Hal Needham, a stuntman who dazzled Hollywood for years before directing such Burt Reynolds films as Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run, died in Los Angeles, California today October 25, 2013. He was 82.
As a stunt performer and coordinator, Needham has worked on more than 30 films, including The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), How the West Was Won (1962), Little Big Man (1970), Blazing Saddles (1974) and Chinatown (1974). The co-founder of Stunts Unlimited and a mentor to young stunt performers, he earned the Academy’s Scientific and Engineering Award in 1986 for the design and development of the Shotmaker Elite camera car and crane, which allows filmmakers greater versatility in shooting action sequences.
Born Harold Brett Needham on March 6, 1931 in Memphis, Tennessee, Needham said that during the course of roughly 300 movies and 4,500 television episodes, he broke 56 bones, including his back twice, punctured a lung, dislocated a shoulder and knocked out a bunch of teeth.
Hal appeared in two Euro-westerns: “100 Hundred Rifles” (1969) as a stuntman and “Take a Hard Ride” (1975) as Garmes and performed stunts and was a second unit director.