Hollywood stuntman Hal Needham died yesterday in Los Angeles at the age of 82, with his friends and colleagues paying tribute to the industry veteran.
Needham died on Friday morning following a short battle with cancer. His death follows his honourary Oscar at the 2012 Governors Awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Reported to be the highest paid stuntman in movie history after his work on more than 30 films, Needham soon turned to directing. He was at the helm for several films starring Burt Reynolds, whom he often doubled for, including Smokey and the Bandit, Stroker Ace and The Cannonball Run.
Smokey and the Bandit was a massive box-office hit, raking in more than $126 million as the second-highest grossing movie of 1977.
Hal Needham has died at the age of 82 (WENN)
The director continued his commercial success with Hooper (1978), starring Reynolds with Sally Field. A story of a great Hollywood stuntman, it was loosely based on Needham’s own adventures and featured 30 of Hollywood’s top stunt performers.
Needham released an autobiography in 2011, in which he proudly claimed to have broken 56 bones in his lifetime as well as knocking out teeth and puncturing a lung.
Needham’s third move into directing was The Villain (1979), starring Kirk Douglas and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Schwarzenegger was one of many to pay tribute to Needham on Twitter as the news broke, with the actor tweeting:
“Hal Needham was a great stunt coordinator, director and an icon. I’m still grateful he took a chance with me in The Villain. I’ll miss him."
Director Edgar Wright added his own tribute: "Everyone stop what they are doing and perform a spectacular jump in a rocket powered Trans-Am to honour the late, great Hal Needham".