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Stuntman Hal Needham Dies of Cancer at 82

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood October 25, 2013 at 7:09PM

Legendary stuntman Hal Needham has died at age 82 from complications from cancer. He cried at all the warm tributes he received at the at last year's Governors Awards.
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Needham and Tarantino
Needham and Tarantino

Winning an honorary Oscar last year was legendary stuntman Hal Needham, the son of Arkansas sharecroppers with eight years of education, a paratrooper who tested parachutes by making over 400 jumps out of airplanes. Needham has died at age 82 from complications from cancer. He cried at all the warm tributes he received at the at the Governors Awards. 

Only one stuntman ever got the Oscar: Yakima Canutt, said presenter Quentin Tarantino: "Needham pushed boundaries in 60s action with better fights." He made good in Hollywood as a stuntman innovator, founder of Stunts Unlimited and director ("Smokey and the Bandit," "Cannonball Run"). And in so doing he suffered many cracked ribs, a punctured lung, and a broken back.

Producer Al Ruddy told an hilarious story about Needham shooting off a test missile on the Goldwyn lot that tore through soundstage ten-- and set it on fire. "He's someone you could depend on," said Ruddy. "Brave and bright."

More on Needham, Burt Reynolds and "Smokey and the Bandit" here. And Variety obit is here.

This article is related to: Obit


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.