The Stunt Man (1980)

R  |   |  Action, Comedy, Drama  |  25 February 1981 (France)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 6,611 users  
Reviews: 82 user | 66 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
See  »

Did You Know?


The hiding out on a film set story element in this movie's story-line has a true real life parallel. A large number of members of the French Resistance worked on the film crew and/or as extras in crowd scenes on 'Marcel Carne''s Children of Paradise (1945) when Nazi power was at its peak in its occupation of France and these fighters needed concealing their identities from the Gestapo. See more »


One minute, Cameron is on a bridge in the town of Fair Oaks, California, and Eli Cross is in a helicopter observing him. Then, inexplicably, they're all in San Diego, California, over 100 miles to the southwest. See more »


Eli Cross: Do you not know that King Kong the first was just three foot six inches tall? He only came up to Faye Wray's belly button! If God could do the tricks that we can do he'd be a happy man!
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 Tales from the Script (2009) See more »


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

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User Reviews

Colors splash and re-arrange the sky, and yours to deny
12 September 2006 | by (The Penumbra) – See all my reviews

It's called 'subjective reality', children. The fact that the truth depends on the angle you happen to be watching from gives us all our unique, if skewed and unfair, perception on life. We're all puppets in someone else's dastardly play and we never know when that person, that entity, that divine being will cut our strings.

This was director Richard Rush's dream project and it took him nine years to get it on the screen. And, of course, it would! It's multi-layered, original, funny and packed full of story and circumstance that makes you think. Why would any studio want to touch it? Fox even sat on it for two years before giving it a limited release. Even on its umpteenth viewing it delivers again and again, offering new angles and subtle clues.

The viewpoint of this metafictional masterpiece is Cameron (Steve Railsback), a Vietnam vet on the run from the law. He stumbles onto the set of a WWI movie and accidentally kills a stunt driver. The director of the movie is the eccentric and megalomaniacal Eli Cross (Peter O'Toole, in one of his best ever performances), who takes Cameron under his wing and protects him from John Law, as long as he keeps his mouth shut about the accident.

Cameron practices to be a stunt man and takes the place of the man he killed. But as the movie shoot becomes more elaborate and dangerous, he falls in love with the leading lady (Barbara Hershey) and starts to suspect that Eli is trying to capture his death on film.

Although it seems nasty, the movie is wonderfully light-hearted and the outrageous stunt scenes are backed up by an awesome score by Dominic Frontiere. I've been humming that theme since I was 12-years-old when I taped it off Channel 4 in December 1992. I didn't quite get it back then, but I nearly wore out that VHS watching it over and over. A long scene with Cameron running over a rooftop, as biplanes attack and enemy soldiers give chase, is pure joy. There is a great comic sense of humor in watching them trip over each other, fall off, and get blown up.

John Law do not back down on their suspicion of Eli and, through half-heard conversations and eavesdropping, Cameron's paranoia becomes increasingly justified. Because the movie is seen through his eyes we never quite know what is going on with Eli. Is he a madman, or just a crafty director? Would you believe that Peter O'Toole based his performance on his experiences with David Lean? Why he never won an Oscar (it went to Robert DeNiro for Raging Bull)- is beyond me. He truly gives the performance of his career, far exceeding even Laurence of Arabia. It also sucks that Rush never won for Director, or Adapted Screenplay. Had he been awarded the golden statuette, maybe he would have received more recognition. He's clearly a better filmmaker than most of today's hack artists.

You simply have to see The Stunt Man. It's an overlooked gem and, despite the wide praise it received, it has never really reached a large audience. Now is definitely the time to rediscover this forgotten classic.

24 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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