The Ultimate Stuntman
|Born||Dar Allen Robinson
March 26, 1947
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||November 21, 1986
Page, Arizona, U.S.
|Years active||1973 – 1986|
Dar Allen Robinson (March 26, 1947 – November 21, 1986) was an American stunt performer and actor. Robinson broke 19 world records and set 21 "world's firsts." He invented the decelerator (use of dragline cables rather than airbags for stunts that called for a jump from high places) which allowed a cameraman to film a top-down view of the stuntman as he fell without accidentally showing the airbag on the ground. The original decelerator can still be seen on display in Moab, Utah.
Robinson grew up in Los Angeles, California. At the early age of nine, Dar made the cover of Life Magazine for inadvertently ranking for his accomplished abilities on the trampoline. Dar's father, Jess Weston Robinson, was responsible for the "trampoline sensation" that swept the country. Dar spent many hours helping in his father's Gymnastic Supply Company. Dar's natural athletic abilities & by his accomplished ease on the trampoline would quickly render him the "ranking" of 3rd place for his division. Ironically he was unaware of the ranking until his placing third. One of Robinson's first major stunts was a 100 foot jump from a cliff into a river for actor Steve McQueen in the 1973 film, Papillon. In the same year, he appeared as a motorcycle stunt man in the Clint Eastwood film, Magnum Force. He is also remembered for driving over the edge of the Grand Canyon and safely parachuting out before hitting the ground. In 1979 he set the world record for a free-fall from a helicopter, dropping 311 feet (95 m) onto an airbag.
At 220 feet, Dar's stunt from Atlanta's Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel in Sharky's Machine still holds up as the highest free-fall (no wires) stunt to ever be performed from a building for a commercially-released film. However, despite it being a record-setting fall, in the final edit they are clearly using a dummy (only the briefest moment of the beginning of it is used in the movie).
In a highly publicized feat, as the stunt double for actor Christopher Plummer in the 1979 film production Highpoint, Robinson made a 700 foot free-fall from a deck on the world's tallest free-standing structure, the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.
Robinson returned to Toronto to attempt a world record cable jump from the CN Tower for a feature-length television documentary film called The World's Most Spectacular Stuntman. The first test of the cable using a bag of water equal to Robinson’s weight smashed into the ground when the cable snapped. High winds and bad weather delayed the jump until August 12, 1980. Although visibly nervous, he leapt from the tower's edge, plummeting more than 1,200 feet (366 m) tied to only a 1/8" (3 mm) steel cable, stopping only a short distance above the ground. For this feat he was listed as highest paid stuntman for a single stunt to date in the 1988 Guinness Book of Records. He received an honorary Academy Award in 1995 for his work.
Dar Robinson's stunts were always well planned, and he never broke a bone in his 19-year Hollywood career. On November 21, 1986, on the set of the film Million Dollar Mystery, after completing the main stunt, the emergency medical staff was dismissed from the set. While filming a routine high speed run by the camera with a fellow stuntman, Robinson rode his stunt motorcycle past the braking point of a turn and straight off a cliff, to his death.
Robinson is interred in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. After his death, a documentary on his life was made in 1988 titled The Ultimate Stuntman: A Tribute to Dar Robinson.
The last three films in which Robinson worked — Cyclone, Lethal Weapon, and Million Dollar Mystery — are all dedicated to his memory. Richard Donner's dedication in the closing credits of Lethal Weapon reads, "This picture is dedicated to the memory of Dar Robinson / one of the motion picture industry's greatest stuntmen". He was survived by his wife, Linda and their son Landon as well as his two sons from a previous marriage, Troy and Shawn.
- "Dar Robinson, Stuntman, Dies". nytimes.com. 1986-11-23. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
- Popular Mechanics, Hearst Magazines, Oct 1984, pp. 86,122, ISSN 0032-4558
- "Full cast and crew for Papillon". imdb.com. Retrieved 2011-05-25.
- Popular Mechanics, Hearst Magazines, Oct 1984, p. 122, ISSN 0032-4558
- "Death Cheats the King of Movie Daredevils, Dar Robinson". people.com. 1986-12-15. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
- "The screening room's top 10 movie stunts". cnn.com. 2008-08-20. Retrieved 2011-05-25.
- "Why do stuntmen not have an Oscar?". BBC News. 2013-02-20.
- Jet, Johnson Publishing Company, 30 Nov 1987, p. 66, ISSN 0021-5996
- "Death Cheats the King of Movie Daredevils, Dar Robinson". people.com. 1986-12-15. Retrieved 2011-08-26.