A desperate fugitive from the police gets hired as a stuntman on a movie set as a way to hide out. Doing so he’s at the mercy of an unscrupulous director who’s probably more dangerous than the police force.

A vastly under appreciated and fun picture, with crazy characters, The Stuntman had its share of problems during production and later distribution (it was a late pick by Fox after every major studios turned it down).

The Stuntman is energetically and cleverly constructed by Richard Rush, who directed some early Jack Nicholson performances in the 1960’s, from Paul Brodeur’s novel. Rush earned an Oscar nomination in both directing and screenwriting categories at the 1981 Academy Awards. The writing nominee being shared with Lawrence B. Marcus. The honor didn’t seem to lift Rush career as he would not make another picture for 14 years, the Razzie Awards nominated Color of Night.

As the obsessive director, Eli Cross,  Peter O’toole, who also earned an Oscar nomination for his performance, is at his best and the composition of his cynical character, who’s film is more important to him than the security of his people, is simply delightful. He adds great depth to the picture. Barbara Hershey also gives a memorable, energetic and joyful performance, as the leading lady in the film within the film.

This larger than life shooting filled with loony characters also offers lots of technically elaborated moves, framing and focus pulling (a craftsmanship who’s a bit lost in today’s films) that are typical of 1970’s filmmaking. Cinematographer Mario Tosi (Carrie) and Rush organize what who could have been a mess in cleverly orchestrated cinematic sequences.

A great take on Stories about movie making. Yours to discover.