GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Stuntman: Connections and resonance

Apart from the fact that The stuntman is one of my favorite films, I have a number of personal connections to the film. A friend and mentor of mine was Robert Lecky who worked with Mel Simon whose company financed the film. Robert helped Mel segue from being the largest builder of shopping malls in the United States into becoming a force in the film industry. The cinematographer on The Stuntman was Mario Tosi who was a friend and fellow Ferrari GTO owner in the late sixties. If you have seen the footage I narrated that was shot by Peter Helm of our group and our Ferraris at Willow Springs, you will have noticed Mario driving one of the three GTOs in the film.

I didn't know Chuck Bail well. Chuck played the stunt coordinator in The Stuntman and actually coordinated stunts in the film, but I met with him about an unrelated project at his home and at the airport hanger where he kept the Stearman bi-plane gifted to him by Steve McQueen on his passing. Chuck and Robert Lecky were friends and Chuck directed The Gumball Rally where if you saw a Ferrari Daytona on the screen, you heard a Ferrari Daytona on the soundtrack. I met and talked with Steve Railsback about The Stuntman in Du-pars one day when I was with a mutual friend who had worked with Steve in Yugoslavia on Veliki Transport. Allen Garfield (sometimes credited as Allen Goorwitz), who played the screenwriter in The Stuntman, called to comment on a Discussions episode I had written for Kathi Carey after he had seen it on cable and he later attended the premiere screening of my film Bleeder & Bates at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel paying me the ultimate compliment by saying that Bleeder reminded him of the work he had done with Wim Wenders. Tony Rush, son of The Stuntman's director Richard Rush, acted in my film Terminal Velocity (1984). Richard Rush sat in on a table-read I had organized for an investor/distributor for one of my projects kindly reading one the roles.

The Stuntman's poster attracted my attention picturing, as it did, the devil sitting on a camera crane. When I stopped at the theater box office in Westwood one afternoon to ask the ticket-seller what the film was about, the answer she gave me was, "It's hard to say." Immediately, I knew I had to see the film and more conversant figures in the film business than that ticket-seller had difficulty answering the question as to the film's subject matter. It is a film about filming that deals with the illusion of perception and reality at every level--a journey into the realm of questioning what is--with first-class acting and dialogue that is sharp, witty and thought provoking; everything I could ask for in a film and seldom get.

In making a film about filmmaking, The Stuntman delivered filmmaking excellence in the bargain. Notice Peter O'Toole's entrance into the film as his helicopter flies in and lands hitting the camera mark perfectly with perfect framing on Peter as Eli Cross, the director of the film-within-the-film. One of my favorite line's from the film is the rhetorical question "How tall is King Kong?" making reference to the fact the the 3'6" gorilla was transformed by movie magic into a monster in our perception. Another line of dialogue influenced my development of the Action/ReAction technique and was spoken by O'Toole commenting on an actor's performance by saying "It's not what he's eating but what's eating him that makes it kind of interesting." Richard Rush broke a number of filmmaking conventions and you can see that, on more than one occasion, he broke the so-called 180 degree rule in setting up his shots. I didn't mind at all.

The music score by Dominic Frontiere is memorable, one of my friends commenting that the main theme sounded like an hommage to Nino Rota. Dusty Springfield sang the love theme "Bits & Pieces" (Dominic Frontiere/Norman Gimbel) with lyrics that remind us that once there were real singers without Auto-Tune and with well-crafted and coherent lyrics that could provide perspective on one's life--even change it via the insights provided by those lyrics.

If you haven't seen the film, let me recommend it to you without reserve. It is 131 minutes of rousing fun.

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