Adapted from Paul Brodeur's novel, Richard Rush's story of a Machiavellian movie director and his accidental employee takes a darkly comic look at movie reality vs. "real" reality. Running from the law, Vietnam vet Cameron (Steve Railsback) stumbles on a movie shoot just in time to interfere with a staged accident, causing (perhaps) the stunt man's death. Rather than turn Cameron in, director Eli Cross (Oscar nominee Peter O'Toole) makes him an offer he can't refuse: replace the dead stunt man in return for safe harbor. Despite objections about Cameron's inexperience, Eli keeps him on, figuring that a vet will add an extra charge of realism to the World War I opus that he's filming. As leading lady Nina (Barbara Hershey) returns Cameron's affections, and Eli becomes ever more inscrutably mercurial, Cameron begins to wonder how far Eli will go to get the screen effects he wants, and if he would think twice about killing the stunt man. Placing a Vietnam vet in the midst of movie-making chaos, Rush adds a pointedly contemporary spin to Cameron's confusion; the war experience that makes Cameron a good stunt man wreaks havoc on his life. Rush in turn disorients the audience by seamlessly interweaving scenes from Eli's movie with scenes of its being made. Made two years before Rush found a studio to release it, The Stunt Man opened to raves for its wily narrative and O'Toole's messianic director. Its sly commentary on the blurred boundaries between movies and life became all the more striking at the dawn of the Reagan '80s.
by Lucia Bozzola synopsis