Hal Needham

Boom! I’m back after a great holiday in Kefalonia. Apart from drinking the local beer (Mythos – it’s glorious!) I spent a lot of time reading books – some of which I’m being asked to turn into screenplays, one of my most popular services as a script writer for hire  and UK script consultant.

Another book I got through and really enjoyed was the biography of the late great Hal Needham, a stunt man, stunt co-ordinator and director of Smokey and the Bandit and the Cannonball Run.

The book (like much of Needham’s work as a director) is fast paced, funny and exciting. It’s great rags to riches tale, it’s also eye-opening regards stunt work, and the dangers and risk involved.

Needham’s long list of injuries is shocking, and it appears that the directors and producers he worked with had scant care for health and safety. But, there was also pressure from the stunt people themselves. Needham describes doing two stunts on one production while he had a very fresh and painful broken collar bone – he didn’t tell anybody about it – worried about his career if he told the producer that he was injured and couldn’t do the stunt – a high fall. Drugged up with painkillers, he did it anyway – twice!

Needham’s friendship with Burt Reynolds is covered (he was his stunt double for years) and they really do come off like a couple of southern good ‘ole boys done good in Hollywood.

The book is a treat, and a great reminder of a pre-CGI film business when a group of guys would flip cars over for a living.

Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on matcoop23@yahoo.co.uk or hire him on Peopleperhour