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Stuntman and 'Smokey' director Hal Needham dies

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Hal Needham, a top Hollywood stuntman who turned to directing rousing action films including "Smokey and the Bandit" and "The Cannonball Run," has died. He was 82.

His business managers tell the Los Angeles Times that Needham died Friday in Los Angeles. A former paratrooper, Needham appeared in thousands of TV episodes and hundreds of movies, performing and designing stunts and new equipment to execute them.

Needham jumped from planes, was dragged by horses and wrecked cars — breaking 56 bones in the process. His best-known directing efforts involved 1970s Burt Reynolds action comedies, including "Smokey," ''Cannonball Run" and "Stroker Ace." He also directed Arnold Schwarzenegger in "The Villain."

In a Twitter posting, Schwarzenegger calls Needham an icon. Needham received an honorary Oscar last year.

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