Stuntman and Director Hal Needham Dead at 82
He wrecked hundreds of cars, fell from tall buildings, got blown up and was dragged by horses. As a stuntman, he broke 56 bones, including his back twice! Memphis-born Hal Needham revolutionized the art of the stuntman in films such as HOW THE WEST WAS WON, STAGECOACH (1966), HELLFIGHTERS, LITTLE BIG MAN, and hundreds of TV shows. He was a regular stunt double for Burt Reynolds and began his movie directing career with Burt as his lead in SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, the second highest-grossing film of 1977 next to STAR WARS. He would direct Reynolds in four more films including STROKER ACE, CANNONBALL RUN, and HOOPER, which was not a tribute to just stuntmen in general, but to Needham’s hero Jock Mahoney , considered the greatest stuntman in Hollywood (and the stepfather of HOOPER co-star Sally Field). Needham’s MEGAFORCE (1982) is an ‘80s time capsule kitsch masterpiece and the delirious THE VILLAIN (1978) starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kirk Douglas in what was basically a live-action Road Runner cartoon disguised as a western. Hal Needham died in Los Angeles today at age 82.
From The Los Angeles Times:
Hal Needham, a highly regarded Hollywood stuntman and director of frothy, adrenaline-pumped films like “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Cannonball Run,” has died. He was 82. Needham died Friday in Los Angeles, according to his business managers at Laura Lizer and Associates. No other details were immediately available. Born in Memphis, Tenn., Needham spoke with a down-home twang. He was a fixture in the movie business for most of his working life. In a stunt career that spanned hundreds of TV episodes and feature films, he tumbled down cliffs, leaped off boulders, jumped from planes, tottered off balconies and plunged from towers. He was rattled in blasts and blistered in fires. He broke 56 bones, including, twice, his back. He punctured a lung, damaged his hearing, lost a few teeth and was knocked out countless times but maintained a sunny outlook even after swooping into the unknown territory of directing…….
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