The Escape Artist (1982) – thoughts of a Script Consultant UK

As a script writer for hire and UK script consultant I’ve written a ton of blogposts about films that I love. Amongst these films, there aren’t many children’s films or films aimed at young people.  The Escape Artist (1982) is a children’s film, but adults will enjoy it too.

The film, directed by Caleb Deschanel – a really good cameraman, was produced by Francis Ford Coppola, during the glorious, but ill fated period when he was running his American Zoetrope Studio out of San Francisco.

It’s a shame that the Zoetrope project didn’t turn out the way Coppola intended, indeed, looking back, there were some remarkable films that came out of this period, not just from Coppola, but from the people he gave chances to – like Deschanel, with this, his directorial debut.

The Escape Artist has been described as a lost gem. It’s a wonderful, eccentric children’s film, about magic, trickery and madness.  It has a hard edge, but it’s romantic in its own way. The script written by Melissa Matheson, the writer of ET, pitches itself perfectly. And, of course, it looks glorious.

The late Raul Julia is an insane treat and there is at times a real sense of danger, which is unusual in a children’s film.  Griffin O’Neil (young son of Ryan) is very good in the lead role. And the other performances are excellent, of particular note is Elizabeth Daily as Sandra, who has a great, odd presence and was sadly underused in films at the time.

I love the ending, but won’t give it away – you should check it out yourself.

Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on or hire him on Peopleperhour