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.”