Dr. Kate Liu and Dr. Wen-chi Lin
Fragments of Identities in North American Postmodern Fiction and Film
12 April 2000
The Stunt Man
The Authorial Intrusion in The Stunt Man
The Stunt Man is a movie which deals with the history of the past, the memory, and war. In addition, this
movie also contains the issue of the author, the characters within the cinematic text. Therefore, in the following,
I want to discuss the relations between the author and the characters within The Stunt Man. Richard Rush,
the director of The Stunt Man, expresses the perspective of the so-called author-god and also creates a surrogate
author within this movie. Eli Cross is the director of the unknown film within The Stunt Man as well as the alias
of Richard Rush in school. Therefore, Eli Cross sometimes represents or speaks for Richard Rush in the movie.
The director Eli Cross is like an authority of the film, which sometimes presents the omniscience and the superiority
within The Stunt Man.
In the very beginner of the movie, at the shot of the helicopter, one man eats an apple and throws it out of the
helicopter to the roof of the highway patrol car. The spectators might ignore this man and his actions; at the same
time, the spectators cannot see the face of this man until the scene on the bridge there was a man who suspiciously
and curiously stared at the protagonist Cameron or later the Stuntman. Somehow, the spectator still could not
who the man actually is this film. The continuous confusions make the spectators feel awkward and also prompt
them to the shooting scene at the seashore. At the end of that scene, through others' characters' dialogues the spectator perceived that
man in the helicopter was the director of the film within a film, Eli Cross. Through this series of scenes,
the spectators not only understand what the movies was going on, but also perceived who this "mysterious" man
was. This complicate process of introducing Eli Cross could be regarded as the process of establishment of the
author-god in and out of this cinematic text.
In this movie, Eli always sits on the chair supported by the invisible crane. No one could find out where the
crane is and how the crane supports. The director Eli Cross could manipulate and control everything in the studio
or the process of the film production, which included in the characters in the movie and the spectators of The Stunt Man. The plot of this movie is seemingly following the will of the director Eli Cross. He could ask the screenwriter Sam to add or to delete something he likes or dislikes. On the other hand, Eli Cross not only manipulates the film within The Stunt Man.,
but also haunts the spectators of The Stunt Man. Here, Eli Cross unconsciously represents the position of the
director Richard Rush in the film. The surrogate director speaks the director Richard Rush's mind, especially for
the subject matter of the Vietnam War Film,which Richard wants to emphasize in the Hollywood film industry.
On the other hand, the manipulation of the characters within the film is also an interesting issue for discussion. For example, the stuntman Cameron, the protagonist of The Stunt Man, is manipulated by the arrangements and schemes of the director Eli Cross. From the authorial perspective, what the characters have done in the film are controlled and followed the author's principles which were organized and planed in advance. Therefore, we could regard those absurd and irrational actions happened in the very beginning scene of this film are not coincidental plots but the well-organized plots. The beginning scene of The Stunt Man is the basic element for the development of the following scenes.
So the transformation of Cameron in this film is out of the self-motivated but by the forces of the author.
Although Cameron tries to persuade Nina to escape and change the ending of the film in the prop room scene,
eventually and inevitably Cameron cannot challenge the powerful author Eli Cross within the film.
To sum up, the relation between the authorial position / director and the characters is based on the
master- servant relation. The author has an absolute power to manipulate everything within his or her
works during the process of production. The characters are always subject to his or her author within
the work, even though they are willing to challenge the unbalance relation.