Peter O'Toole is brilliant in writer/director Richard Rush's cult classic The Stunt Man, adapted by Lawrence B. Marcus and Rush from the 1970 novel of the same name by Paul Brodeur. It was nominated for three Oscars; including Best Actor (O'Toole), Best Director (Rush), and Best Screenplay Based on Material From Another Medium. O'Toole won Best Actor from the National Society of Film Critics. The Leeds born Irish actor plays maniacal movie director "Eli Cross" who takes a fugitive Vietnam veteran played by Steve Railsback on the run who stumbles onto the film's set and makes him a stunt man on location for his epic shielding him from the police. The fugitive gets more than he bargains for as "Eli" uses him for many death defying stunts and assorted mind games including the big final stunt that proved fatal for a previous stunt man. O'Toole has said that he based his character on David Lean who directed him in his star making turn as "Lawrence of Arabia" and the diabolical rascal and fellow hellraiser John Huston who directed him in his epic mess The Bible. He also cribbed a little watching Richard Rush too when creating the character. When you hear O'Toole shout from his helicopter "I want that shot!" and or swoop in from his crain saying "If God could do the tricks that we could do, he'd be a happy man..." From the film's excellent opening sequence on, the viewer gets sucked into this crazy ride where nothing is what it seems and wants to be on that film's location.
When Peter O'Toole read the script for the first time, he contacted Richard Rush in Hollywood from England and declared, "I am an articulate, intelligent man. I read the screenplay and if you don't give me the part I will kill you."
Here's clip from The Stunt Man directed by Richard Rush
Starring Peter O'Toole, Barbara Hershey and Steve Railsback
The supporting cast is also quite good with Barbara Hershey as the film's leading lady, Alex Rocco as the local cop looking for Railsback, Allen Garfield fine as always playing the nebbishy screenwriter who takes "Eli's" abuse and recognizes his brilliance. Legendary stuntman Chuck Bail playing a version of himself is terrific as the film's stunt coordinator. Perennial bad guy Steve Railsback, best known for playing "Charles Manson" in the epic 70's TV movie Helter Skelter and serial killer "Ed Gein" In The Light of the Moon is competent in a rare romantic lead as fugitive "Cameron, The Stunt Man" but he like everyone else is blown off the screen by the charismatic bigness of O'Toole's "Eli."
The Stunt Man is one of the very best movies about making movies along with Vincente Minnelli's excellent duo The Bad and The Beautiful and Two Weeks in Another Town, Clint Eastwood's excellent White Hunter, Black Heart (a roman a clef about making The African Queen with John Huston) and Francois Truffaut's wonderful Day For Night. The Stunt Man is a favorite of mine, I watched it repeatedly when it was on The Movie Channel in the early 80's and they'd only show a handful of movies a month! It was one of the films that cemented my love of films and filmmaking. Rush's film has achieved quite a following and mystique over time and its chaotic development and slap dash release was the subject of the documentary The Sinister Saga of Making The Stunt Man. O'Toole has publicly said that "the film wasn't released, it escaped..."
Trailer for The Stunt Man
Starring Peter O'Toole, Directed & Co-Written by Richard Rush
If you love movies, movies about movies, great acting and Peter O'Toole, please do yourself a favor and watch The Stunt Man which plays on some of the premium cable channels like Cinemax, Turner Movie Classics and streaming on Amazon and Hulu.
Some other films starring Peter O'Toole that you might want to check out: The Lion in Winter and Becket where he plays "King Henry II" in both films and the only time that an actor playing the same character in different films was nominated for Oscars. Other films include Mel Brooks's funny memoir film My Favorite Year, The Ruling Class, Lord Jim, How to Steal a Million, Under Milk Wood, What's New Pussycat?, Night of the Generals, Man of La Mancha, Rogue Male, Great Catherine, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Murphy's War, Brotherly Love, The Last Emperor, My Talks with Dean Spanley, The Final Curtain, Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, Masada, and the 2006 release Venus for which he was the sentimental favorite to win the Oscar but lost to Forrest Whittaker. O'Toole was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award a record 8 times without winning, however was given a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 2002. Then there is of course his signature title role in David Lean's masterful Lawrence of Arabia, that performance was ranked number one in Premiere Magazine's list of 100 Greatest Performances of All Time in 2006. Not all of these films are great but most are worth seeing and O'Toole performances are always entertaining.
A clip with O'Toole, Allen Garfield and Steve Railsback as they watch the film within a film's footage.
O'Toole interviewed by Robert Osborne for a special on Turner Classic Movies
Here's a 2 part interview with Writer/Director Richard Rush and actor Steve Railsback being interviewed about the film