If you grew up in the South in the 70′s and 80′s, Smokey and the Bandit was just about as cool as it gets. My brother and I must have seen it fifty times. I remember my grandmother didn’t like us watching it, because as she didn’t like that the police never seem to catch the bad guys, but for us Burt Reynolds racing around the rural South in locations that felt very familiar too us, and in the sweetest car aound–a black Trans-AM with T-tops and a gold firebird painted on the hood–was just about the greatest thing we had ever seen.
And for this reason we could not be more excited that “Smokey” directer Hal Needham will be our special guest at this year’s Little Rock Film Festival. Fans know that “Smokey” is only one highlight in Hal Needham’s career. He directed other films too, like the hugely successful Cannonball Run and the BMX film Rad, but his most lasting contributions to the movies might be from his years as one of the top Stuntmen in Hollywood. With Glenn Wilder and Ronnie Rondell he created the company Stunts Unlimited that modernized the craft, introducing life saving devices like the collapsable airbag for jumps and falls.
Hal Needham will sit down with Paste Magazine writer Tim Basham, at this year’s LRFF to discuss his career, and sign copies of his new book Stuntman!: My Car-Crashing, Plane-Jumping, Bone-Breaking, Death-Defying Hollywood Life. “Smokey and the Bandit” will close the 2011 LRFF on June 5th, with a special outdoor screening at the Riverfest Amphitheater sponsored by Movies in the Park.