dusty Springfield.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Stunt Man at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ Variety film review;June 11, 1980 page 20
  3. ^ a b c Paul Tatara. "The Stunt Man: Overview Article". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  4. ^ Almar Haflidason. "The Stunt Man DVD (1980)". Retrieved 2007-10-28.
  5. ^ ROAD TO CINEMA - RICHARD RUSH - Director/Screenwriter PART 2. Jog Road Productions.
  6. ^ 'Stunt Man' Next for Castle Murphy, Mary. Los Angeles Times 3 July 1971: a9.
  7. ^ "The Stunt Man". Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  8. ^ Rotten Tomatoes, "[ The Stunt Man (1980)". Accessed January 2, 2019.
  9. ^ Roger Ebert (November 7, 1980). "The Stunt Man". Retrieved 2007-10-28.
  10. ^ Janet Maslin (1980-10-17). "The Stunt Man". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-03.
  11. ^ Scott, Jay (1980-11-22). "Movies". The Globe and Mail. p. C7.
  12. ^ Pauline Kael. "The Stunt Man". Archived from the original on 2009-10-26. Retrieved 2007-10-28.

External linksEdit