Richard Rush, who directed ‘the Stunt Man,’ dies at 91
Richard Rush, who made rebel youth films in the 1960s starring emerging stars like Jack Nicholson, but who had his greatest success in 1980 with “The Stunt Man,” a quirky and defying expectation thriller that acquired cult status, died on April 8. at his home in Los Angeles. He was 91 years old.
His wife, Claude Rush, said the cause was a build-up of health problems, including heart and kidney failure. He had a heart transplant 18 years ago.
Mr. Rush hasn’t made a lot of films; the last of his twelve feature films, the erotic thriller “Color of Night”, was released in 1994. But he made his mark with the actors he cast and with a certain fearlessness in his cinematographic choices.
In “The Stunt Man”, Steve Railsback plays a fugitive who accidentally ends up on a movie set and ends up becoming a stuntman while starting a romance with one of the stars (played by Barbara Hershey). Mr. Rush was nominated for an Oscar for Directing and Screenplay, which he and Lawrence B. Marcus adapted from a Paul Brodeur novel. Peter O’Toole received an Oscar nomination for his bravery performance as a director who might or might not try to kill his new stuntman.
The movie is full of wild stunts and misdirection, leaving audiences to guess what is real and what the magic of the movie is in the movie.
“We couldn’t wait to get on set every day because we knew something exciting and creative was going to happen,” Mr. Railsback said in a telephone interview.
Mr. Rush, in an interview in 2017 with the We Are Cult blog, described what he was looking for in the film.
“I had the audacity to think that I could make an image that would explore illusion and reality,” he said, “and I wanted to use the film as a mirror of the state of mind. paranoid that we all experience at one point or another. “
If “The Stunt Man” and some of his other films were hard to categorize, quickly shifting from comedy to drama to romance, it was because reality was like that, he says.
“Living life is like falling through a pinball machine, with balls bouncing off each other causing unexpected action and reaction,” he told We Are Cult. “And that’s how I see storytelling: having this great balance of all the different elements. Something is allowed to be funny and serious sometimes at the same time or in the same scene. “
Richard Walter Rush was born on April 15, 1929 in New York City. His widow said his parents were Russian immigrants Ray and Nina Rush, and his father owned bookstores in New York and Los Angeles, where the family settled when Richard was a boy.
During the Korean War, Mr. Rush was part of an Air Force film-making unit stationed in San Bernardino, California. After his military service, he enrolled in a new film school at the University of California, Los Angeles.
His early films were generally low budget deals done quickly and aimed at the teen market.
One of Mr. Nicholson’s first roles was in Mr. Rush’s first film, “Too Soon to Love” (1960), a drama about a teenage couple struggling with pregnancy, a somewhat scandalous subject for the time. Mr. Nicholson was back in Mr. Rush’s biker photo, “Hell’s Angels on Wheels,” in 1967, two years before the better-known “Easy Rider” worked on a biker theme with a cast featuring Mr. Nicholson, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper (who directed this film).
In 1974, Mr. Rush directed the action comedy “Freebie and the Bean”, starring James Caan and Alan Arkin in one of the earliest examples of the modern buddy-buddy genre that would soon spawn hits like “48 Hrs” and “Lethal Weapon”. “
On “Hell’s Angels on Wheels” and several other films, he worked with cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs, who pursued a long and acclaimed career with credits like “Easy Rider” and “Five Easy Pieces” (1970).
Among Mr. Rush’s other films were “Psych-Out” (1968), about a deaf fugue (Susan Strasberg) in the hippie heart of San Francisco, where Mr. Nicholson and Bruce Dern are part of the populace; and “Getting Straight” (1970), starring Elliott Gould and Candice Bergen, a film that Vincent Canby of the New York Times called “the worst film of the campus revolution.”
“Color of Night,” which starred Jane March and Bruce Willis, garnered considerable attention both for its racy sex scenes and the dispute Mr. Rush had with the studio over the edit. During the arbitration with the Cinergi Productions studio, Mr. Rush suffered a heart attack.
He also had an unpleasant experience with “Air America,” an action comedy for which he wrote a screenplay that became part of a long developmental battle. When the film was finally released in 1990, it was directed by Roger Spottiswoode; Mr. Rush shared a script credit.
He married Claude Cuvereaux in 1995 after many years together. He is also survived by a son, Anthony, and a grandson.
Mr. Rush had specific ideas about the scripts he had agreed to make and how to shoot them. Mr. Railsback recalled that on “The Stunt Man,” cinematographer Mario Tosi was surprised by Mr. Rush’s practical style.
“At first Richard was like, ‘Put your camera here, do this and do this,’” he said, “and Mario was getting mad because Richard was telling him where to put the camera and all that other stuff. . “
But when the footage of the day (known as the dailies) returned, Mr. Railsback said, Mr. Rush’s instincts turned out to be perfect.
“Mario looked at the dailies,” he said, “and he walked over to Richard and said, ‘Just tell me where to put this camera.’”