The Stunt Man

The Stunt Man is a 1980 American action comedy film starring Peter O'Toole, Steve Railsback and Barbara Hershey, and directed by Richard Rush. 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 a World War I movie whose charismatic director will do seemingly anything for the sake of his art. The line between illusion and reality is blurred. Scenes from the inner movie cut seamlessly to "real life" and vice versa. There are examples of "movie magic", where a scene of wartime carnage is revealed as just stunt men and props, and where a shot of a crying woman becomes, with scenery, props and sound track, a portrait of a grieving widow at a Nazi rally. The protagonist begins to doubt everything he sees and hears, and at the end is faced with real danger when a stunt seems to go wrong.


Cameron, a Vietnam veteran who is wanted for attempted murder, is caught by police but escapes. Crossing a bridge, he dodges a car that seems to be trying to run him down; when he turns around, the car has disappeared. A helicopter flies close to the bridge and a man inside looks at Cameron. Later, Cameron is attracted to a movie shoot — a World War I battle scene. Afterwards, he notices an older 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 is the movie's leading actress, Nina Franklin, testing make-up for scenes set late in her character's life.