October 26, 2013 – Hal Needham, one of the founders of Stunts Unlimited, and a top Hollywood stuntman has died. He was 82.
His best-known directing efforts involved 1970s Burt Reynolds action comedies, including “Smokey,” ”Cannonball Run” and “Stroker Ace.” He also directed Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Villain.”
Hal Needham, longtime stuntman and director of “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Cannonball Run” for Burt Reynolds, died Friday in Los Angeles after a short battle with cancer, his manager confirmed.
At one time the highest paid stuntman in the world, he was said to have broken 56 bones, broken his back twice, punctured a lung and knocked out a few teeth while working on 4500 TV episodes and 310 feature films. His work was admired by generations of filmmakers including Quentin Tarantino.
In a Twitter posting, Schwarzenegger calls Needham an icon.
Needham, a native of Tennessee, broke into show business as a stunt double for Richard Boone on the series “Have Gun, Will Travel.” Among the hundreds of films on which he did stunts were “Stagecoach,” “How the West Was Won,” “The Bridge at Remagen,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and “Little Big Man.”
He became friends with Reynolds, who offered Needham the opportunity to direct “Smokey and the Bandit,” for which Needham had written the screenplay. Needham also directed “Hooper,” “Stroker Ace,””Street Luge” and “Rad.”
Needham received a Governors Award from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences last year, where he was introduced by Tarantino, who said, “I have ripped off a lot of shots from you, and today I say, ‘Thank you very much.’” At the tribute, Needham called himself “the luckiest man alive and lucky to be alive.”
He developed numerous camera and production innovations, and won a Scientific and Engineering Oscar in 1987 for the design and development of the Shotmaker Elite camera car and crane. Among his other inventions were the air ram, air bag, car cannon turnover, nitrogen ratchet, jerk-off ratchet and rocket power.
Needham received an honorary Oscar last year.
A former paratrooper, Needham appeared in thousands of TV episodes and hundreds of movies, performing and designing stunts and new equipment to execute them.
Variety Article: http://variety.com/2013/film/news/hal-needham-legendary-stuntman-and-director-dead-at-82-1200763031/
Needham’s first break was as the stunt double for actor Richard Boone on the popular TV western Have Gun, Will Travel. Needham trained under John Wayne‘s stunt double Chuck Roberson and quickly became one of the top stuntmen of the 1960s on such films as How the West Was Won, The Bridge at Remagen, McLintock!, The War Lord, and Little Big Man. He doubled regularly for Clint Walker and Burt Reynolds. Needham moved into stunt coordinating and directing second unit action, while designing and introducing air bags and other innovative equipment to the industry. Needham told Adam Carolla during an interview that he lived in Burt Reynolds’ guesthouse for the better part of 12 years.
In 1971, he and fellow stuntmen Glenn Wilder and Ronnie Rondell formed Stunts Unlimited. Needham had written a screenplay titled Smokey and the Bandit and his friend Reynolds offered him the chance to direct. The film was a huge hit, and the two followed it with Hooper, The Cannonball Run, and Stroker Ace. Needham also directed the 80’s BMX cult classic film Rad.
Needham moved out of stunt work, focusing his energy on the World Land Speed Record project that eventually became the Budweiser Rocket, driven most notably by stuntman Stan Barrett. The team failed to set an officially sanctioned World land speed record with the vehicle, and their claims to have broken the sound barrier in 1979 have been heavily disputed. In the 1980s he was best known as the owner for the Harry Gant Skoal Bandit #33 car driven in the Winston Cup Series.
Needham received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Taurus World Stunt Awards. In 2012 he was awarded a Governors Award by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, where he was introduced by Quentin Tarantino.
Bobby Bass, veteran motion picture and television stuntman considered a legend in Hollywood for his feats in the guise of such bigger-than-life actors as John Wayne and Sylvester Stallone, has died. He was 65.
Bass died Wednesday in Los Angeles after suffering from Parkinson’s disease. “He was a remarkable man,” actress Bo Derek, Bass’ stepdaughter, told the Associated Press. “He’s an absolute legend in this business. Everyone just revered him.”
Bobby Bass, Dar Robinson and Ky working on Burt Reynolds Sharky’s Machine film.
Some stuntmen specialize in fistfights, explosions or car crashes and race driving, but Bass did them all and intricate martial arts too. In 1986, he shared a Stunt Man Award for best vehicular stunt for his work in “To Live and Die in L.A.”
Bass performed stunts in more than 40 films, including “Smokey and the Bandit” and its sequels, “Independence Day,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Scarface.”
He also served as stunt coordinator or assistant director for about 30 other films, including “Sharky’s Machine,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Black Rain,” “Tequila Sunrise” and “Rocky V.”
Sometimes he did both, coordinating and then performing the stunts, as in “Thelma and Louise.”
For fight scenes, he helped popularize such barroom tactics as the head butt, used to good effect in “Lethal Weapon,” the 1987 humorous action cop film.
“I think I dusted it off and gave it to Mel Gibson,” Bass told an interview in 1992 about the disabling maneuver. “After that you started seeing it.”
Bass taught another celluloid cop, Michael Douglas, to use that head butt in a scene for “Black Rain” in which Douglas’ character matched skulls with Japanese thugs.
While Bass set trends in the stunt industry, he also worked to foster safer working conditions. He was dating Heidi von Beltz when the stuntwoman was paralyzed in 1980 during a stunt-car crash on the set of “Cannonball Run.” Two years later came the fatal on-the-set helicopter crash that killed actor Vic Morrow and two children in “Twilight Zone: The Movie.”
The two accidents, among the worst in movie history, prompted far stricter oversight of stunt work on all sets. As both a coordinator and stuntman, Bass was front and center.
“As far as the stunt coordinators doing more [is concerned], I think everybody is really checking in their footsteps,” he said in 1987. “There is a little more intensity, because you can’t turn your back on these incidents. We have learned from these dreadful things, and we’d be fools to say we didn’t.”
Reforms, including reactivation of an industrywide safety council and stronger safety requirements in Screen Actors Guild contracts, produced quick results. On-the-set accidents decreased annually and steadily from 214 in 1982 to 65 in 1986.
Athletic and creative into his 60s, Bass was still doing rough-and-tumble stunts through the late 1990s in such action fare as “Eraser” in 1996, “Batman and Robin” in 1997, “Desperate Measures” in 1998 and “End of Days” in 1999.
Bass’ stunt versatility was evident in the range of films in which he drove, fought, shot or simply moved fast–“The Blues Brothers,” “The Sting II,” “Doctor Detroit,” “Twins,” “Dracula” and “Baby’s Day Out,” as well as the action movies.
“His sense of adventure was just so fantastic,” Derek said. “He always had new stunts he was inventing.”
When Bass wasn’t performing the tricks of his trade, he was teaching weapons handling or martial arts or fisticuffs to such stars as Gibson, Douglas, Burt Reynolds, Danny Glover, Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon and Kathleen Turner.
Rarely credited in his own name as a stuntman–a rare exception was in “The Perfect Weapon” in 1991–Bass received credits for minor roles as an actor in some films and television series.
In motion pictures ranging from the 1979 “Tom Horn” through the 1997 “Grosse Pointe Blank,” he took on such tough guy roles as a bodyguard, a rapist, an FBI agent, an armed man, a hit man.
elevision, he appeared as early as 1966, playing a guard in an episode of “Star Trek.” He acted, always in parts with lots of action, in several episodes of “The A-Team” and in such series as “Alias Smith and Jones,” “Fantasy Island,” “Mission Impossible” and “The Twilight Zone.”
Bass also performed in several commercials.
His family said funeral services will be private.
Source: LA Times