The Stunt Man (Richard Rush, 1980)
Role: Eli Cross, maniacal film director
To be honest, I haven't seen The Stunt Man yet. When I set out on my O'Toole-a-thon it was one of the films I was anticipating the most. Cult reputation, Oscar nomination and the clips onYouTube were phenomenal, classic O'Toole. The problem, like so many of O'Toole's work, was inaccessibility. The Stunt Man has a nightmare production history. Director Richard Rush had tried to get the film made since the early '70s. It was finally filmed in 1978, only to have its release delayed until 1980. Box office was a disaster even for the early '80s, one of Hollywood's least lucrative and artistically fulfilling periods. Even though the film garnered rave reviews, Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations, for whatever reason, the studio didn't release the film to a wide market; it had a long run in Los Angeles theaters but that was about it.
However, although the film itself is not available on Netflix (the special edition DVD was released in 2001 with only 100,000 copies), the making-of documentary The Sinister Saga of Making the Stunt Man, is. So, I rented it. Narrated by director Richard Rush, it's a video cam-style doc, strangely '80s with its cheesy special effects, shoddy green screen work and bizarre narration. But, if you can get past the weirdness of the delivery, the content is amazing. Even if you haven't since the film, the doc gives incredibly detailed insight into the minutia of the filmmaking process. Rush covers everything from how the property came to his attention, his decade-long fight with studios and producers to get the film made even after he had other commercial successes to his name, casting, script rewrites, production stories, and distribution nightmares. Any aspiring director should watch this documentary, if only to mentally prepare himself for the ridiculous hoops you have to jump through to get a movie made in Hollywood. The doc is long (nearly two hours) and grows tedious sometimes, but due to the sheer wealth of information here, aspiring filmmakers and hardcore fans of The Stunt Man should give it a look.