North American Postmodern Fiction and Film, Spring 2000

The Stunt Man

Characters:  Eli Cross (director); Cameron, Nina Franklin (actress), Sam (script writer), Raymond Bailey (leading actor), Chuck Barton (stunt man trainer); Burt (the drowned stunt man)
Production backgrounds  Vietnam War and the film  The metafictional aspects  the unknowable in the film
- The purposes of simulation of war? 
- Eli as an Author-God?

Production backgrounds:
-- difficulties: 1970 novel, announced as a 1971 release, but not filmed until 1978, completed in 1979.  First shown without a distrubutor.(Hanson 2321)    (A The Sinister Saga of Making 'The Stunt Man' will be out this year. [2000] )
References to this in the film: Sam: "Way back then, when you were all charged up about making a great anti-war statement, they won't let you.  Now they'll let you, but you haven't got a war.  What you do have is a great deal of egg on your face.  Vietname is long since gone, and it's too god-damn late."  (  the use of  icecream in Cameron's attack of police and paint in the basement scene with Nina.)

-- the film and the novel: (Ellis 239)

Vietnam War and the film
Cameron: 1. the one who seeks to survive: The metafictional aspects: the War film in the film
1. confusion of reality and the film within the film:
e. g. 1. the shooting scene at the beach in the beginning of the film.
2. The hotel-top chase -- into a hotel room -- the hotel guest : "find someplace else to play" -- Cameron hit by Chuck in the face -- Cameron falls through the skylight into a brothel, and then is carried to a tavern, with his clothes ripped off.
3. The biplane stunt: the pilot shot shows: Cameron clings to the wing in terror -- Nina in horror -- a long shot revealing the crane from which the plane hangs by a wire, rotating but a few feet from the ground.
4. Cameron's scream in action merged with that in having sex with Nina.
2. Elli the director:
a. all-controlling behind the scene: benevolent or selfish and cruel?
-- emerges regally from his helicopter.
-- "Don't worry about my crew.  They'll call you anything I wish them too."
-- Does he try to rescue Burt?
-- Why does he humiliate Nina in front of her parents?
-- Even Cameron's attempt at escape is included in his plan, with Nina complicit with him.
-- Does he care about Cameron's safty in the last stunt work?
-- After Cameron argues with him about the salary at the end, he says:
"rewrite the open reel.  Crush the little bastard in the first act."
b. a magician: -- change Cameron's appearance.
-- Before he leads Cameron into the building, he says: "That door is a looking glass.  Inside is a wonderland.  Have faith, Alice, and enjoy."  (The half-transparent window is also used to frame Nina -- an actress, a dream girl.  Nina: "I'm the movie.")
-- "How tall is King Kong?"
-- have different versions: "I have versions of all sorts.  Care to go back and see one?  In one version you fly the helicopter and I am driving the Duesenberg."
c. a savior -- an anti-war filmmaker
about his film:
-- He wants something outrageous, because "reality can be pretty outrageous" and anything can happen.
-- his purpose: "convince the world with [his] movie there is a reasonable, a better way of getting home for Thanksgiving."
d. "The man is the kindest, the most dedicated"; his relations with Nina?

3. The film within the film, its message?
-- about an interracial marriage between an Australian flyer and an German girl.
-- the use of erotic music box: the "outrageous" and "lively."

the unknowable in the film:  Eli as an Author-God?  Is Nina really in love with Cameron?

Theme song: "a world where nothing is what it seems" -- like Vietnam
The opening sequence: linemen -- buzzard -- apple -- police car -- a dog licking his balls
coincidence + ongoing beastly life

-- "That crazy bird just tried to kill us."
-- "That's your point of view.  Did we stop and ask the bird what his was?"

Relevant links: References:
Hanson, Stephen L.  "The Stunt Man."

Ellis, Caron Schwartz. "The Stunt Man: Remembering Vietnam through Forgetfulness." Literature-
 Film Quarterly. 20(3):231-42. 1992.