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.


Veteran stuntman Sonny Hooper (Burt Reynolds), head of the Stunt Gladiators of Hollywood movie stunt company, known in Hollywood as "The Greatest Stuntman Alive", is currently working as Adam West's stunt double on the fictitious 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 Deal's bossy, obnoxious (but cowardly) assistant Tony (Alfie Wise), who gets Hooper in trouble with the Humane Society over a stunt involving a dog. Added to which the years of physical abuse on and off the set 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 his girlfriend Gwen Doyle (Sally Field), whose father Jocko (Brian Keith) is a retired stuntman himself. After coming home from work one evening, Hooper is dragooned by a friend into performing at a weekend charity show, where he first meets Delmore "Ski" Shidski (Jan-Michael Vincent), a young newcomer who makes his entrance in spectacular style, much to Hooper's chagrin.

Sonny and Ski become friends after a barroom brawl that night with a pack of rowdy out-of-town policemen (one of them played by football great Terry Bradshaw). Later everybody goes to an after-hours party at Hooper's place where he shows his stunt reel (including footage from Reynolds' 1972 film Deliverance), and Sonny invites Ski to begin working with him on the film.

Unknowingly, 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, and surreptitiously consults with his doctor about his condition. The doctor tells Sonny that one more bad 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 re-write the script to add even more stunts to the film, not the least of which is 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 do it.

Roger immediately takes a shine to the gag, ignoring the warnings of the producer and the chief engineer 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 for the rocket car jump.

That night, Sonny meets Gwen at the hospital. Gwen tells Sonny that Jocko had a stroke, but Jocko, bedridden with a broken knee from falling when it hit, refuses to believe it. Seeing the elder stuntman laid out jolts Sonny's thinking, and he confides to Gwen that he will quit the stunt business after filming wraps on The Spy Who Laughed at Danger.

Sonny and Gwen return home to find Sonny's pal and assistant Cully (James Best) waiting for them. Slightly drunk, Cully 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 before this.

Sonny tells a disgruntled Roger that he's backing out of the complicated rocket car stunt. Max Berns, producer of the film and a close friend to Hooper, despite defending Sonny's decision to Roger later persuades Sonny to return and do the jump because none of the stunt men qualified to perform the gag are available or willing to do it. As Hooper leaves for the location shoot of the big stunt 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 okay, 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 to get Sonny out. Gwen is terrified that the jolt is finally one too many, but Sonny slowly comes out of his temporary unconsciousness and takes Gwen in his arms as the crowd (including Adam West, who can be seen in the close-up) cheers wildly.

Max promptly fires Tony for insubordination, and just for the hell of it Sonny (after breaking the fourth wall) coldcocks Roger with a single punch when Roger tries to apologize for the grief he's given Hooper on the film, then walks off with Gwen, Ski, Cully and a crutch-bound Jocko at 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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