Oscar Directors: Rush, Richard–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

August 19, 2020

Richard Rush Career Summary

(Careers that Never Took Off; One-film director):

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First Film:

First Oscar Nomination:

Other Nominations:

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Richard Rush (born April 15, 1929 in New York, New York) , the American film director, scriptwriter, and producer, is best known for the Oscar-nominated The Stunt Man.

His film Color of Night won a Golden Raspberry Award as the worst film of 1994, but Maxim magazine also singled the film out as having the best sex scene in film history.

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.

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. While he agreed with the military’s involvement in the region, Rush’s participation in this largely symbolic conflict can be seen as a defining event for the director who later explained:

There’s a recurring theme that I keep getting attracted to in film. . . . Being unable to accept truth, we have a tendency to accept systems, and to believe in a series of learned homilies and arbitrary rituals of good and evil, right and wrong. Magic, king, country, mother, God, all those burning truths we got from our early bathroom training from bumper stickers and from crocheted pillow cases. When it’s right to kill. When it’s not right to kill. Under what circumstances. Arbitrary rules invented for the occasion. And we really dedicate ourselves to them ferociously. And they tend to obscure any real human feeling or any real morality that might emerge to substitute for it.

After his propaganda work, Rush opened a production company to produce commercials and industrial films.

At the age of 30, 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. Too Soon to Love is considered the first product of the “American New Wave.”[citation needed] It also marked an early film appearance of 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.

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 too 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).

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,[citation needed] 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.

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. However, Color of Night also won “Best Sex Scene in film history” award from Maxim magazine; Rush was very proud of the award, which he kept in his bathroom.

Afterward, Rush retreated from commercial cinema. 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 most recent project is a DVD documentary on the making of The Stunt Man entitled The Sinister Saga of Making The Stunt Man (2001).

He currently resides in Bel Air with his wife Claudia. He has an older brother, Dr. Stephen Rush who also resides in LA.

Filmography (as director and writer)

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