Hal Needham

Stuntman/ Stunt Supervisor


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his nearly three-hour Archive interview, Hal Needham (1931-2013) talks about his early years leading an outdoor lifestyle, dropping out of school after the 8th grade and joining the military as a teenager. He recalls taking his experience as a paratrooper and using it to break into stunt work on the feature film "The Spirit of St. Louis." He describes his determination in his stunt work, always going to the limit, never turning a stunt down and gaining a reputation for getting the stunt on the first take. He remembers several Western series he worked on, including Have Gun, Will Travel (doubling star Richard Boone), Rawhide, The Virginian and The Wild, Wild West. Needham recounts the kinds of stunts that he performed on these shows, including horse-riding stunts and falls. He details his work and relationship with star Burt Reynolds, whom he doubled throughout most of his career (including Reynolds' television series Riverboat and several feature films). He then speaks of working as a stunt coordinator as well as a director, recalling his work on feature films Hooper and The Cannonball Run. He talks about the design and development of the Shotmaker Elite camera car and crane, for which he received much recognition, including a Scientific/Engineering Award from AMPAS. He also remembers the creation of the stuntman organization "Stunts Unlimited." Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview on February 11, 2008 in Los Angeles, CA.

"I'm not a specialist. I was the first stuntman that could do everything. Whether it was water, horses, cars, motorcycles, whatever. When I came in, everybody was a specialist. If you did horses, that's what you did. If you were a swordsman or a fight man, or car, motorcycle...that's what you did. I went up the ladder so fast because I could do it all."

Highlights
Hal Needham on being a stunt coordinator
01:55
Hal Needham on his first directing job with "Smokey and the Bandit"
02:09
Hal Needham on being under contract to Warner Brothers Television
07:34
Hal Needham on pratfalls and fire stunts
04:32
Hal Needham on his association with Burt Reynolds
07:50
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on the first time he saw television and his favorite shows as a kid; on his time in the military
On getting into the film and television industry; on his mentor, stuntman Chuck Roberson; on his early motion picture career
On the early days of TV stunt work; on his acting aspirations and being under contract to Warner Brothers Television
On working on various shows including Playhouse 90, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Rawhide, The Virginian, and Wagon Train

Chapter 2

On doing stunts for Gunsmoke, The Wild, Wild West and Wells Fargo; on actors taking credit for his stunt work
On his association with Burt Reynolds; on working with actors
On various kinds of stunts; on stuntmen's styles; on his unique ability to do every kind of stunt
On budgets for stunts; on preparation he did as a stunt coordinator

Chapter 3

On becoming a second unit director; on safety standards for stuntmen; on directing "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Hooper"
On his directing style; on inventing the "Shotmaker"; on his Emmy Award and his involvement with NASCAR
On insurance for stuntmen; on then-current activities; on how stunts have changed
On career achievements and regrets; on advice to aspiring stuntmen and directors; on how he'd like to be remembered
B-Roll pictures from Hal Needham's career - on the set of Ed Sullivan with Richard Boone; on the set of "McClintock"; with Burt Reynolds on horses; with Dean Martin; with Dustin Hoffman on the set of "Little Big Man"; on the set of Have Gun, Will Travel; his Emmy Award and his Oscar; with Charlton Heston; with Kirk Douglas
Shows

Gunsmoke

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Hal Needham on being under contract to Warner Brothers Television
07:34
Hal Needham on doing stunts for Gunsmoke
02:13
Hal Needham on working with actors and the challenge of seeming the right weight or height
02:53

Have Gun - Will Travel

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Hal Needham on his early stunt work on Have Gun Will Travel
03:50
Hal Needham on being under contract to Warner Brothers Television
07:34

Laramie

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Hal Needham on doing stunt work for Mike Hammer and Laramie
03:09

Mannix

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Hal Needham on doing stunts for Mannix
01:27

Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer

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Hal Needham on doing stunt work for Mike Hammer and Laramie
03:09

Playhouse 90

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Hal Needham on working on Playhouse 90
01:23

Rawhide

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Hal Needham on being under contract to Warner Brothers Television
07:34
Hal Needham on various westerns he did stunts for
03:21

Virginian, The

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Hal Needham on various westerns he did stunts for
03:21

Wagon Train

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Hal Needham on various westerns he did stunts for
03:21

Wanted: Dead or Alive

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Hal Needham on doing stunts for Wanted: Dead or Alive with Steve McQueen
01:47

Wild Wild West, The

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Hal Needham on doing stunts for The Wild, Wild West and Wells Fargo
05:25

You Asked For It

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Hal Needham on his first television job as a stunt man on You Asked For It
01:10
Topics

Creative Influences and Inspiration

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Hal Needham on his mentor Chuck Roberson
02:37

Emmy Awards

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Hal Needham on his Emmy Award
01:55

Technological Innovation

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Hal Needham on his invention the "Shotmaker" and other innovations
08:25
Professions

Directors

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Hal Needham on advice to aspiring stuntmen and directors
12:13
Hal Needham on creating an atmosphere on film sets
05:01

Performers

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Hal Needham on doing stunts "by the seat of his pants"
02:54
Hal Needham on advice to aspiring stuntmen and directors
12:13
Hal Needham on stunt men staying physically and mentally fit
01:16
Hal Needham on insurance coverage for stunt men
02:31

Stunt Performer/Stunt Supervisor/Stunt Coordinator

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Hal Needham on doing stunts "by the seat of his pants"
02:54
Hal Needham on being a stunt coordinator
08:39
Hal Needham on advice to aspiring stuntmen and directors
12:16
Hal Needham on stunt men staying physically and mentally fit
01:16
Hal Needham on insurance coverage for stunt men
02:31
Genres

Western Series

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Hal Needham on his early stunt work on Have Gun Will Travel
03:50
Hal Needham on doing stunts for Gunsmoke, The Wild, Wild West and Wells Fargo
07:15
People

James Arness

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Hal Needham on doing stunts for Gunsmoke
02:13
Hal Needham on working with actors and the challenge of seeming the right weight or height
02:53

Ward Bond

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Hal Needham on various westerns he did stunts for
03:21

Robert Conrad

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Hal Needham on doing stunts for The Wild, Wild West and Wells Fargo
05:25

Kirk Douglas

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Hal Needham on working with Kirk Douglas
02:13

Clint Eastwood

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Hal Needham on various westerns he did stunts for
03:21

John Ford

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Hal Needham on doing stunts for John Wayne and John Ford
03:52

Burt Reynolds

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Hal Needham on his association with Burt Reynolds
07:50

Chuck Roberson

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Hal Needham on his mentor Chuck Roberson
02:37

Dale Robertson

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Hal Needham on doing stunts for The Wild, Wild West and Wells Fargo
05:25

John Wayne

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Hal Needham on doing stunts for John Wayne and John Ford
03:52

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