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Richard Rush
Richard Rush (2006).jpg
Richard Rush
Born (1929-04-15)April 15, 1929
New York City, U.S.
Died April 8, 2021(2021-04-08) (aged 91)
Occupation Film director, producer, screenwriter
Years active 1960–2001

Richard Rush (April 15, 1929 – April 8, 2021) was an American film director, scriptwriter, and producer. He is known for directing The Stunt Man, for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director. Rush, whose directing career began in 1960, also directed Freebie and the Bean, a police buddy comedy/drama starring Alan Arkin and James Caan. He co-wrote the screenplay for the 1990 film Air America.


Early life

Rush spent his childhood fascinated by Marcel Proust and Batman comics. He was one of the first students of UCLA's film program, and, after graduation, Rush worked to create television programs for the United States military showcasing the nation's involvement in the Korean War. After his propaganda work, Rush opened a production company to produce commercials and industrial films.

Early Features

At the age of thirty, inspired by the neo-realism of French director François Truffaut's The 400 Blows, Rush sold his production business to finance his first feature Too Soon to Love (1960), which he produced on a shoestring budget of $50,000 and sold to Universal Pictures for distribution for $250,000. It featured an early film appearance by Jack Nicholson (who starred in two later Rush films, Hells Angels on Wheels and Psych-Out).

Rush wanted to follow it with an adaptation of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  but did not end up making the film. He was also attached to Kitten with a Whip early on.

Rush then directed Of Love and Desire (1963) with Merle Oberon.

Exploitation Films

Rush's third movie was a spy picture, A Man Called Dagger (1966) which was his first collaboration with cinematographer László Kovács.

Rush directed a car racing film for American International Pictures, Thunder Alley (1967) starring Fabian Forte and Annette Funicello.

He did The Fickle Finger of Fate (1967) for Sidney W. Pink starring Tab Hunter, then did a biker movie for Joe Solomon, Hells Angels on Wheels (1967), starring Nicholson.

Rush was signed by Dick Clark to make two more films for AIP: Psych-Out (1968), a film about the counter culture starring Nicholson and Susan Strasberg, and a biker movie The Savage Seven (1968).

Studio Films

Rush signed a deal with Columbia. His first studio effort was 1970's Getting Straight, starring Elliott Gould and Candice Bergen. The film did well commercially and was deemed by Swedish director Ingmar Bergman to be the "best American film of the decade."

Rush's next movie, in 1974, was Freebie and the Bean. For the most part, Freebie was critically panned; however, it was enormously popular with audiences, grossing over $30 million at the box office.

The Stunt Man

In 1981, Truffaut was asked "Who is your favorite American director?" He answered, "I don’t know his name, but I saw his film last night and it was called The Stunt Man." The film, which took Rush nine years to put together, was a slapstick comedy, a thriller, a romance, an action-adventure, and a commentary on America's dismissal of veterans, as well as a deconstruction of Hollywood cinema. The film also features Rush's typical protagonist, an emotionally traumatized male who has escaped the traditional frameworks of society only to find his new world (biker gangs in Hells Angels on Wheels, hippies in Psych-Out) corrupted by the same influences. The Stunt Man won Rush Oscar nominations for best director and best script (co-nominated with Lawrence B. Marcus).

Later career

When Air America showed signs of trouble during development, Rush was paid full salary to walk away from the project. This allowed the studio to cast Mel Gibson and Robert Downey, Jr.

Rush did not direct another film for four years, until the 1994's box office failure Color of Night.

Afterward, Rush retreated from the world of commercial cinema. As Kenneth Turan of The Los Angeles Times wrote, Rush's career seems to be "followed by the kind of miserable luck that never seems to afflict the untalented."

His last project was a DVD documentary on the making of The Stunt Man entitled The Sinister Saga of Making The Stunt Man (2001).

He resided in Bel Air with his wife Claudia. He had an older brother, Dr. Stephen Rush who also resided in Los Angeles.

On April 8, 2021, Rush died a week shy of his 92nd birthday at his Los Angeles home after long-term health problems.

Filmography (as director and writer)

Year Film Notes
1960 Too Soon to Love Writer and Director
1963 Of Love and Desire Writer and Director
1967 Thunder Alley
The Cups of San Sebastian
Hells Angels on Wheels
1968 Psych-Out
The Savage Seven
A Man Called Dagger
1970 Getting Straight
1974 Freebie and the Bean
1980 The Stunt Man Writer and Director
1990 Air America Writer only
1994 Color of Night
2000 The Sinister Saga of Making "The Stunt Man" Writer and Director

See also

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