The Stunt Man (1980)

R | 129 mins | Drama | 22 August 1980

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HISTORY

Articles in the 13 Jul 1970 Publishers Weekly and 2 Aug 1970 NYT announced that documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman would write and direct a film adaptation of author Paul Brodeur’s novel. Publishers Weekly reported that Wiseman and Brodeur had been classmates at Harvard University. However, Wiseman later left the project. A 15 Aug 1980 LAT article stated that directors Francois Truffaut and Arthur Penn expressed interest in the material, but incorporated story elements into other projects like Day For Night (1973), and Night Moves (1975, see entry) respectively.
       A news item in the 17 Aug 1971 DV reported that a little more than a year later, producers William Castle and Richard Rush hired Lawrence B. Marcus to write a screenplay. Rush was also set to direct. According to the 15 Aug 1980 LAT, after nine months of work, Marcus delivered a script.
       A 8 Sep 1977 HR article stated that Columbia Pictures withdrew from the project in 1970, leaving Rush to shop the movie around to other studios. The 15 Aug 1980 LAT reported that Rush got rejections from all the major studios because it was a more complicated project than a straight action movie. Meanwhile, Rush also optioned One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest from actor-producer Michael Douglas, and received rejections from the same studio executives.
       The 8 Sep 1977 HR stated that Rush also had several deals fall through when Warner Bros. announced plans to develop a competing Burt Reynolds picture with the same title but a ... More Less

Articles in the 13 Jul 1970 Publishers Weekly and 2 Aug 1970 NYT announced that documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman would write and direct a film adaptation of author Paul Brodeur’s novel. Publishers Weekly reported that Wiseman and Brodeur had been classmates at Harvard University. However, Wiseman later left the project. A 15 Aug 1980 LAT article stated that directors Francois Truffaut and Arthur Penn expressed interest in the material, but incorporated story elements into other projects like Day For Night (1973), and Night Moves (1975, see entry) respectively.
       A news item in the 17 Aug 1971 DV reported that a little more than a year later, producers William Castle and Richard Rush hired Lawrence B. Marcus to write a screenplay. Rush was also set to direct. According to the 15 Aug 1980 LAT, after nine months of work, Marcus delivered a script.
       A 8 Sep 1977 HR article stated that Columbia Pictures withdrew from the project in 1970, leaving Rush to shop the movie around to other studios. The 15 Aug 1980 LAT reported that Rush got rejections from all the major studios because it was a more complicated project than a straight action movie. Meanwhile, Rush also optioned One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest from actor-producer Michael Douglas, and received rejections from the same studio executives.
       The 8 Sep 1977 HR stated that Rush also had several deals fall through when Warner Bros. announced plans to develop a competing Burt Reynolds picture with the same title but a different plot. A 19 Sep 1977 LAT article reported that corporate oversight in filing the title of the Reynolds vehicle caused confusion and necessitated arbitration by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). The subsequent MPAA ruling gave Rush the sole use of the title. The 8 Sep 1977 HR stated that Rush set up a financing deal with TransWorld Entertainment, but it fell through when TransWorld executive Ely Landau and Rush could not agree on casting. Rush then found financing through Mel Simon Productions.
       Principal photography was set to begin 17 Oct 1977 in San Diego, CA, for eleven weeks with a $5 million-budget. Although, a 15 Aug 1980 LAT article stated that the film’s budget exceeded $6 million. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, delays pushed the start of the film to the summer of 1978. The 8 Sep 1977 HR reported that the company would film mostly at San Diego's Hotel del Coronado. A 1 Sep 1980 Newsweek movie review stated that Rush had a heart attack in fall 1979, which may have contributed to further delays.
       During filming, actor Steve Railsback did a majority of his own stunts, including an escape from a submerged Duesenberg automobile in twenty feet of water, according to production notes.
       The 15 Aug 1980 LAT reported that after the film was completed, filmmakers still did not have a distributor. Undaunted, they ran the film in one Seattle, WA, theater to receptive audiences for two months. It was also shown at Seattle and Dallas, TX, film festivals. Then, Simon’s company booked the movie in a Westwood, CA, theater for its 22 Aug 1980 Los Angeles opening. Briefs in the 3 Sep 1980 HR and DV announced that Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. would handle domestic distribution, according to the company’s president, Norman Levy. Production notes stated that the film won the Montreal Film Festival’s Grand Prize on the same day it acquired distribution.
       The film received three Academy Award nominations: Actor in a Leading Role (Peter O’Toole), Directing, and Writing (Screenplay based on material from another medium). The film was awarded a Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture, and received five other Golden Globe nominations: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Peter O’Toole), Best Director – Motion Picture, Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, and New Star of the Year – Actor (Steve Railsback).
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
17 Aug 1971.
---
Daily Variety
3 Sep 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jun 1980
p. 3, 7.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 Aug 1970.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Sep 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Aug 1980
p. 1, 15.
New York
17 Nov 1980
p. 83.
New York Times
2 Aug 1970.
---
New York Times
17 Oct 1980
p. 6.
Newsweek
1 Sep 1980
p. 45.
Publishers Weekly
13 Jul 1970.
---
Variety
11 Jun 1980
p. 20.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Melvin Simon Productions Presents
A Richard Rush Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr/1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Cam asst
Gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Dolly grip
Best boy grip
Still photog
Still photog
Underwater photog
Helicopter & crane cam mounts by
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Editorial coord
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Const coord
Lead man
Asst props
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd eff & additional rec
Sd eff & additional rec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Head spec eff
Title des
MAKEUP
Make-up des
Make-up artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Helicopter pilot
Head pilot-WW I planes
Stunt pilot
Wing walker
Parachutist
Scr supv
Transportation capt
Prod coord
Post-prod asst
Wetbike courtesy of
Loc equip supplied by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
COLOR PERSONNEL
[Col by]
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Stunt Man by Paul Brodeur (New York, 1970).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Bits & Pieces," music by Dominic Frontiere, lyrics by Norman Gimbel, sung by Dusty Springfield.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Stuntman
Release Date:
22 August 1980
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 22 August 1980
New York opening: 17 October 1980
Production Date:
began summer 1978 in San Diego, CA
Copyright Claimant:
Simon Productions # 4, Inc.
Copyright Date:
26 September 1980
Copyright Number:
PA84961
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Metrocolor
Widescreen/ratio
1.85:1
Duration(in mins):
129
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25303
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

A drifter named Cameron escapes arrest, and punches a telephone technician unconscious while on the run, stealing the man’s tool bag. Using the tools, Cameron snaps his handcuffs apart. As he hitchhikes crossing a bridge, a driver of a Duesenberg automobile tries to run him over. Cameron throws a metal spike at the car, which plummets off the bridge. He notices a helicopter with cameras hovering nearby, and runs away. When Cameron reaches a resort hotel, he observes guests watching stunt men film a World War I battle scene on the beach. They clap at explosions, but recoil when the mangled limbs and bloody stumps of soldiers are revealed. Once the filming is over, the stunt men remove the fake stumps, and dig themselves out of the sand. Director Eli Cross lands his helicopter on the beach, and informs his production manager, Ace, that Burt, a stunt man, was killed driving the Duesenberg off the bridge. He tells Ace not to tell the crew what happened. Meanwhile, Eli recognizes Cameron from the bridge, and knows that he had something to do with the accident. When he learns that Burt almost ran over Cameron, he suggests that Cameron temporarily become a stunt man since he is fit and fast on his feet. Eli also notices the sawed handcuffs on Cameron’s wrists. Soon, Jake, the police chief, arrives and threatens to shut down production after the bridge accident, and wants to charge Eli with manslaughter. However, Eli pretends that Cameron is Burt, and the company’s divers rescued him from the river. The crew goes along with the ruse, while Eli reassures Cameron that all he has to do is take ... +


A drifter named Cameron escapes arrest, and punches a telephone technician unconscious while on the run, stealing the man’s tool bag. Using the tools, Cameron snaps his handcuffs apart. As he hitchhikes crossing a bridge, a driver of a Duesenberg automobile tries to run him over. Cameron throws a metal spike at the car, which plummets off the bridge. He notices a helicopter with cameras hovering nearby, and runs away. When Cameron reaches a resort hotel, he observes guests watching stunt men film a World War I battle scene on the beach. They clap at explosions, but recoil when the mangled limbs and bloody stumps of soldiers are revealed. Once the filming is over, the stunt men remove the fake stumps, and dig themselves out of the sand. Director Eli Cross lands his helicopter on the beach, and informs his production manager, Ace, that Burt, a stunt man, was killed driving the Duesenberg off the bridge. He tells Ace not to tell the crew what happened. Meanwhile, Eli recognizes Cameron from the bridge, and knows that he had something to do with the accident. When he learns that Burt almost ran over Cameron, he suggests that Cameron temporarily become a stunt man since he is fit and fast on his feet. Eli also notices the sawed handcuffs on Cameron’s wrists. Soon, Jake, the police chief, arrives and threatens to shut down production after the bridge accident, and wants to charge Eli with manslaughter. However, Eli pretends that Cameron is Burt, and the company’s divers rescued him from the river. The crew goes along with the ruse, while Eli reassures Cameron that all he has to do is take Burt’s place for the next three days of the shoot. Makeup artist Denise dyes Cameron’s hair blond to disguise him, and he pumps her for information about an actress named Nina Franklin. Eli resumes filming, keeping up the deception by referring to Cameron as “Lucky Burt” so he is not confused with the deceased “Brass Balls Burt.” Meanwhile, stunt coordinator Chuck Barton is not impressed with Lucky Burt’s Vietnam past, and grudgingly gives him a crash course in stunt work. Lucky Burt’s fear turns to joy when Chuck reveals how much money he can earn doing stunts. Later at lunch, Eli complains to Sam, a screenwriter, that a particular scene is not working. Suddenly, Jake appears and demands to the see the film retrieved from the Duesenberg. He circulates a photograph of Cameron in a crew cut, and asks Lucky Burt if he saw the man on the bridge at the time of the accident. When Lucky Burt claims not to recognize Cameron’s photograph, Jake promises to return when the laboratory processes the film. At night, Nina starts a conversation with Lucky Burt as he glances at the hotel tower. When Nina reassures him that his upcoming stunt is safe, he dares her to do the jump, and they climb the tower together. Looking over the railing, Nina admits she is too scared, but realizes that Lucky Bert is also fearful. As they embrace and kiss, cameras and lights capture their actions. Later, she complains to Eli that he gives her no privacy. Lucky Burt confesses that he is worried what will happen when the police see the accident footage, but Eli reassures him that he will keep the stunt man’s identity a secret. The next day, Lucky Burt is shot at by machine gun fire, leaps from the tower, tumbles down the roof fighting other soldiers, and dodges more bullets. He scurries over rooftops and clings to a drainpipe that detaches from the building, hurling him through a glass skylight, and onto the bed of a naked couple making love in a brothel. They all roll out of bed into a crowded dining hall. As Lucky Burt is tossed about the room, the crowd rips his clothes to shreds until he is only wearing boxer shorts. When Eli stops the cameras, Lucky Burt is livid that Chuck did not tell him about the falling drainpipe. Chuck says that the stunt men in bed would have rescued him if anything happened, and anyway Eli likes action to appear spontaneous. Soon, Eli reminds Lucky Burt that the stunt earned him $600. Later, as cast and crew watch the previous day’s film, Eli decides a scene needs more manic energy. He solicits a suggestion from Lucky Burt to dance the Charleston on the wing of a fighter plane in flight. When the scene is reshot, Lucky Burt does his dance, and later, he and Nina celebrate his victorious stunt by making love. Still later, Lucky Burt and Chuck watch the underwater footage of Burt’s drowning. The next day in the makeup chair, Lucky Burt learns that Nina is also sleeping with Eli. Soon, Eli escorts Lucky Burt to the projection room to watch Burt’s drowning footage, and offers him an instruction booklet devoted to escaping from submerged cars, but Lucky Burt declines it. When the footage is run for police, they see the driver inside the car on the bridge, then a cut shows the car plunging into the river. There is no sign of Cameron on film. The police rerun the film, but outside Eli suggests that several versions of the film exist. Later, Lucky Burt confronts Nina about her relationship with Eli and she leaves. The screenwriter, Sam, tells Lucky Burt that Eli and Nina share the same sensibility, but are lousy in bed. At night, Lucky Burt studies Eli’s instruction booklet, and confesses to Nina that he is uneasy about the drowning stunt; however, she will not listen to any criticism of Eli. Later, Chuck runs through the steps involved in filming the drowning. Elsewhere, Nina asks Eli what else he wants her to do to keep Lucky Burt in line. Eli cannot understand her attraction to a criminal. She reveals that Lucky Burt is terrified that Eli will harm him. However, Eli responds that he has reason to be paranoid since the police are after him. Nina finds Lucky Burt with the Duesenberg, contemplating an escape through the woods. She asks about his past, and he reenacts an ugly confrontation with his fiancée’s new lover in an ice cream parlor. When a flashlight startles Lucky Burt, he aims a tub of ice cream at the lover; only it was a police officer, not the lover, who ended up in the hospital with frostbite on his nose and ear after lying unconscious during the night. After his confession, Lucky Burt and Nina decide to leave the production, but Eli has ordered the garage door locked, and set up road blocks to prevent anyone from leaving. They fantasize about a different movie ending for their characters in which they escape in the Duesenberg. When they hear noises, Nina hides in the trunk. The next day, the company moves all its equipment to the bridge. Lucky Burt inspects the antique car but he is not able to check the trunk to see if Nina is still there. As the crew preps the automobile, Lucky Burt starts the engine before the director’s call for action and drives onto the bridge. Off camera, a crewmember hits a button that causes one of the Duesenberg’s tires to blow. Lucky Burt loses control and the automobile plunges into the river. Underwater, he moves toward the trunk when he sees Eli and Nina watching from the bridge. He once again realizes that he has been manipulated, escapes through a window, and swims to shore. There, actors dressed as WWI German soldiers confront him. When Nina waves to him, he laughs. As he dries off, Eli appears in a helicopter and they argue about how much Lucky Burt should be paid for the stunt. Chuck told him the fee is $1000, but Eli is only willing to pay $750. Lucky Burt is furious, but Eli has the last laugh, telling Sam to rewrite the first reel and crush Lucky Burt’s character in the first act. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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