The Stunt Man (1980)

R  |   |  Action, Comedy, Drama  |  25 February 1981 (France)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 6,658 users  
Reviews: 82 user | 67 critic

A fugitive stumbles on a movie set just when they need a new stunt man, takes the job as a way to hide out, and falls for the leading lady.



(screenplay), (adaptation), 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sam (as Allen Goorwitz)
Raymond Bailey
Philip Bruns ...
Charles Bail ...
Gabe / Eli's cameraman
Jim Hess ...
Henry / Eli's camera assistant
John Pearce ...
Garage Guard (as John B. Pearce)
Michael Railsback ...
George Wallace ...
Father (as George D. Wallace)
Dee Carroll ...


While on the run from the police, Steve Railsback hides in a group of moviemakers where he pretends to be a stunt man. Both aided and endangered by the director (Peter O'Toole) he avoids both the police and sudden death as a stuntman. The mixture of real danger and fantasy of the movie is an interesting twist for the viewer as the two blend in individual scenes. Written by John Vogel <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


"If God could do the things that we can do, he'd be a happy man . . ." See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

25 February 1981 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Le diable en boîte  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$3,500,000 (estimated)


SEK 1,815,060 (Sweden)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Co-screenwriter Richard Rush has said of the rejection of his first draft script by Columbia Pictures studio executives: "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". See more »


Just before jumping into the water to rescue Nina, Cameron is already all wet. See more »


Eli Cross: [after an effects shot involving a dummy has gone wrong] It's so awful, it's beautiful. I do wish I could use it.
Sam: That's all we need.
Eli Cross: Well, we need something, Sam, and damn well you know it. Something better.
Sam: Better? How better?
Eli Cross: Something less boring. Something crazier.
Sam: A dead man's boots are dropped over his own airfield out of chivalry. That's not crazy enough for you, huh?
Eli Cross: They did it in a film called "Wings." Even the dummy was bored.
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the credits end, the movie-within-a-movie director (played by Peter O'Toole) yells, "Sam, rewrite the opening reel! Crush the little bastard in the first act!" And then he laughs during the fade-out. See more »


Referenced in Dead End (1985) See more »


Bits & Pieces
Music by Dominic Frontiere
Lyrics by Norman Gimbel
Sung by Dusty Springfield
See more »

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User Reviews

The art and artifice of filmmaking
22 October 2000 | by See all my reviews

Revered as one of the greatest "cult" films of all time I recently saw it and most of my expectations were met. Steven Railsback plays a character named Cameron. A former Vietnam veteran and fugitive on the lam. At the begining of the film we see him being pursued by the police after he is spotted in a restaurant. Cameron while being chased accidentally stumbles onto a movie set where a World War I epic is being shot. After almost being killed by a stunt man on a bridge by a car Cameron picks up an object and throws it at the windshield of the vehicle causing it to swerve off the bridge and fall into a nearby river. A helicopter suddenly descends in front of Cameron. Inside it are the filmcrew documenting the bridge scene with it's director Eli Cross ( Peter O'Toole) starring at Cameron and what has happened. Cameron flees from the scene as the helicopter soars away. Eventually Eli Cross meets up with Cameron and convinces him to replace the stunt man or Cross will turn him into the police. Cameron has little choice. Thus begins the main characters harrowing journey.

The Stunt Man is a complex and multilayered film. It requires multiple viewings in order to catch all of the subtleties and nuances. As the film progresses we see Cameron placed into various stunt scenes, each one more dangerous than the last. Is Eli Cross trying to kill him? The film is a fascinating battle of psychological mind games. Cameron's perception of reality becomes skewed with the fantasy world of filmmaking as he becomes less able to distinguish until the final frame. We the viewer are also constantly confused as the film makes many unpredictable twists and turns with it's convoluted plot. Peter O'Toole is perfect as the flamboyant, megalomanical filmmaker. No one else could to the role justice and bring that much class to the part. Barbara Hershey is also good as the lead actress of Eli Cross' film who becomes romantically involved with Cameron. I have many favorite scenes from the movie. Especially the crash course in stunt work Cameron is given by the lead stunt man played by Chuck Bail, a real life former stunt man. Director Rush has seamlessly balanced pathos with humor to create a unique film of epic proportions. It is a film that the viewer must discipline oneself in order to watch.....but what a payoff.

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