The Stunt Man is a 1980 Action-Comedy-Drama-Thriller-Romance film directed by Richard Rush, based on Paul Brodeur's novel. The story starts with a Vietnam veteran named Cameron (Steve Railsback) who is on the run from the police. He runs onto a movie set and accidentally kills the stunt man. Director Eli Cross (Peter O'Toole) offers to hide Cameron in exchange for him taking the stunt man's place. That, of course, is only the beginning.
"If God could do the tropes that we can do, he'd be a happy man . . .":
- Cluster F-Bomb: Eli, when a cameraman says "Cut" because there were only 22 seconds of film left."In 22 seconds, I could break your fucking spine. In 22 seconds, I could pinch your head off like a fucking insect and spin it all over the fucking pavement. In 22 seconds, I could put 22 bullets inside your ridiculous gut. What I seem unable to do in 22 seconds is to keep you from fucking up my film!"
- Composite Character: Eli Cross is a combination of Gottschalk the director and Bruno de Fe the cinematographer from the original novel.
- Documentary: 2000's The Sinister Saga of Making "The Stunt Man"
- Enforced Method Acting: A rare in-universe example—and a major part of the plot.
- I Am the Noun:Cameron: "Hey, I know you. You're in the movies."Nina: "I *am* the movies."
- Meaningful Name: "Cameron" is close to "camera on", and "Eli Cross" has obvious religious implications.
- Mind Screw: Of the "blurring the lines between reality and fantasy" variation. This is not a film that you watch casually: it requires that you pay complete attention.
- Mysterious Past: It isn't made clear why Cameron is running from the police in the first place.
- His backstory is explained shortly before the final scene.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Peter O'Toole based his portrayal of Eli Cross on David Lean, whom he'd worked with on Lawrence of Arabia.
- Playing Gertrude: Barbara Hershey is made up this way.
- Prima Donna Director: Eli Cross. He even rides around in his own helicopter.
- Show Within a Show: While the title is never spoken, the film being filmed is titled Devil's Squadron.
- World War I: The subject of Devil's Squadron.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Bert, the stuntman Cameron accidentally killed. His body is never recovered, and aside from a cameraman freaking out (perhaps) about the death (see Mind Screw, above), the only consequence is Cross pretending that Cameron is Bert.