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Richard Rush

Richard Rush

  • Hell's Angels on Wheels (1967) November 07 (ET) - Reminder REMINDER
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Also Known As: Died:
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Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: Director ... director screenwriter producer recording engineer still photographer
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BIOGRAPHY

Cult 1960s exploitation filmmaker and counterculture chronicler who enjoyed a mainstream critical success as the producer, writer, and director of "The Stunt Man" (1980), a giddily reflexive saga about how movies blur the distinction between illusion and reality. Starring a perfectly cast Peter O'Toole at the peak of his powers playing a perversely god-like director, the film earned three Oscar nominations including Best Screenplay and Best Direction and won its star a National Film Critics Circle Award. Despite this triumph, Rush would not get to direct again for 14 years.

Rush worked as a still photographer and recording engineer before entering filmmaking as a director of TV commercials. He entered features as an instant auteur, producing, directing, writing the screenplay and providing the story for "Too Soon to Love" (1960), a now dated teen drama featuring a supporting performance by a young Jack Nicholson. A fading star from an earlier era, Merle Oberon, headlined Rush's next melodramatic outing as a writer-director, "Of Love and Desire" (1963). He went abroad to helm "The Fickle Finger of Fate" (1967), a lowbrow comic adventure starring Tab Hunter before returning home and starting an important collaboration with cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs.

After an inauspicious start with "A Man Called Dagger" (1967)--a bizarre spy spoof starring Jan Murray and featuring a Steve Allen score--the pair crafted "Hell's Angels on Wheels" (1967), a biker classic starring Nicholson as a gas station attendant named Poet who joins the infamous fraternity. With Angels leader Sonny Barger on board as an advisor, this two-week wonder boasted sex, violence, and psychedelia. Working with Rush, Kovacs reputedly developed the long-lens style which has since become an industry standard. They are also credited with innovating the use of rack-focus to shift the emphasis in a scene. Rush and Kovacs continued to employ this gritty style in two AIP exploitation flicks, "Psych-Out" and "Savage Seven" (both 1968), and brought it to a studio feature with "Getting Straight" (1970). The latter, a somewhat dated but still relevant time capsule item, featured a memorable lead performance by Elliot Gould as an aging drop-out who decides to re-enter "respectable" society by becoming an academic.

Rush began his feature career by helming eight films in as many years. After "Getting Straight", four years passed before he produced and directed the popular cop comedy "Freebie and the Bean" (1974) starring James Caan and Alan Arkin. Five more years elapsed before Rush completed "The Stunt Man" which was shelved for a year before its 1980 release. He was involved with a number of abortive projects before returning to the director's chair to helm a would-be Hitchcockian psychological thriller, "Color of Night" (1994), starring Bruce Willis as a troubled shrink. The film opened to healthy box office but faded fast in a flurry of negative reviews.

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