Hal Needham, the director of the Burt Reynolds action flicks Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit, passed away on Friday in Los Angeles. The filmmaker was 82.
According to The New York Times, Needham’s death was recently confirmed by manager Laura Lizer. However, details about his death are few and far between at the moment. The director’s manager refused to comment further on his passing.
Hal Needham was born in 1931 and raised in Arkansas during the Great Depression. Following his stint as a paratrooper in the United States Army, he began a career as a stuntman. His official bio at Internet Movie Database claims that Needham starred in over 4,500 television shows and 310 movies.
Once the highest paid stuntman in the entire world, Hal Needham reportedly punctured a lung, knocked out several teeth, and broke no less than 56 bones over the course of his career. In addition to his work in front of the camera, Needham directed a number of notable motion pictures and television series.
Included in Needham’s filmography are Hooper, The Villain, Megaforce, and the 1986 BMX action flick Rad. He also directed the sequels Smokey and the Bandit II and Cannonball Run II.
During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Hal Needham said his skills as an athlete helped him get his foot in the Hollywood door. Before long, the stuntman was working full-time in a number of projects on the big screen and on television.
Needham told the publication:
“When I came in, Westerns were the big thing, so I did horse falls, transfers, bulldogs, big fights. That’s where you could really shine if you were really good at it. But then all the Westerns stopped, and I was capable of doing car stunts, motorcycle stunts and high falls. I could do it all. I worked every day. I never turned down a stunt.”
Not surprisingly, fans of the stuntman and filmmaker were saddened by the news of his passing. You can check out some Twitter reactions to his death below.
Hal Needham directed some pretty awful movies. He also directed some truly fun movies. Sorta like a stuntman turned director might. RIP.
— Scott Weinberg (@scottEweinberg) October 25, 2013
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. Your movies were something I enjoyed with my dad. Can't wait to enjoy them with my son.
— Christopher Campbell (@thefilmcynic) October 25, 2013
You ruled Hal Needham.
— rockie juarez (@RockieWarAntz) October 25, 2013
Hal Needham, goodbye. Gonna jump a bridge in your honor.
— Alan Cerny (@NordlingAICN) October 25, 2013
Are you a fan of Hal Needham? What’s your favorite movie featuring the stuntman?