The late Hal Needham (born on this date in 1931) was once the highest paid stuntman in the world. With the help of his old friend and frequent collaborator Burt Reynolds, Needham successfully made the jump to film directing in 1977 with SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, a huge international hit. He made a number of other films in the following twenty or so years, from enormous successes like THE CANNONBALL RUN and HOOPER to the megaflop MEGAFORCE. One of his final projects was a TV movie entitled BANDIT: BANDIT BANDIT, which may be the strangest title in history.
As a stuntman and stunt coordinator, Needham was a tough guy who brooked no nonsense. As a director he had the kind of rapport with fast cars and the people who loved them that enabled him to imbue vehicles and car chases with personality and drama, a major key to his success.