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Stuntman!: My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life [Kindle Edition]

Hal Needham
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $25.99
Kindle Price: $12.99
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Sold by: Hachette Book Group
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Book Description

Yep that's me, Hal Needham, on the cover doing a fire stunt. When you're on fire you don't dare breathe because if you do, you'll suck those flames right down your throat. I was Hollywood's highest paid stuntman so I should know.

I wrecked hundreds of cars, fell from tall buildings, got blown up, was dragged by horses, and along the way broke 56 bones, my back twice, punctured a lung and knocked out a few teeth...I hung upside down by my ankles under a bi-plane in The Spirit of St. Louis, jumped between galloping horses in Little Big Man, set a world record for a boat stunt on Gator, jumped a rocket powered pick-up truck across a canal for a GM commercial, was the first human to test the car airbag-and taught John Wayne how to really throw a movie punch.

Life also got exciting outside of the movie business. I had my Ferrari stolen right from under my nose, flew in a twin-engine Cessna with a passed out pilot, rescued the cast and crew from a Russian invasion in Czechoslovakia, and once took six flight attendants on a date. I owned the Skoal-Bandit NASCAR race team, the sound-barrier breaking Budweiser Rocket Car and drove a souped-up, fake ambulance in a "little" cross-country race called The Cannonball Run, which became the movie I directed by the same name. Oh yeah, I also directed Smokey and the Bandit, Hooper and several other action/comedy movies that I liked a bunch.

I was a sharecropper's son from the hills of Arkansas who became a Hollywood stuntman. That journey was a tough row to hoe. I continually risked my life but that was the career I chose. I was never late to the set and did whatever I had to do to get the job done.

Hollywood's not all sunglasses and autographs. Let me tell you a few stories...

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Needham worked more than 40 years in Hollywood as a stuntman who filled in for John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Dustin Hoffman, and Burt Reynolds. Given the exciting and dangerous jobs he performed wrangling horses, staging fights, doing "high falls," and crashing cars, Needham has plenty of material, and he writes like a guy telling stories at a bar, laying out one anecdote after another about 1960s and '70s directors and big-time actors. Of course, as a thrice married, hard-living stuntman who was not only Reynolds's stunt-double but also his best friend, Needham has his share of fun and not-so-dirty little secrets that he doles out in a playful prose that makes it obvious that no matter how serious he took his job, he knew how to enjoy life. Indeed, Needham's personal life—bootlegging alcohol (he grew up in Arkansas), racing a car cross-country—has informed his work as both stuntman and director of such movies as Smokey and the Bandit, Stroker Ace, Cannonball Run, and Hooper. (Feb.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

An absolute must for fans of books about moviemaking, this autobiography of one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed stuntmen—not to mention one of the most financially successful directors of the 1970s and early 1980s—is guaranteed to keep readers glued to their seats. Needham, who broke into stunt work in the late 1950s, was the stunt coordinator for the television series Have Gun—Will Travel for six seasons. Moving to the big screen, he worked on movies directed by some of Hollywood’s heavyweights (Wilder, Penn, Frankenheimer, Schaffner) and starring some of the movie business’ biggest names (Wayne, Douglas, Hoffman, Hackman, Sinatra). In the seventies, he segued into directing, launching that career with the wildly successful, if critically reviled, Smokey and the Bandit (which, he reminds us, was beaten at the box office that year by only one movie, Star Wars). Needham also, for better or worse, pioneered the use of outtakes during a movie’s closing credits. A well-written and exciting book. --David Pitt

Product Details

  • File Size: 5607 KB
  • Print Length: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (February 9, 2011)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00495ZE2G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #595,260 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the biography of the "Father" of the modern stuntman, Hal Needham. Hal leads you from his impoverished childhood as the step-son of a hardworking Arkansas sharecropper, and son of a depression era hardworking, non-complaining Mother... through his almost mythical rise to the top of the Hollywood stuntman empire. Along the way, more Hollywood big star names are dropped than you would hear by watching "Entertainment Tonight" for a week. Additionally you will learn the inside "tricks" and dare devil approaches to movie's magic stunts. **BUT-FIRST**... in a surprisingly unique beginning to this never dull, even for a minute story... when the introduction is presented exactly like the "coming-attractions" or "previews" when you watch a movie. The first nine pages are just enough name dropping and action teases to make you "run" at full speed into the rest of the book.

The story traces Hal's less than humble beginnings in Arkansas to his less than stellar school education which ended in the ninth grade. Hal volunteered for the armed services during the Korean War and later becomes a tree climber... which without knowing it got him ready to change the world of Hollywood stunts. From stuntman to stunt doubles for everyone from Richard Boone in his heyday as Paladin in "Have Gun Will Travel" to John Wayne. (Whom Hal says was his favorite actor to work with of all time. "THE DUKE, DUKE WAS DEDICATED. HE KNEW EVERY JOB ON THE SET AND COULD DO MOST OF THEM. HE WASN'T AFRAID TO GET HIS HANDS DIRTY. HE ALWAYS LOOKED OUT FOR HIS CREW AND TREATED PEOPLE WITH RESPECT. BUT HE ALSO KNEW ABOUT HARD WORK AND WASN'T AFRAID TO TELL SOMEONE THE TRUTH IF HE FELT THEY WEREN'T PUTTING FORTH ENOUGH EFFORT.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
By Peridot
It's rare I write such a positive review about an autobiography, but this one is the best of the best. Hal Needham has told a fascinating story about his interesting life, and I could not put it down.

Mr Needham is a nice guy and an honourable man. He attributes his success and wealth to his teacher and mentor, Richard Boone. This is rare in actors and Hollywood types. It's refreshing to read this book. I cannot believe I nearly passed it by.

You must read this book if:

1) You're interested in how stunts work
2) You want to know more about Richard Boone and his acting school
3) You are now or have ever been a fan of HAVE GUN - WILL TRAVEL
4) You're interested in John Wayne or John Ford
5) You have any interest in Burt Reynolds and/or the making of SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT
6) Television Westerns turn you on

In addition the book is a good read, fast paced and amusing. Anyone would find it fun.


Since I read this book I've read a number of Hollywood western biographies: Maureen O'Hara, director John Ford, Harry Carey, Jr, John Wayne, Charlton Heston (not strictly western but so very Hollywood) as well as some production books and the bios of producers and other 'little' folks. This one is the best of the best.

Buy it and read it, you won't be disappointed. It's a larruping good read!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Michael
Not many people can say they have set Guinness world records, worked on 4,500 television episodes, 310 feature films and directed 10 features including the highest grossing movie before some little flick called Star Wars came out. But Hal Needham can.

From teaching John Wayne how to really throw a punch, showing Dustin Hoffman how to fan a six shooter and calling Burt Reynolds your best friend, Hal brings his stories to life in Stuntman! He makes you feel like you're sitting next to him on the back lot of Warner Brothers waiting for your call time and zipping through back roads and alleys on the back of his CZ motorcycle during the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Hal Needham undeniably made me laugh `til my stomach hurt, shed a few tears for a horse named Hondo, and re-read pages because I couldn't believe what had just happened.

Stuntman! is certainly a page-turner and unquestionably the best autobiography I have ever read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars get over it and have some fun April 1, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sure, Hal Needham is self aggrandizing, so what. He's a real American original with a fantastic story to tell. Get over it and have some fun. I really enjoyed this there with "The Kid Stays In The Picture". If you love movies, this will be hard to put down. I actually bought "Hooper" on Vudu after reading, guess what, it was worth it - and I'm a card carrying member of the overeducated east coast.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book Ever May 15, 2012
I own a limo service in Charlotte NC. And had the Honor to Drive Hal Needham and after I dropped him off he asked for my address. Well he sent me a copy of his book. Well I personally dont like to read. But I decided. This man took the time to write me a message in his book sign it and send it to me. So I started reading it. And this has to be the best book I have ever read in my life. I hope they make a movie about it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 52 GREAT PHOTOS ON THE KINDLE VERSION OF STUNTMAN! October 3, 2011
By Erin
Wow! Hal Needham's stories are World Class! This book is action packed and laugh-out-loud funny.

I heard him speak at the Decatur Book Festival and put his book at the top of my reading list.

Once you start reading, you can't put it down.

A previous reviewer wrote there are no photos on the Kindle version. Not true, I saw them myself and they are priceless.
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