Hal Needham, Hollywood Stuntman and Director, Dead at 82

Hal Needham, Hollywood Stuntman and Director, Dead at 82

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Needham was a frequent stunt double for Burt Reynolds

Hal Needham, a stuntman and film director, died in Los Angeles on Friday morning at 82, a representative for Needham told TheWrap.

The cause of Needham's death was not immediately available.

Also read: Hollywood's Notable Deaths of 2013

Born in Memphis, Tenn., in 1931, Needham got his break in the business as a stunt double in the TV western “Have Gun, Will Travel,” and provided stunt work in films such as “How the West Was Won,” “The War Lord” and “Little Big Man.” He frequently served as a stunt double for actor Burt Reynolds.

Needham's working relationship with Reynolds extended when Needham branched into directing, with 1977's “Smokey and the Bandit.”  Needham would direct the actor in other films including “Hooper,” “Stroker Ace,” and “The Cannonball Run.”

Reynolds hailed Needham as “a friend, a colleague, and a mentor” in a statement to TheWrap.

“I have lost a friend, a colleague, and a mentor. Words cannot describe the sense of loss that I feel right now,”Reynolds said. “Hal was one of a kind -he really could do it all-he directed top films, developed creative innovations for the film industry and became the world's highest paid stuntman-all with a great attitude of having fun, and working hard. He was my partner in the Skoal Bandit NASCAR team, my roommate, and a true friend-I always knew he had my back whether directing me on film, doing a stunt, or simply looking out for me.

“There will be a huge empty space left by him, and now there is nobody you can call that can handle a horse gag or a 75 foot fall out of a helicopter.

“I was shocked to hear the news, nobody knew he was sick, but that is the way Hal was, not wanting to burden anyone else, but to shoulder it himself. I loved him like a brother. And I miss him already.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was directed by Needham in the 1979 film “The Villain,” remembered Needham as “a great stunt coordinator, director, and an icon” via Twitter.

Needham was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Taurus World Stunt Awards. Last year, he received an honorary Oscar by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Quentin Tarantino introduced him at the Governors Award ceremony.

“I have never worked with you,” said Tarantino, “but I have worked with a lot of people you know and I have ripped off a lot of shots from you.”

 

  • Chartreuxe

    Truly I can attest that Hal Needham was a gracious and kind gentleman.
    Over the last several years I've had an online correspondence with him
    through his son, David. Hal was kind enough to answer questions about
    Richard Boone, who gave him his start on HAVE GUN – WILL TRAVEL as his
    stunt man. Hal patiently responded to questions that went back sixty
    years.

    Hal Needham was a heck of a nice guy and a helluva stunt man,
    but anyone could see that for themselves. We've lost a great man and
    true auteur.

  • Pete

    Got Taft Hartley'd on a Needham film MEGAFORCE 30 years ago.
    He was a hoot to work for ; the best of best.
    He was a paratrooper from the Korean War also and we spend time at a Taurus Awards reminiscing about the past. He was always positive and outgoing.
    Hal we miss you! RIP brother paratrooper/stuntman!

  • PaC SGM (R)

    Hal Needham was an awesome stuntman back in the 80's “Hooper” I heard was loosely based on Mr. Needham.
    He was the reason I became a Paratrooper thinking a quick 4 year enlistment would get me the experience to become a stuntman, turns out I stayed for over 26 years so he is a bit responsible for my chosen career.
    Sad to hear of his passing.