Film: Hooper (1978)
Directed by: Hal Needham
Written by: Walt Green and Walter Herdon
Starring: Burt Reynolds as Sonny Hooper
Sally Field as Gwen Doyle
James Best as Cully
Jan-Michael Vincent as ‘Ski’ Chinski
Brian Keith as Jocko Doyle
Tagline: “Ain’t nobody can fly a car like Hooper!”
By George Kaplan Roger Thornhill
Pre-screening memories: If the ’70s had a Johnny Knoxville, his name was Evel Knievel. His death-defying acts inspired millions of young kneee-scrapers to shatter bones they had not even learned about yet in science class. Of course, his stunts were much more of a spectacle than the rag-tag Jackass gang — flaming hoops, rocket-powered cars, etc. But it spawned a cottage industry of carelessness as we took to our BMX bikes, attempting to duplicate such feats of derring-do.
He also helped shine a temporary light on the unsung hero of the film and television industry — the stuntman. Hal Needham, a former stuntman himself, seized on this opportunity as a director, and played to the good ol’ boy masses that like to see things get blowed up read good.
Filling his films with gears and beers, his films were like porn to this 9 year old. I wanted to be Sonny Hooper. Forget the fact that it was still another severn years until I was to get my driver’s license, I could still emulate all the stunts with my Mongoose BMX bike and a few piles of strategically placed dirt.
To me, Sonny Hooper was the real deal. Even if all of his stunts were actually done by someone else.
Was George Kaplan Roger Thornhill still doing wheelies on his repeat viewing of Hooper? Check out the podcast here, or listen below.