Smokey and the Bandit Director Hal Needham Dies at 82
by Kate Stanhope
The Walking Dead producer Gale Anne Hurd was the first to report his death. “RIP Hal Needham, legendary stuntman, stunt coordinator and director. Truly one of the greatest ever,” Hurd tweeted on Friday.
As a stuntman and coordinator, Needham worked on more than 30 films including The Spirit of St. Louis and Chinatown. After becoming one of the highest-paid stuntmen in the film industry, Needham moved behind the camera in 1976 to direct Smokey and the Bandit after he approached friend Burt Reynolds about his idea. Also written by Needham, Smokey and the Bandit became the second-highest grossing movie of 1977.
Inspired by some of Needham’s own adventures, he next directed Reynolds, along with Sally Field, in the 1978 film Hooper, about a great Hollywood stuntman. He would go on to direct several more films including The Cannonball Run and Stroker Ace.
After working on roughly 300 movies and 4,500 episodes of television, Needham approximated that he had broken 56 bones, in addition to puncturing a lung and knocking out several of his teeth.
In 2012, Needham received an honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.