"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."
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.