Hal Needham, a Hollywood stuntman and director, died this morning. He is one of Hollywood’s most well-known stuntman, and was also the writer and director of Smokey And The Bandit.
He was 82-years-old, and had just received a Governors Award from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences in 2012.
The Academy, which unfortunately does not award actors for their stunt work, cited Needham as “an innovator, mentor and master technician who elevated his craft to an art and made the impossible look easy.”
Needham had a long career that spanned from 1956-1996, which included 98 credits as a stuntman, and 55 films as an actor.
RIP Hal Needham. Hooper, Smokey and The Bandit, Cannonball Run, Stroker Ace and he had this incredible life as a stuntman before all that.
— Tom Arnold (@TomArnold) October 26, 2013
His most well-known films as a director also included those where he worked with Burt Reynolds in a number of action-comedies, most notably Smokey And The Bandit. Needham and Reynolds enjoyed great success together with Smokey And The Bandit, and as a result, Needham started to focus on directing. After that, he continued to direct Reynolds in Smokey And The Bandit 2, Stroker Ace, The Cannonball Run, and more.
The Hollywood pair also owned the Skoal Bandit NASCAR team, which won several races in the 1980’s.
RIP Hal Needham. Great director and stuntman. I had the pleasure of being Hal's assistant director on occasion. pic.twitter.com/LTfsXvB7lg
— Harry Bring (@LLPOS) October 26, 2013
My #1 movie hero died today. I love you Hal Needham. I hope there's car jumps and horse stunts in heaven.
— dax shepard (@daxshepard1) October 25, 2013
He was also a paratrooper during the Korean War before beginning his career in Hollywood. During his expansive career, he appeared in several films doing all sorts of dangerous stunts where he jumped from planes, was dragged by horses and wrecked cars, breaking a total of 56 bones in the process.
Hal Needham is the co-founder of Stunts Unlimited, and has performed stunts for hundreds of films, as well as TV shows throughout his life.
Hal Needham was a great stunt coordinator, director, and an icon. I’m still grateful he took a chance with me in The Villain. I’ll miss him.
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) October 25, 2013
RIP Hal Needham. Saw him get a well deserved honorary Oscar a couple of yrs ago. Seemed like a great guy who lived a pretty great life.
— Diane Warren (@Diane_Warren) October 25, 2013
His death came shortly after a diagnosis with cancer. Hal Needham was a beloved member of the Hollywood community, and while he was not seen in the public eye as much as most celebrities, he was one of the best at what he did.