Star 80

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Star 80
Promotional poster
Directed by Bob Fosse
Produced by Wolfgang Glattes
Kenneth Utt
Written by Teresa Carpenter
Bob Fosse
Music by Ralph Burns
Cinematography Sven Nykvist
Edited by Alan Heim
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
November 10, 1983
Running time
103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million
Box office $6,472,990

Star 80 is a 1983 American film about the true (yet somewhat fictionalized) story of Playboy Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten, who was murdered by her estranged, Svengali-like husband Paul Snider in 1980. The film was directed by Bob Fosse, and starred Mariel Hemingway and Eric Roberts. Cliff Robertson played Hugh Hefner. Hefner's real-life brother Keith appears in the movie as Dorothy's photographer. In spite of that, Hugh Hefner sued the producers of the picture, stemming from his disapproval of how he was depicted in the film.

The film was shot on location in Vancouver, British Columbia and Los Angeles, California; the death scene was filmed in the same house in which the murder-suicide actually took place. The story is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Village Voice article "Death of a Playmate" by Teresa Carpenter; the film's title was taken from Snider's vanity license plates.

Star 80 was the second movie based on the murder of Stratten. It was preceded by the 1981 television film Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story in which Jamie Lee Curtis portrayed Stratten, and Bruce Weitz portrayed Paul Snider.

Roberts earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Dramatic Actor for his performance in the film. Star 80 was the last film Fosse directed.


A teenaged girl, Dorothy Hoogstraten, is working at a Dairy Queen in her hometown of Vancouver, Canada when a customer in his 20s, Paul Snider, makes her acquaintance. Snider becomes her date for a school dance, over the objections of Dorothy's mother, who does not care for his manner, dress, or attempt to ingratiate himself with the family, Dorothy's younger sister in particular.

Snider has such a violent and jealous nature, he literally backstabs a former boyfriend of Dorothy's with a pocket knife at the dance. But he is persuasive, winning over Dorothy with his attention and flattery, until finally he gets her to agree to pose for Polaroid photographs, nude. He then sends the pictures to Playboy magazine, (after forging Dorothy's mother's signature on an age consent form), which invites Dorothy to come to Los Angeles to be shot by a professional photographer.

Dorothy's beauty and sweet nature make her an immediate success at the magazine. She lands a job as a "Bunny" at an L.A. Playboy Club, then becomes Playmate of the Month for the issue of August 1979 under a new name, Dorothy Stratten. She appreciates publisher Hugh Hefner's personal interest. Paul pressures her into marrying him, which Dorothy agrees to out of gratitude. She is named Playmate of the Year for 1980.

Paul spends money they don't have, putting up a false front, buying an expensive Mercedes with the vanity license plate STAR 80. His attempts at various business ventures are mainly futile, eclipsed by Dorothy's modest success with a handful of film and television roles. Paul begins coming to the Playboy Mansion, with or without Dorothy, which annoys Hefner and others. At a party at the Mansion, Dorothy catches the eye of movie director Aram Nicholas, whom Hefner wheedles into letting Dorothy read for a part in his upcoming film. Obsessively jealous, Paul is at first pleased when Aram wants to make Dorothy an actress, then furious when he senses Aram's interest has turned romantic. He hires a private investigator to follow her.

Dorothy is mistreated by Paul, who is broke and highly agitated, and encouraged by others to leave him. She finally declares her intention to do so, but agrees to one last meeting with Paul at their house, hoping to placate him with a financial settlement. He first makes pleas for her not to leave him, then flies into rages, verbally and physically abusing her, ultimately raping her. He picks up the 12-gauge shotgun he had purchased—killing 20-year-old Dorothy with a point-blank blast to her face. He then sexually violates her lifeless body once more before turning the gun on himself.



  • Bob Fosse - Director/Screenwriter
  • Wolfgang Glattes — Producer
  • Kenneth Utt — Producer
  • Sven Nykvist - Director of Photography
  • Grace Blake — Associate Producer


The film was screened out of competition at the 34th Berlin International Film Festival.[1] The film received a mixed reception upon release, although it was generally agreed that Eric Roberts gave an impressive performance as Snider.[2] The Washington Post called it "Bob Fosse's latest stylish stinker." Gene Siskel placed the film on his top-ten list of the best films of 1983, taking into account that the film was very unpleasant to watch. Roger Ebert gave the film four-out-of-four stars.[3]

Appearing with Siskel on an October 1986 edition of The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, Ebert said, to agreement from Rivers and Siskel, that Roberts "should have been [Oscar]-nominated." Ebert spoke of a "Star 80 syndrome," with Gary Oldman's reading of Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy (1986) being snubbed for the same reason as Roberts' performance: "Hollywood will not nominate an actor for portraying a creep, no matter how good the performance is."[4]

The film opened in 16 theaters grossing $233,312 its opening weekend. Eventually the film grossed a total of $6,472,990 domestically with 502 theaters being its widest release.[5] Star 80 maintains an 89% "fresh" rating from Rotten Tomatoes.


  1. ^ "Berlinale: 1984 Programme". Retrieved 2011-01-06. 
  2. ^ "The Best of 1983", Siskel & Ebert At The Movies, 1983.
  3. ^ "Star 80". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 17, 1986). "Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel". The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers. Season 1. Episode 7. Fox Network. Fox Entertainment Group. I tell you who definitely won't be [Oscar] nominated – and should be, and that's a young British actor named Gary Oldman, who plays Sid Vicious – the punk rocker – in Sid and Nancy. And he's going to fall prey to the Star 80 syndrome, which is why Eric Roberts wasn't nominated: Hollywood will not nominate an actor for portraying a creep, no matter how good the performance is...He [Roberts] should have been nominated. 
  5. ^

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