Hooper (film)

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Film poster
Directed by Hal Needham
Produced by Hank Moonjean
Written by Thomas Rickman
Bill Kerby
Story by:
Walt Green
Walter S. Herndon
Starring Burt Reynolds
Jan-Michael Vincent
Sally Field
Brian Keith
Robert Klein
James Best
Music by Bill Justis
Cinematography Bobby Byrne
Edited by Donn Cambern
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
July 28, 1978
Running time
99 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6 million[1]
Box office $78 million[2]

Hooper is a 1978 action-comedy film starring Burt Reynolds, based loosely on the experiences of director Hal Needham, a one-time stuntman in his own right. It serves as a tribute to stuntmen and stuntwomen in what was at one time an underrecognized profession.

Co-starring in the film are Sally Field, Jan-Michael Vincent, Brian Keith, Robert Klein, James Best and Adam West.


Sonny Hooper (Burt Reynolds), known as "Hollywood's Greatest Stuntman," is Adam West's stunt double on the action film The Spy Who Laughed at Danger. Hooper's on-set antics and wisecracks are a trial for egotistical director Roger Deal (Robert Klein), and even more so for Roger's bossy, obnoxious (but cowardly) assistant Tony (Alfie Wise), who gets Hooper in trouble with the Humane Society over a stunt involving a dog. Years of physical abuse on are fast catching up with Hooper, with the numerous stunts (referred to in the movie business as "gags") and his use of painkillers beginning to take their toll on his body.

Sonny lives with girlfriend Gwen Doyle (Sally Field), whose father Jocko (Brian Keith) is a retired stuntman himself. Hooper is dragooned by a friend into performing at a charity show, where he meets Delmore "Ski" Shidski (Jan-Michael Vincent), a newcomer who makes his entrance in spectacular style, much to Hooper's chagrin.

Sonny and Ski become friends after a barroom brawl with a pack of rowdy policemen (one played by football quarterback Terry Bradshaw). Later at Hooper's place, he shows his stunt reel (including footage from Reynolds' 1972 film Deliverance), and invites Ski to work with him on the film.

The two begin an escalating but friendly rivalry with the stunts becoming more and more spectacular and dangerous. After a freefall from a record 224 feet, Sonny becomes more aware of his own mortality. He surreptitiously consults with his doctor, who tells Sonny that one more jolt in his neck could render him a quadriplegic, and that "If you were a horse, I'd shoot you."

Unhappy with the writer's ending to the movie, Roger decides to add a climactic earthquake as the finale, complete with explosions, fires and numerous car crashes. Sonny and Ski would need to race through the carnage to a nearby gorge with the bridge exploding before they can cross it. Roger initially suggests the duo rappel down one side of the gorge and up the other to safety, but Ski comes up with a better idea: jump a car over the gorge. When it's said no car could jump the 335 foot wide gap, Hooper points out that a rocket-engined car could.

Roger takes a shine to the gag, ignoring warnings that Sonny and Ski might not survive the landing even if the car lands on its wheels. Sonny persuades Tony, sent to negotiate the price of the gag down, that it is so dangerous he and Ski should split a $100,000 bonus.

Sonny meets Gwen at the hospital. Jocko has had a stroke. Bedridden with a broken knee from falling when it hit, Jocko refuses to believe it. Seeing the elder stuntman laid out leads to Sonny confiding to Gwen that he will quit the stunt business after filming wraps on The Spy Who Laughed at Danger.

At home, Sonny's pal and assistant Cully (James Best) reveals he has been fired from the movie due to budget cuts. Sonny realizes that the director is finding the money for the rocket car gag by trimming Cully and others from the payroll. Cully then reveals to Gwen the rocket car stunt and the visit to the doctor, neither of which Gwen had known about.

Sonny tells a disgruntled Roger that he's backing out of the stunt. Max Berns, producer of the film and Sonny's friend, feels pressure to please the director and persuades Sonny to do the jump because no other stuntman qualified to perform the gag is available or willing to do it. Gwen, in a last-ditch attempt to change Sonny's mind, tells him she won't be there when he comes back.

Sonny and Ski perform the elaborate collapsing-town gag perfectly. However, despite a 27% pressure drop in the rocket engine's fuel tank during the drive through the urban apocalypse, the rocket car overshoots the prepared landing area and lands hard on the far side of the gorge. Ski emerges OK, but the impact is more of a shock to Sonny's system. Gwen tearfully pushes her way through the gathering crowd as the chief engineer frantically pries open the passenger door. Sonny slowly comes out of his temporary unconsciousness and takes Gwen in his arms.

Max promptly fires Tony for insubordination. Just for the hell of it, Sonny (after breaking the fourth wall) coldcocks Roger with a single punch, then walks off with Gwen, Ski, Cully and Jocko by his side.



It was rumoured the director character in the film was a send-up of Peter Bogdanovich, who had made two films with Reynolds.[3]

The "destruction of Los Angeles" sequence that concludes both The Spy Who Laughed at Danger and Hooper was filmed in the Tuscaloosa, Alabama area, with all but the final rocket car jump staged at the by-that-time-disused Northington General Hospital, a World War II military hospital near the University of Alabama. The huge stunt sequence was referred to by the crew as "Damnation Alley."[4]

The rocket car jump took place on US Highway 78E between Jasper, AL. and Birmingham, AL. The bridge was in the process of being demolished due to damage from a traffic accident.[5]


Hooper enjoyed moderate success at the box office; it was one of the top ten films of 1978, but ultimately the film was deemed a letdown in comparison to Reynolds' Smokey and the Bandit, second only to Star Wars in box office gross the year before. Hooper grossed $78 million domestically,[2] nearly 40% less than the gross of Smokey in 1977 ($126 million).[6]

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound for (Robert Knudson, Robert Glass, Don MacDougall and Jack Solomon).[7]

"Blooper reel" credits[edit]

Hooper was also one of the first movies to make use of the blooper reel credit crawl. The technique, originated by Needham,[citation needed] showed a smaller screen of outtakes from the film to one side while the film's credits scroll slowly up the other side. Needham refined this technique for later films such as Smokey and the Bandit II and the Cannonball Run movies. (In Hooper the credit reel was mostly a montage of many of the stunts performed in the movie itself, owing to the film's tribute to the stunt industry.) It was later adapted into other films, including the CGI animated Toy Story 2 and A Bug's Life, for which the bloopers were intentionally created, and in TV series including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Home Improvement. Most of Jackie Chan's films also feature blooper reel credit crawls, due to his experience in The Cannonball Run.


  1. ^ LARRY GORDON ROLLS HIS DICE Taylor, Clarke. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 08 Oct 1978: n35.
  2. ^ a b "Hooper, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 24, 2012. 
  3. ^ Film: Burt Reynolds In Action in 'Hooper': Moviemaking Fun Maslin, Janet. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 04 Aug 1978: C11.
  4. ^ IMDb.com, "Hooper," Trivia. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077696/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  5. ^ http://www.78ta.com/HTAF/index.php?topic=5479.0. Retrieved April 8, 2015. The person who posted the information witnessed the jump as a boy.
  6. ^ "Smokey and the Bandit, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 24, 2012. 
  7. ^ "The 51st Academy Awards (1979) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2011-10-06. 

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