Top: Jack Gill, Billy Burton Sr., Buddy Joe Hooker and Gary Combs. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Los Angeles, August 12, 2019. Bottom: David Hamburger, Buddy Joe Hooker, Hal Needham, Bobby Bass. Tommy Huff, Justin DeRosa, Chuck Tamburro, Gary Combs. Hooper (1978)

The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has dedicated the month of August to stunts!

On August 12th  they had a screening of Hooper at the DTLA location and Jack Gill moderated a Q&A after with stunt legends, Hooper alumns and original SU members Billy Burton Sr., Buddy Joe Hooker, and Gary Combs,

Thank you to all that attended especially Ellyn Needham, Manny Perry (SU), Chris O’Hara (SU), Melissa Stubbs (SU), Justin DeRosa (also a Hooper alumn!) and Amber Gallaway of Stand Up for Stunts!

Thank you Alamo Draft House Los Angeles for a wonderful night, we look forward to doing more of these!!!

Hooper Screening Q & A: Jack Gill, Billy Burton Sr., Buddy Joe Hooker and Gary Combs. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Los Angeles, August 12, 2019

Hal Needham, longtime stuntman and director of  “Hooper”, “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Cannonball Run” was also one of the founding fathers of Stunts Unlimited, along with Glenn Wilder and Ronnie Rondell. The three legendary stuntmen left The Stuntmen’s Association of Motion Pictures to form an elite organization comprised of Hollywood’s top A-list stunt performers where stunts would be UNLIMITED! SU membership consisted (and still consists) of the top motorcycle riders, car drivers, horsemen, pilots, aerial specialists, and fight choreographers, all with the innovative ideas and progressive thinking needed for the future of stunts in film and television.

The film “Hooper” was Hal Needham’s love letter to the stunt community, showing not only the skill and dedication it takes to be a top stunt person in Hollywood, but also the importance of the craft within the movie making business, right along with all the other departments integral to filmmaking – writing, producing, directing, cinematography, lighting, sound, special effects, costumes, hair, makeup, props, casting, transportation, etc.!

Billy Burton Sr., Hooper (1978)

In the Q & A after the screening of “Hooper” Billy Burton Sr. remarked that he felt Hooper was probably one of Hal’s best films and it really shows the ins and outs of stunts in the process of film making at the time. He also stated that Hal’s innovation paved the way for the rest of the stunt community.

Hal Needham received two academy awards, the first in 1986 he and William L. Fredrick received a Scientific and Engineering Award from the Academy for the design and development of the Shotmaker Elite camera car and crane. The partially electric Shotmaker car combined camera, crane and generator cars into one, saving money and reducing noise.

Hal received his second Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the Governors Awards for extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement in 2013.

Gary Combs stunt doubling Burt Reynolds, Hooper (1978)

During the discussion after the film Gary Combs recalled that Hal was a great man, but could be difficult to work for – it was well known if you didn’t get a gag done right the first time, Hal would put on the clothes and do it himself!

Combs also recalled that he felt he didn’t get the horse to horse jump during the  chariot race quite right (he was doubling Burt and Buddy Joe was doubling Jan), so he begged Hal to let him do it over again. Hal felt he had the coverage he needed, but relented and let the horse drag Buddy Joe in the dirt one more time just to be safe!

Alfie Wise, Burt Reynolds, James Best, Buddy Joe Hooker, Hooper (1978)

The last question of the night was pointed to Buddy Joe, it has long been rumored that the character of Ski was based, at least in part, on Buddy Joe Hooker and Hooper was fashioned after Hal Needham. Buddy Joe said he was sure the writers talked to many up and coming stuntmen, so he didn’t think the character was based on any one person, but he did have a real life experience that closely matched the story line in the film.

When Buddy Joe was trying to break into stunts he was working as an extra on a film called  Beau Jeste that Hal Needham was stunt coordinating. Buddy Joe’s father was friends with the producer who convinced the director to ask Hal to put the kid in the picture. Reluctantly, Hal agreed and really put the Buddy Joe through the ringer – setting him on fire and putting him on a high fall through a break away roof that was also on fire.

To everyone’s surprise Buddy Joe took it like a champ and completed the gag without a hitch. That was the start of Buddy Joe’s fifty plus year career as a stuntman, stunt coordinator and second unit director. Like Gary Combs and Billy Burton Sr., Buddy Joe Hooker was one of the original members of Stunts Unlimited.


Hal Needham on Hooper set with stunt team (1977)

If you weren’t able to join us, or if you just want more Hooper behind the scenes, watch this wonderfully insightful featurette about the making of Hooper!
Click here for yours!