LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Variety is reporting the death of director Hal Needham.

The “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Cannonball Run” director was 82.

Variety reported Needham died in Los Angeles after a short battle with cancer.

Needham first came to Hollywood prominence as a fearless stuntman known for willing to break bones for a scene. Needham is credited with developing the air bag, something that has saved countless stuntmen from suffering similar broken bones.

His imdb.com profile says that Needham broke 56 bones (including his back twice), lost teeth and punctured a lung.

He broke into the business doing stunts for many 1950’s era TV westerns. Needham worked on by his own estimation 4,500 television episodics and 300-plus feature films.

Before becoming a director, the Memphis-born Needham was the highest paid stuntman in Hollywood.

Needham became close friends with “Smokey” and “Cannonball” actor Burt Reynolds and the two also collaborated on “Hooper” and “Stroker Ace,” among other projects.

While Needham’s work was never critically lauded, he influenced many action directors (like Quentin Tarantino) who often gave him props.

Needham was given an Oscar in 1987 for designing and developing an innovative camera car and crane and also given an Honorary Oscar in February 2013.


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